One of the most challenging parts of caring for an elder is helping them gain weight. Often, seniors lose their senses of taste and smell as they get older, so their favorite foods aren't as enjoyable as they once were. You might even find that your loved one doesn't really care about food that much and they're almost apathetic about what's served for dinner each night. Encouraging a senior to participate in and enjoy meals comes down to combining three basic rules and a few quality ingredients.
3 Strategies to Help a Senior Gain Weight
- Find foods that are easy to eat and digest.
- Make sure these foods are nutritious and calorie-dense.
- Prepare these foods so that he or she will look forward to every meal.
5 Healthy Foods That Promote Weight Gain
- Nut butters are one of the easiest foods to incorporate into a senior's diet. Smooth and creamy, they're much easier to eat and digest than raw nuts. If your loved one has a hard time eating nut butters with crunchy vegetables like apples or celery, try mixing it into a hot bowl of oatmeal or spreading some on a slice of warm, crusty bread. Nut butters are also rich in monounsaturated fat, making them excellent for heart health and lowering blood pressure. Remember, you don't need to just stick to peanut butter. Almond butter and even cashew butter are great options as well.
- Avocados are another high-calorie food many seniors love. Like nut butters, avocados have a rich and creamy consistency. Their high-fat content acts as an emulsifier, creating a thick texture when blended into a variety of dishes. Don't think avocados are only for making guacamole! I like adding avocados to smoothies (trust me, your loved one won't even notice). You can also add avocados to salads or use them as a garnish with chili.
- Coconut products have recently come into the spotlight as a new super-food to enjoy, thanks to the Paleo diet. Although coconut products are high in saturated fat, we're learning that this fat operates differently from the saturated fats found in animal products. So, when you're making creamy soups and stews, try adding full-fat coconut milk to the pot. This is especially delicious in curry-based dishes, where the sweetness of the coconut milk offsets the curry's spicy notes.
- Full-fat dairy products are another tasty, calorie-dense option. It takes an excess of 3,500 calories for a senior to gain one pound. This means that every calorie counts! Substituting skim milk and dairy products with their full-fat counterparts can easily add another 100-250 calories to your loved one's daily caloric intake. For instance, yogurt is an easy-to-eat source of healthy probiotics. Serve some with fruit for breakfast—or kick things up a notch and make a yummy parfait!
- Potatoes and whole-grain starches consumed as part of a diet high in carbohydrates is one of the easiest ways for your loved one to gain weight. Compared to meats and fresh produce, carbs are some of the most affordable foods to stock up on. Try to serve one starch with each meal you make for your elder, and don't be afraid to get creative! Top baked potatoes with cheese and sour cream for additional calories, or toss penne in a creamy vodka sauce for a high-calorie dinner. Although starches might seem pretty bland at first, you can easily switch up the flavor profile to make dozens of different dishes, all with the same few ingredients.
Additional Tips for Meals for Seniors
- Sprinkle flax or chia seeds into their cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, or even on fruit and vegetables salads for omega-3s and additional calories.
- Double the amount of fruit in whatever smoothie you make them. Bananas are especially great for this.
- Encourage them to eat smaller portions more often. A mid-morning snack and mid-afternoon snack can easily add another 300-500 calories to their diet.
- Add cheese to sandwiches for an additional 100 calories or so.
- Get them involved in the kitchen! Have them help you bake whole-grain cookies or breads that they can eat in the afternoon with tea or coffee. They'll appreciate feeling useful and they'll be more likely to indulge in the treats they helped prepare. Try this vegan, gluten-free Mexican hot chocolate cookie recipe for something new!
- Add a generous drizzle of olive oil to their salads for an extra 100-200 calories. Flax oil is also a good option (as long as you keep it refrigerated and don't cook directly with it).
- Pesto is an antioxidant-rich, high-calorie spread that can be used in a variety of dishes. Spread it on a sandwich instead of mustard, use it to make a pasta sauce, or pour it over chicken and fish dishes. Bonus points if you make it yourself!
Getting an elder to eat more might seem daunting at first, but these foods and tips can help your loved gain weight in a healthy manner.
What are some of your loved one's favorite, high-calorie foods?