Tips for senior nutrition improvement

LOS ANGELES When it comes to older adults, good nutrition is the first line of defense for those striving to maintain their independence as they age, but dining solo can be challenging.

"They hate to cook for one, and they hate to eat alone," said Helen Siler of the Los Alamitos Medical Center.

"They're not used to the fast food and the microwave and the instant this and that," said Sandy Andrew, a caregiver.

In addition, ill-fitting dentures, medication even depression are a host of reasons why eating becomes a chore.

"In the 'Cooking Under Pressure' booklet, there's ten warning signs that can help a caregiver look for to help a senior," said Sheila Winter, the manager of Home Instead Senior Care.

Winter also said that due to a growing need, their company partnered with the University of Maryland and Duke University to create "Cooking under Pressure," a program that helps caregivers, even seniors themselves learn about what is vital.

"Seniors need typically more protein, more vegetables, less starch," advised Antonia Muniz, a chef.

The free book and companion Web site offers tips and recipes and acts as a tutorial for anyone involved in cooking for seniors. Tips include the twelve foods seniors should include in their diet or signs to watch for potential problems.

"One would be skin tone, one would be lethargic, one would be loss of weight, gain of weight," listed White.

While the nutrition value of their food is important for good health, so is their eating environment. Food is something we all enjoy, so making the meal pleasurable is one of the best things you can do.

"Have nice atmosphere, a table cloth," describes Siler.

"Some light music, some conversation, and take your time," advised Muniz.

Another tip Siler adds is to cook what they like to eat, which can typically be softer foods and smaller portions and the need for more time to dine. All of which can help them in the long run.

"Seventy percent of your immune system starts in your stomach and your GI tract, so if we can keep them eating, that means they'll be healthy, they'll stay healthier longer," said Muniz.

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