Maintaining optimal weight is important as people age. This is because it can lower your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes, and improve your quality of life. There are many reasons why you might experience weight loss, but you can maintain it and avoid its negative health effects with little planning. 

    Common Causes of Weight Loss in Adults

    Nutrition is important and the needs of your body vary with your age. For example, seniors don’t need too many calories but still need sufficient nutrients. Some need more protein so it’s mainly about adhering to wholesome, balanced diets. Nutrients include carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water, and your body needs them to properly function and develop. 

    Being well-nourished is important regardless of age though. It’s the fastest way to obtain energy and the best to control weight. It’s also how your body builds immunity against diseases. Nourishment is particularly important for seniors in this regard because it helps prevent conditions that are common in advanced age: osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer among others.

    The most common cause of weight loss in seniors is eating too little and this is usually due to not having enough money to buy food or not being able to go grocery shopping, cook, or feed yourself. Other reasons include depression and sadness, isolation and apathy due to loneliness.

    There are also medical reasons like swallowing problems, mouth or tooth problems, not being able to smell, taste, chew or digest food or taking medications that induce nausea and vomiting. Drinking three or more alcoholic beverages per day can also reduce your appetite.

    When Should You be Concerned About Weight Loss?

    Unexplained weight loss could signal an underlying medical disorder if it’s significant or persistent. We don’t know when exactly it becomes a medical concern, although health providers recommend undergoing a medical evaluation if you’re a senior who’s lost over 5 percent of their weight in a period of six months to a year. 

    various fruits and vegetables on a blue wood table

    Unplanned Weight Loss Complications

    Your calorie intake impacts your weight along with your activities, health, age, and socioeconomic factors, and while being obese isn’t good for our health, you must always keep your weight within an acceptable range. Extremes are bad so being underweight is as bad as being overweight.

    Extreme weight loss is dangerous for your body and your body can’t keep up under such circumstances, so noticeable symptoms begin to appear. It might be minor things such as hair loss or feeling cold, but the major effects eventually damage your physical and mental health.

    Maintaining Your Optimal Weight          

    Making small changes to your eating habits throughout the day can help you avoid the health effects of unplanned weight loss. Read on for helpful nutrition tips.

    Affordable Foods That Can Help Seniors Gain Body Weight

    Increasing your calories doesn’t mean you can eat more junk food, so limit your intake of industrial baked goods, salty snacks, deep-fried foods, and sodas. These foods only provide empty calories – even those “fortified with vitamins and minerals.” Know that you can only benefit from quality nutrients if these come straight from the source

    To stay healthy as you age, you should eat foods that provide lots of nutrients such as brightly colored fruits and vegetables, whole grains, milk and cheese which contains vitamin D and calcium, seafood, lean meats, poultry, and eggs, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

    Furthermore, stick to foods that are low in cholesterol and avoid trans fats. These are the processed fats in margarine and vegetable shortening. Store-bought baked goods and fried foods at some fast-food restaurants are usually loaded with them.

    Also, drink enough liquids to prevent dehydration. You may not realize it but humans lose their sense of thirst as they age. In addition, certain medications impair this sense so it’s even more important to have plenty of fluids if you take them.

    Eat Softer Foods

    Missing teeth can make it hard to eat those things you used to enjoy, so speak to your dentist about your options. If you already have dentures, make sure they fit well as ill-fitting ones will take the pleasure out of eating. In any case, change the way you make your food. For instance, you can grind it with a food processor. Also, try new foods and experiment with them until you find the texture that’s just right for you. Cook your meats, vegetables, and grains longer to soften them, and eat soft things like yogurt, bananas, avocado, and eggs.

    various grains, fruits and vegetalbes on a white wood table

    Ways to Increase the Appetite and Size of Seniors

    Physical Activity and Exercise

    Exercise can increase your appetite, so get your doctor to recommend the best type of activity for you. Do your best to get 2 ½ hours of aerobic activity each week. Your best options are walking, swimming, and biking, but try weight lifting and yoga to strengthen your muscles and bones if you’re up for it. These will greatly improve your posture and balance. Do consult your doctor before you start a new exercise routine to make sure it’s right for you. 

    As you can see, being physically active will make you hungry if you’ve started losing weight. Another great way to be more active is to join some social groups. Find the Tai Chi and Yoga classes offered in your community or find a walking buddy – your busy neighbor’s dog would love the attention. Organize potlucks or cook with a friend if you’re tired of eating alone. 

    Foods that Increase Size in Seniors

    Make your food more interesting by adding color and texture if the problem is with your sense of smell or taste. Also, eating healthy snacks throughout the day can provide some of the nutrients your body needs if you just can’t eat enough. Find an occupational therapist if you can’t cook or feed yourself, they can help you find ways to make it easier. Another great way to be in control of the quality of your food and have fresh produce is to plant a garden. You can grow peppers, herbs, and tomatoes.

    In addition, you can make eating more affordable and practical by planning your meals and checking the discounts before you go grocery shopping. Many whole foods like beans, carrots, greens, potatoes, apples, and bananas have low prices year-round. Also, put your leftovers to good use, use what’s left of a roasted chicken to make a casserole or a salad. In addition, fruit and vegetables in season aren’t only cheaper but easier to get and taste better. Check out the local farmer’s market for the best deals on produce. Buy small amounts to keep it from spoiling.

    Now that you know whole foods can strengthen your immune system you must make them a larger part of your diet. As you can see, proper nutrition is at your fingertips so be really picky about what you put inside your body to enjoy better health.

    SNAP Benefits: Food Assistance for Better Health

    The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has programs that cater to US seniors over 60. The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) helps adult care centers provide nutritious foods for older adults and adults with disabilities.

    There’s also the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a means-tested program open to anyone who meets the income and resource requirements. SNAP is the most extensive federal nutrition program and helps millions of low-income Americans improve their economic security and health outcomes. This is because the money they would’ve spent on food can now go toward utilities, medical bills, and other things they may need.

    Seniors enrolled in this program receive a monthly average of $120 to buy food. Eligible people must meet some income and resource limits and the criteria and monthly benefits vary by state. Unfortunately, not everyone eligible for SNAP enrolls in it due to a lack of knowledge about the program and how it works. Certain cultural beliefs and stigma associated with receiving social services also keep many people from applying. 

    fruits and vegetables grouped together

    How to Apply for SNAP Benefits

    Don’t assume you’re not eligible for this kind of public health assistance, so apply to see if you qualify to take advantage of this valuable program. It can greatly improve your quality of life. Indeed, there are specific requirements for immigrants, seniors, and those with disabilities. In addition, a household must meet a certain income threshold and their assets must fall below a specific amount. 

    Apply to the agency that manages the healthy food program in your state of residence to find out if you’re eligible for SNAP assistance. There are many ways to apply: by mail, by phone, or online. The questions vary by state but most will want to know the size of your household, your annual income, what assets you have, if any, etc. They may ask for additional information to help determine the amount of assistance you’ll receive. There’s a useful interactive map in BenefitsCheckup.org to find SNAP benefit amounts by state, income limits, and other information.

    People receive these benefits via an EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) prepaid card that works just like a debit card. They can then use it to purchase eligible food in most stores that sell it. Several farmer’s markets participate in this program.

    The average SNAP benefit for a one-person senior household is $104 per month. Holders can purchase fruit, vegetables, meats, bread, cereals, dairy products, snacks, and non-alcoholic beverages. They can also buy seeds and plants to grow food. Note that you cannot purchase alcohol, tobacco, vitamins, supplements, or pet food.

    Yes, it’s hard to part with so much personal information online, but know that SNAP applications are protected by special security technology that keeps your information private. The process often takes up to 30 days and the local commodity supplemental food program office may reach out to ask you additional questions before they make a final decision in some cases.

    Nutrition Facts

    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, speak with your doctor. They can explain the benefits of wholesome foods and their impact on your health when added to your daily diet. For one, they contain quality calories as there’s no added sugar, fat, or sodium. They also contain more quality nutrients like vitamin C, A, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. You won’t need supplements if you stick to a nutritious, wholesome diet.

    What Exactly Are Wholesome Foods?

    Wholesome foods are those in their original state and contain natural vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. There’s a great difference between eating an apple and drinking apple juice. The clear advantage of real nutrients is that they strengthen your immune system. For one, the antioxidant capacity of phytochemicals, some powerful chemical compounds found in plants, protect the body cells against damage. 

    The only way to get these is by eating unprocessed edible plants. Whole foods are the best sources of vitamins and minerals so sticking to them promotes weight loss. This is because the natural fiber in fruits and vegetables fills you up with fewer calories.

    Note that wholesome foods can be organic, locally grown, and pesticide-free, but also include any ingredients that haven’t been altered by humans. Indeed, most things we eat require some level of handling, be it washing, drying, freezing, or preserving. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For instance, canning and freezing allow access to food throughout the entire year. 

    However, the regular consumption of industrially processed foods often contributes to weight gain and obesity and promotes disease. This is because excess weight increases the risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and stroke. 

    foods, spices and grains on a wooden table

    The Dangers of Highly Processed Foods

    Ultra-processed foods contain all kinds of additives and preservatives. Sodium, for example, is an ingredient that can lead to high blood pressure and hypertension in high quantities. They also contain allergens and are responsible for triggering bad reactions in some people. Moreover, industrially processed foods are high in sugar because manufacturers use it to replace the natural nutrients of the ingredients they basically ruin through their process. 

    As you may already know, a diet high in added sugars leads to tooth decay, weight gain, and increased triglycerides. It also increases your risk of heart disease. In turn, a wholesome diet rich in fiber from fruits, vegetables, greens, and whole grains reduces cholesterol levels along with the risk of heart disease. 

    In short, stay clear of processed food, but if you must consume it then read the labels and check the ingredients. Don’t buy anything containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils as these clog the arteries. They’re common in industrial peanut butter, cereal bars, and breakfast bars, but manufacturers add these oils to many, many other products. Basically, don’t consume anything with ingredients you either don’t recognize or can’t pronounce.

    The Importance of Nutritional Supplements and Vitamins A and D

    Many older adults don’t eat enough food. This can increase the risk of weight loss and vitamin and mineral deficiencies. According to a USDA national survey, almost a third of the population gets too little vitamin C and about one-half don’t get enough vitamin A. An easy way to correct this problem is to stick to a diet rich in whole foods. Almost all of the problems identified by the survey were corrected by eating a balanced diet, according to researchers.

    Get your doctor or a nutritionist to recommend a good nutritional supplement if you’ve lost too much weight. You can get a healthy snack in the form of powder or liquid. There are even puddings that provide extra calories, vitamins, and minerals. Take any liquid nutritional supplement between meals so you’ll have room for solid foods at mealtime.  

    fruits and oats on a blue plate

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    The Connection Between Nutrition and Heart Disease 

    A poor diet and lack of physical activity are important risk factors when it comes to coronary heart disease. The food-related risk factors include obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and a diet high in trans fats. Thus, eat well-balanced meals that include healthy foods from the five food groups, they must contain vitamin B12 and omega 3 fatty acids.

    For instance, processed meats are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, according to a study by Harvard University. These researchers observed that the consumption of processed meats like bacon, sausages, and hams was directly correlated with a higher risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. This is because these goods contain too much salt and preservatives.

    In Conclusion

    You don’t need to eat a lot to maintain your weight, only ensure you’re getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need. Unwanted weight loss could bring serious health consequences, limit your ability to do your daily tasks, and even worsen a medical condition by increasing your risk for muscle loss, infection, illness, depression, and death. 

    A well-balanced diet, one that includes a little bit of this and a little bit of that in it can give you all the daily nutrients you need. Be aware that the nutrition needs of a 51-year-old or older person are different from those of their younger counterparts.

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