The A-B-C’s of Improved Nutrition

By Beth Scholer, CC, CDM, CFPP | Caregivers Kitchen

If you had the time to ask each of your caregivers how they could personally improve the wellbeing of their clients, how do you think they would respond?

In a recent home care industry-wide survey, we asked just that.  While responses included varied physical and emotional needs, the majority of responses encompassed providing meals that their clients enjoyed and meeting their nutrition and hydration requirements.   

The good news is that caregivers can take steps to improve elder wellbeing through nutrition.  It’s as simple as A-B-C.

What are the ABC’s of improved nutrition?

The ABCs of improved nutrition include:

A – Improve APPETITE

B – BOOST food’s flavor

C – Provide COMFORT and COMPANIONSHIP

How can caregivers help improve APPETITE?

Trouble chewing or swallowing, side effects of medication, chronic disease and even loneliness can all contribute to poor appetite.  No matter the cause, eating poorly leads to weight and muscle loss, decreased strength and mobility and a greater risk of falls or entering the hospital.

Here are a few things Caregivers can do:

  • Serve the largest meal when the elder has the most energy to eat, usually in the morning.
  • Offer small meals more frequently and focus on smaller portions.  An overly full plate can overwhelm an elder.
  • Focus on lesser amounts of nutrient-dense foods more than overall volume.  For example, a whole plate of pasta contains mostly carbohydrates.  Try bite-sized pieces of protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods for more balanced nutrition.
  • Boost calorie contents with added sauces, gravies or shredded cheese on entrees or side dishes.  Add powdered milk or protein powders to smoothies, milkshakes and hot or cold cereals.
  • Keep easy-to-eat snack items in plain sight.  Fill a basket with whole grain crackers, dried fruit, protein bars or trail mix.  Remember that opening packages can be a challenge for those with dementia or arthritis.  Consider re-packing snacks or starting to open the package for them. Cold snacks should be kept front and center in the refrigerator, ready to eat.
  • Serve finger foods for those who have trouble using eating utensils.  Make sure foods are cut into bite-sized pieces.
  • Encourage daily exercise and time outdoors.  Studies have shown this improves mood and appetite.

How can caregivers BOOST food’s flavor?

Reduction in the sense of smell and taste is a natural part of aging. Flavor and aroma both play a role in appetite; boosting food’s flavor often improves appetite.

  • Caregivers can use aromatic ingredients like onion, garlic or ginger and season dishes with black pepper, herbs, and spices to add flavor appeal. 
  • Avoid overuse of salt as it can contribute to fluid retention and other health complications. 

What are the best ways to provide COMFORT and COMPANIONSHIP?

Encourage caregivers to:

  • Make mealtime the highlight of an elder’s day by creating a comforting experience.  Small details like setting the table with a colorful table cloth or fresh flowers from the garden can improve mood and appetite.
  • Caregivers can also take time to sit with the elder while they eat.  Light conversation and encouragement can take the focus from feeling unwell to a meaningful mealtime with vital nutrition.

Want more great tips like these?

Download the Skills Gap Challenge in Nutrition, Food Safety, and Cooking Skills. Then begin to assign Chef Beth’s cooking courses to your team. Each course includes plenty of videos, quick tips, recipes, and more. They help staff learn to prepare safe and healthful meals, cook their clients’ favorite foods, and manage nutrition for chronic disease.

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