Good Foods for Getting an Elderly Loved One to Eat

Published In Health & Safety

Are you having trouble getting your senior loved one to eat well? So many issues affect a senior’s appetite, including certain drugs and the decline of their taste buds, according to Medline Plus. Not only do we lose some of our taste buds as we age, but the ones we have left often shrink losing their vibrancy. Have you heard your loved one say, “Nothing tastes right” or “I just don’t care to eat much now”?

Another issue that might cause a senior to lose interest in eating is problems with his or her teeth. Make sure your loved one is seen regularly by a dentist to maintain his or her ability to chew without pain.

What Foods are Best for Challenged Eaters?

I asked this question of regional nutritionist Rhonda Gabaldon who directs a number of skilled nursing facilities near Sacramento, California. She recommended you first find out if your loved one is hungry for a particular dish, and then prepare that dish if you are able. A favorite dish amongst her patients is soup. “It’s easy to eat,” said Gabaldon. “And it’s comfort food.” Soup not only has lots of good nutrients but it’s also easy to eat. Soup in a mug is an especially easy way for seniors to enjoy a healthy meal.

Soup also helps keep a senior hydrated. How many of us were treated to chicken soup when we were sick as children? It goes down easy and can help prevent dehydration caused by the stomach flu or the common cold. Homemade soup is the best because it’s lower in sodium. Chances are your loved one has a favorite recipe for homemade soup. Make up a big pot and put some away in the freezer in small containers for quick meals. If you do opt for canned soup, choose the ones lighter in sodium.

Don’t Skimp on the Sweets

Gabaldon also recommends sweets as another good way to get seniors to eat because their sweet taste buds remain long after the sour and salty ones have flattened. “We deal with very ill seniors who need to eat to survive,” said Gabaldon. “Pudding, ice cream, and yogurt are easy for them to eat and they enjoy it.” Fresh fruit and soft granola bars are also great to keep on hand when you’re having trouble getting them to eat. My dad is not a big eater of fruit, but when my mother slices up a big peach and pours on a little sugar and a lot of cream, he loves it!

Ice cream is also one of my own father’s favorites. While recovering from surgery, sometimes it was all my mother could get him to eat. He also could get down soup while recovering from chemo, which was a blessing because he had lost so much weight. He still loves bean soup and tomato and beef stew, while my mother loves broccoli cheese. They’re both in their 80’s, so nutrition is crucial to keep them healthy.

The internet is full of great soup recipes, but my favorite sites are Pioneer Woman’s and Taste of Home. Both have easy-to-follow directions for classic comfort soups. Pioneer Woman’s recipes also have step-by-step photos that make it even easier to make a perfect pot of comfort!

(This article was reviewed January, 2024 since it originally published in June, 2016.)

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