Soon after writing my last column, Don’t Fall Prey To Autumn Setbacks, I received a call from a senior woman who told me she appreciated the information on how to keep from gaining the typical five to seven pounds in the colder months; however, it didn’t apply to her since she has to add whipped cream to everything she eats just to keep weight on.
The truth is that for some gaining weight can be just as difficult as losing weight.
Some of the most common issues for those over 65 trying to maintain or gain weight can be contributed to:
• Eating too little food
• Not having enough money to buy food
• Not being able to go grocery shopping or cook or feed yourself
• Feeling depressed, sad, isolated and eating alone most of the time
• Having swallowing problems, mouth or tooth problems
• Not being able to smell, taste, chew or digest food properly
•Having an illness or a medical condition like cancer, heart conditions and digestive conditions such as ulcers or gall bladder disease
• Taking medications that may cause nausea and vomiting, difficulty swallowing, taste loss and poor appetite.
Just a couple dangers with being underweight can include:
• Limit your ability to do day-to-day tasks
• Make a medical condition worse
• Increase your risk for muscle loss, infection, illness, depression and death.
So how can you avoid weight loss?
The first thing you should do as a senior trying to gain weight is to eat more often.
Try to avoid high-fat, high sugar foods, avoid prepackaged processed and fast food because these foods contain a large amount of cholesterol, sodium, trans and unsaturated fats.
Instead registered dietitian Cynthia Sass from the Mayo Clinic advises you fill your meals with whole grains, dairy, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables and lean protein like seafood, poultry, lean meat, beans and legumes. Choose high calorie and high protein foods at every meal and snack. Include full fat foods like cheese with 20 per cent or more M.F. (milk fat) and three per cent M.F. yogurt.
Dentures that don’t fit or missing teeth can make it hard to eat foods that you usually enjoy. Changing the way food is made may help:
• Grind your food with a food processor.
• Cook your food longer to soften foods
• Eat soft foods such as yogurt, meat loaf, avocado and eggs.
• Aim for five or six small meals throughout the day, no more than three or four hours apart
• Eat your regular meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner but include higher energy snacks like nut butters with fruit, granola, cheese and crackers, protein bars, smoothies and ready to eat cereal with milk and seeds in between meals.
Drinks are an easy way to add more calories into an underweight person’s diet. Choosing smoothies, shakes, juice and low-fat milk increases your caloric intake and without adding too much fat.
Lastly most people think of exercise as a way to lose weight not to gain it but be assured that exercise can help seniors gain weight by building lean muscle and stimulating your appetite.
Making small changes to your eating habits can help you avoid unplanned weight loss. If you have had unplanned weight loss in the last 12 months, be sure to speak with your doctor.