2. Have Smaller Meals More Often
For many people, having smaller, frequent meals may be more appealing than having three larger meals. Smaller meals may also be easier to prepare.
"One idea is to choose a food that you really like, and then augment it to make a small meal that’s packed with nutrients," says Carole Palmer, RD, professor of nutrition and oral health promotion at Tufts Dental School in Boston. For example, if you like toast with jelly, add a bit of peanut butter to get some protein. Or if you enjoy tuna fish, try it with a slice of tomato or cheese to get extra vitamins and calcium.
"A whole plate of food can be overwhelming," Coste says. "So it's important that family members prepare and package foods in small portions." At her parents' house, Coste would put out bowls of nuts and make "puddings pies" with a filling of yogurt mixed with fruit or Jell-O and sliced in advance. Then she'd follow up with a phone call. "I'd say, 'Mom, I'm having some pudding pie. Why don't you?'"
If you find that you're having trouble eating any food, nutrition supplement drinks are another option. Palmer says she always recommends food first, but that these drinks can be a good way to maintain nutrition. "People often like to sip them throughout the day," she says.
3. Make Food Appealing
If you’re not hungry because food isn't appealing to you, try to find ways to make it more appetizing. "We eat with our eyes,” says Zelman. "So make your plate as appetizing and colorful as possible." Try combining foods of different colors, such as having broccoli or red pepper with pasta, or simply by placing a few sprigs of parsley on your plate. Eating foods of various colors also assures that you're getting all of the nutrients you need.
Adding variety to your diet can help make meals more exciting too. Trying a new recipe or a new type of food every so often is a good way to pique your interest in eating.
If you're preparing food for your parent, adding a touch of sweetness can often make food more appealing because many people develop a sweet tooth in their senior years. Coste suggests putting a bit of fruit preserve on cream cheese and whole grain bread or whipping up a blender drink of lemonade, soda, and a scoop of lemon sherbet. "It's almost like having a cocktail," she says.
Your sense of smell also plays a role in appetite. "In some cases, warming food will make it more fragrant, and may make you feel hungrier," says Palmer. "Though for some people, cold food is more appetizing. It’s really up to the individual, so you need to decide what’s most appetizing you to."
Because our sense of smell and taste often dull with age, you may also find food may not taste as good as it used to. Punching up the flavors can help. Try adding spices or herbs to add to the natural flavors of foods. Other flavor enhancers like vinegar, lemon juice, and mustard can also add a kick. Don't add extra salt -- most people already have too much sodium in their diet.