Age-Related Eating Problems

Healthy eating is a challenge as we age.

Age-Related Eating Problems

Healthy eating can be a challenge as we age. Often problems center around underlying health conditions. It is important that older adults learn methods for healthy eating. Below we address common issues that face older adults focusing on nutrition.

Problem: Problems Chewing

If you have difficulties chewing you may have trouble eating fresh fruits, vegetables and meat.

What to do: Try other foods.

Instead of:
Fresh fruit
Fruit juices; soft canned fruits, like applesauce, peaches and pears
Raw vegetables
Vegetable juices; creamed and mashed cooked vegetables
Ground meat; other high- protein foods, like eggs, milk, cheese, and yogurt; and foods made with milk, like pudding and cream soups
Sliced bread
Cooked cereals, rice, bread pudding, and soft cookies

Problem: Upset stomach

Stomach problems, like too much gas, may make you stay away from foods you think cause the problem. You could be missing out on important nutrients, like vitamins, calcium, fiber and protein.

What to do: Try other foods.

Instead of:
Milk foods that may not bother you, like cream soups, pudding, yogurt and cheese
Vegetables like cabbage and broccoli
Other vegetables, like green beans, carrots and potatoes; vegetable juices
Fresh fruit
Fruit juices; soft canned fruits

See a doctor about your stomach problems.

Problem: Difficulty Shopping

Shopping may be difficult if you no longer drive or find it painful to stand for long periods of time.

What to do:

  • Ask the local food store to bring groceries to your home. Some stores deliver free. Sometimes there is a charge.
  • Ask your church or synagogue for volunteer help. Or sign up for help with a local volunteer center.
  • Ask a family member or neighbor to shop for you. Or pay someone to shop for you. Some companies let you hire home health workers for a few hours a week. These workers may shop for you and run other errands. Look for these companies in the Yellow Pages of the phone book under "Home Health Services."

Problem: Can't cook

It is difficult to hold cooking utensils, pots and pans due to arthritis related pain.

What to do:

  • Use a microwave oven to cook TV dinners, frozen foods, and packaged foods made by the grocery store.
  • Take part in group meal programs offered through senior citizen programs. Or, have meals brought to your home.
  • Move to a place where someone else will cook, like a family member's home or a home for senior citizens.
  • To find out about senior citizen group meals and home-delivered meals, call (1-800) 677- 1116. These meals cost little or no money.

Problem: No appetite

Older people who live alone sometimes feel lonely at mealtimes. Loneliness can make you lose your appetite. Or you may not feel like making meals for yourself.

Maybe your food has no flavor or tastes bad. This could be caused by medicines you are taking.

What to do:

  • Eat with family and friends.
  • Take part in group meal programs, offered through senior citizen programs.
  • Ask your doctor if your medicines could be causing appetite or taste problems. If so, ask about changing medicines.
  • Increase the flavor of food by adding spices and herbs.

Problem: Short on money.

Financial problems may keep you from eating nutritiously.

What to do:

  • Buy low-cost foods, like dried beans and peas, rice and pasta. Or buy foods that contain these items, like split pea soup and canned beans and rice.
  • Use coupons for savings on foods you like.
  • Buy foods on sale. Buy store- brand foods. They often cost less.
  • Find out if your local church or synagogue offers free or low-cost meals.
  • Take part in group meal programs offered through local senior citizen programs. Or, have meals brought to your home.
  • Get food stamps. Call the food stamp office listed under your county government in the blue pages of the telephone book.

Read the Label. Look for words that say something healthy about the food.

Examples are:

  • Low Fat
  • Cholesterol Free
  • Good Source of Fiber

Look for words that tell about the food's relation to a disease.

A low- fat food may say: "While many factors affect heart disease, diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of this disease."

The words may be on the front or side of the food package.

Look for "Nutrition Facts" on food labels. Most food labels tell what kinds and amounts of vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, and other nutrients are in a food. Use "Nutrition Facts" to:

  1. Look at the serving size.
  2. Find the % Daily Value. The numbers underneath tell how much of each nutrient listed is in one serving.

About 100% of each nutrient each day is usually healthful. If you're on a special diet, like a low-sodium or low-fat diet, use the % numbers to pick low-sodium and low-fat foods.

The 3g (grams) of total fat in one serving of this food provides 5% of fat for the day, leaving 95% more fat allowed that day in a normal diet. The 300 mg (milligrams) of sodium provide 13% for the day, leaving 87% more sodium allowed that day in a normal diet. The "mg" number is much larger than the "g" number because it takes many, many milligrams to equal 1 gram. Do You Have More Questions About Eating Well As You Age? Ask your doctor or a nutritionist.



  1. MedicineNet


Medically reviewed by Robert Bargar, MD; Board Certification in Public Health & General Preventive Medicine August 1, 2017

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