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Elderly nutrition: three steps to tackle portion intimidation

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We all know  portion size is essential for maintaining a healthy weight, but it also plays a big part in how we consume our food. For the elderly, portion size can play an important  role in their reaction to food: too much and the very thought of eating becomes  overwhelming. So how do you ensure older adults are getting the nutrients they need while keeping the portion sizes appealing and appropriate?

Step 1: Provide the right calories for their age and activity level

How many calories you should eat depends on factors such as your age, any medical conditions and your lifestyle. Based on these guidelines the average person over 65 should be consuming anything from 1,900  to 2,400 calories per day.
However, this can be a struggle for those who get progressively more tired as the day goes on and being given a large dinner to consume can be overwhelming and  daunting — often leading to unfinished meals, wastage and missed nutrients.
While portion intimidation can be a key reason for lack of eating enthusiasm, it is also important to note some senior citizens may be apprehensive to eat for other reasons such as:

  • Fear of going to the bathroom frequently
  • Unable to properly grip cutlery
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Trouble chewing
  • Digestive issues
  • Food allergies or intolerances
  • Tiredness and lethargy
  • Low mood

The obvious solution may be to reduce the portions, but doing this without knowing the nutritional implications can put older adults at risk of malnutrition. So before doing this, we recommend speaking to the person directly and asking them why they're struggling to eat their meals. Or if they are unable to articulate their concerns, talk to a trusted family member or their GP.
Assuming the issue is purely down to portion intimidation, the solution now is how to pack the right number of calories into a meal that not only looks appetising — but is also delicious and a manageable size.  

Step 2: Pack nutrition into small portions

Once you’ve established how many calories you need to pack into each meal, you then need to ensure  all the meals are small but contain all the nutrients needed.
This can be tricky to measure and manage on a daily basis and requires quite a lot of meal planning and prep beforehand. That’s why we’ve developed an exclusive range called Mini Meals Extra to help make things easier. Mini Meals Extra contain over 500 calories and at least 20g of protein* per portion to help people meet their nutritional needs as well as being easy to prepare, delicious to eat and proportionally small.
The meals are designed for those with reduced appetite as well as people living with dementia, people who need nourishment after hospital treatment and people who need to maintain or put on weight.         
* Range contains 501 - 522 calories and at least 20g of protein

Step 3: Plating and the dining experience

We eat with our eyes as well as our mouths, so if you want to improve the eating habits of those with reduced appetite, you not only have to pack the right nutrients into small portions but also improve their association with food — and this includes improving their dining experience.

This can be tackled in two ways:

Encourage community eating

Dining in isolation can make people less enthusiastic about eating, and one of the easiest ways to rectify this is to create a sense of community around food. This can be anything from helping to prepare meals together to eating as group. After all, it’s been scientifically proven that social eating plays a crucial role in a person's happiness and has an essential role in the facilitation of social bonding.

Add colour and variety to the plate

Part of the eating experience is how food is plated and presented to the diner, and while high-end restaurants spend a lot of time and money on fancy plating — the same can be achieved on a budget and without much hassle.

Other ways to add interest to meals:
  • Add fresh herbs to garnish dishes
  • Serving food on decorative plates and bowls
  • Provide additional texture to the meal — like crispy shallots to soups or pomegranate seeds to salads.
These small alterations can change the entire perception of a meal and goes a long way towards improving the dining  experiences of those who are unenthusiastic about eating.

How apetito can help

We cater for a variety of people and food preferences, and we've been helping people stay healthy and full since 1991. If you would like to find out more about mini meals extra or any of our other food delivery services, please call us today.