Malnutrition is not limited to starving children in third world countries; it exists right here at home. Are you at risk for malnutrition?
Many Americans are not eating well, and it shows. Good nutrition plays a crucial role in keeping older Americans healthy, mobile, and independent. We don’t often think about malnutrition and what it means to us as individuals. We get lulled into a sense of false security because obesity is the topic of the day, but what about those who do not eat enough, or those who do not eat properly?
Malnutrition is real, and it isn’t just thin frail individuals who are at risk. Did you know that it is possible to suffer from obesity and malnutrition at the same time? Hard to believe, but being overweight does not necessarily mean that you are getting the nutrients that your body craves.
Good nutrition doesn’t just happen. You need to eat even if you don’t feel like it; there is no quick fix and you can’t just take a vitamin pill and let it go at that. It isn’t easy. Eating properly can be challenging for seniors. The body changes, appetite decreases, chronic medical conditions interfere and sometimes medications make you feel worse. Shopping becomes a chore and meal preparation is difficult; it isn’t any wonder that many seniors give up. Unfortunately, not eating properly affects how the brain functions and increases the likelihood of osteoporosis and a host of other debilitating conditions. The end result is seen in increased falls, increased susceptibility to infection, frailty, and the inability to live on your own.
If you want to be healthy, mobile, and independent in your own homes you have to give nutrition a second, no a third or forth thought. You may not feel hungry or have the energy to shop or prepare meals, but your body still needs food and it needs good food. You can afford it. You have to afford it. Ask for help. Spend that $3 on fruits and vegetables instead of a box of cupcakes. Talk to your family. Everyone wants to give grandmother a box of chocolates; it is up to you to tell them that you want canned non-perishable food items instead.
If you can’t for the life of you figure out how you are going to work all of those daily servings of fruits, vegetables, meal, grains and dairy into your meal plans, seek professional help. A dietitian can teach you how to boost your protein intake, cook with herbs and spices, or tell you which supplements to use.
Check with your local senior center for information about their inexpensive meal programs and meals on wheels. Find out which grocery stores will give you a senior discount and deliver to your home.
Eat for the health of it. Remember when you mother told you that you had to do something just because she “said so?” Well, listen to that voice in your head.