Six tips for eating well in later life
This week is Self Care Week (13-19 November 2017), a national campaign dedicated to empowering individuals to take care of themselves.
Self-care is about being aware of our health and happiness and taking time to look after our physical, emotional and mental health every day. This includes making sure that we eat and drink enough.
As we age, it can become harder to eat well – maybe your appetite is smaller, you might find it harder to cook and shop for yourself, or maybe you just don’t enjoy eating as much.
But eating well is really important. In the UK, 1 in 10 older people are undernourished or at risk of undernourishment. This often goes unnoticed because of a perception that getting thinner is a part of later life, but actually this is incorrect.
Maintaining a nutritious diet and a healthy weight will not only make you feel well, but can reduce your risk of illness and promote recovery from illness or surgery.
In this blog we identify six small acts of self-care to help you stay well, especially on days when preparing food or eating might feel particularly challenging.
- Notice changes in your body that might be the result of unintentional weight loss.
It’s easy for weight to drop off without noticing, but by being aware of changes to your body you can spot early signs that you might not be eating enough. Does your jewellery or watch feel looser? Do you feel dizzy or tired? Do you feel cold more often? You might want to try BAPEN’s online Malnutrition Self Screening Tool which is easy and free to use. If you’re concerned, speak to your GP.
- Six small meals a day are as good as three main meals.
It’s okay if you don’t fancy sitting down to a big breakfast, lunch and dinner. Eating small portions regularly throughout the day might be more manageable. Try to eat every 2-3 hours and include fruit or vegetables in each snack.
- Eat what you want!
When you don’t feel like eating much, it’s important to eat what you want. If, on occasion, tucking into a slice of cake or snacking on a chocolate bar feels more appealing than preparing food, don’t feel guilty about it. It’s more important to eat something than nothing at all. Think about the foods you enjoy and try to incorporate more of these into your diet.
- Swap low fat products for full fat.
If you notice that you’re losing weight but don’t feel like eating more, adding full fat foods – like milk, cream, custard and cheese – is a great and easy way to boost protein and calories without adding volume.
- Keep food in the store cupboard or freezer for days when you don’t want to cook.
We all have days when we don’t feel like cooking. Preparing in advance for these days can help make life easier. Try keeping ready meals, left overs or soup in the freezer (or tins in the cupboard) which can easily be defrosted and heated up. If doing a big food shop is hard, you could ask a friend or family member to help, order food online if you can, or contact your local Age UK to see what help is available in the community.
- Eat with a friend.
Eating with other people can help boost appetite and make meal times more enjoyable. Why not invite a friend over for dinner or join a lunch club in your community? Again, contact your local Age UK to see what’s available in your local area.
Following these simple tips can help you feel well and stay healthy, reducing your risk of undernourishment.
Remember that if you are worried about your weight, speak to your GP. If you are diabetic or follow a special diet, speak to your GP before making changes to your diet.
For more information on malnutrition and for more ideas on staying well-nourished, including meal plans, why not have a look at our guides for older people and carers?
For more information on Self Care Week, including resources to help you care for yourself, visit the Self Care Forum.
To read other Malnutrition Task Force blogs, click here.