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Designing Menus for Seniors with Poor Appetites
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For many seniors, poor appetites are common. Even those who have spent a lifetime trying to keep their weight under control find themselves not interested in eating or not very hungry when mealtime comes. The problem with this is that older adults who bypass meals or pick at their food may not get the nutrients they need to remain as strong and healthy as they can be.

Residents with Poor Appetites May Spurn Well-Planned Meals
Dealing with poor appetites is a recognized problem among managers of assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and other senior residences. Well-planned meals, often carefully constructed with the help of menu planning software that makes planning for the inclusion of specific vitamins, minerals, and other components easy, mean nothing if residents don’t eat them.  While some facilities may have poor quality, bad tasting food, residents spurn meals for other reasons that make them uninterested in eating. The first common reason has to do with the conditions that may plague them, and the medication they may be taking to combat their medical issues. Many drugs cause discomfort as well as strange tastes in the mouth that make the food not taste good. One way to combat this is by encouraging residents to use sugarless gum, brush their teeth, or use an oral rinse before mealtime that can reduce discomfort, stimulate salivation, and make them more able to taste food. Food staff can also strive to make food more flavorful with seasonings.

Small Changes Can Make Meals Palatable
Sometimes small changes can make a big difference in encouraging seniors to eat. If the food tastes metallic, offering plastic silverware may make it more palatable. If water does not taste right, adding lemon, cucumber, or flavored water enhancers might make it more palatable and reduce unwillingness to eat the food.  Some seniors have problems chewing and swallowing due to dental issues as well as medication and conditions such as dementia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or stroke. Soft or liquefied foods might make chewing and swallowing more manageable, while allowing them to eat regular food rather than supplements. When changing the food to accommodate them does not work, food staff and dietitians should work together to find out what type of nutrient rich supplement might be more palatable.  Some appetite problems have little to do with the food and more with programming at the facility. If residents don’t get enough exercise during the day, they may not be hungry at mealtime. If not encouraged to drink plenty of fluids during the day, they may be slightly dehydrated and uninterested in eating. The fluids they drink at mealtime may fill them up. Offering more activities and making sure plenty of fluid is available during the day may lessen some appetite problems.
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