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4. Go for Whole Grains

These may protect the heart, and also relieve constipation, a common complaint among less-active seniors, Yow says.

Look for whole-grain crackers, cereals, and breads. Other easy whole-grain options:

  • Microwaveable brown rice, which cooks in minutes
  • Oatmeal, which can be prepared in advance and stored in the fridge

5. Honor Food Preferences

"You’re going to be much more likely to get them to eat something that they like," Lyles says.

She says many older adults may tend to eat less beef and other meats, in part because they can be tough to chew. They also say they're turned off by large portions. Smaller meals more often may be helpful.

Other seniors find food bland because people lose some taste buds as they age, Yow says. They may like foods that are strongly flavored. To make food more appealing, try seasonings such as garlic, pepper, or zingy vinegars.

6. Come in Peace

Try to avoid arguing about food. "Instead of fussing at her and saying, 'You’re not eating. You need to eat,' try to encourage her in a positive manner," Yow says.

You’re more likely to succeed with simple, upbeat tactics. Try a friendly, daily phone call to remind her that it's lunch time.

7. Make It Social

Seniors tend to eat more when they're with friends, says Lyles. Try going out together for restaurant meals. But remember that super-sized restaurant portions can be a turnoff.

Lyles suggests visiting restaurants that offer small plate options or tapas. A modest amount of food that’s carefully prepared and presented may be more appealing. Or have the server box up part of the meal to save for later.

8. Consider Supplemental Beverages

If your loved one isn't getting enough nutrition from foods, they may be able to get some from drinks. Nutrition supplement drinks may be a good way to get calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

But think of them as supplements and not meal replacements, Lyles and Yow say. Don't offer them with meals. Limit the drinks to snack time. You don’t want them to fill up on drinks. You want them to eat as much real food as possible first, she says. To make the drinks tastier, try serving them cold.