There are many reasons why older adults tend to lose weight. Their metabolism slows down, their bodies become less efficient at digesting food, and chronic conditions like arthritis or joint pain can make it difficult to eat. In addition, chronic stress or depression can lead to a decrease in appetite and an increase in stress. Here are some suggestions on what foods seniors can eat to help them gain weight.

Why Weight Gain Is Important For Seniors

As they get older, most seniors have an issue with their weight. While some need to lose weight, many actually need to gain weight. Being underweight is the result of several factors, but the underlying problem is that seniors can face serious malnutrition and other health problems if they do not keep their weight up. In seniors, much of their weight loss is due to a lack of consuming enough calories. People tend to have smaller appetites and eat less as they age. If their weight drops too much, malnutrition and other health problems can develop. To fight this, it is important to help seniors gain and maintain a healthy weight.

Why Is It Hard for the Elderly to Gain Weight?

Why is it hard for the elderly to gain weight? There are several reasons why this is hard, including:

Reduced Metabolism

As people age, their metabolism slows down. Essentially, they process the food that they eat at a slower pace. This has an effect on things like nutrient absorption, hunger, and how much people eat. While metabolism can be manipulated to an extent, there is almost always a reduction for seniors. Furthermore, trying to increase your metabolism becomes difficult or impossible at a certain age. Because of this, seniors often begin to lose weight and struggle to maintain a healthy weight even when doing other things to fix the problem.

Reduced Calorie Intake/Eating Less

What causes weight loss in the elderly? The simplest answer is that they are not consuming enough calories to maintain their weight. Seniors tend to get fewer calories as they age, mainly due to eating less. Whether they are hungry less often, easier to satisfy, or just choose to eat less, the result is dropping weight. The most direct way to fix this is to increase the number of calories seniors consume and try to maintain a healthy calorie intake regardless of hunger and other factors.

Reduced Appetite

A reduced appetite means seniors are hungry less often. Because of this, they are likely to eat less or eat less frequently. While forcing themselves to eat when they are not hungry is not advised, it may be necessary to take other steps to address their weight if low appetite becomes a  concern.

Difficulty Absorbing Nutrients

Seniors may also have difficulty absorbing nutrients. This happens naturally over time as the body ages and becomes less efficient at processing food. Many seniors rely on taking supplements or changing their diet to compensate.

Increase Calories Per Day

One of the most important ways for seniors to gain weight is to increase their daily calorie intake. This can be done by:
  • eating larger meals and snacks
  • increasing the amount of high-calorie foods in their diets
  • by adding nutritious high-calorie supplements to their daily meals
Seniors should consult with a doctor or dietitian to determine the right amount of calories for them, based on factors like their age, sex, weight, height, and activity level. When adjusting daily calorie needs for seniors, there are two numbers to be concerned with: maintenance calories, and weight gain calories. If a senior is underweight, then they need the weight gain calories number consistently every day to gain weight. This often means eating more calories than are needed to survive with the extra being stored to increase weight. Once they reach a healthy weight, it’s important to switch to a maintenance calorie number. This number is based on how many calories are needed to survive and complete daily activities. It is closer to what your body actually uses during the day. By keeping the number close to their actual calorie use, seniors won’t gain or lose weight.

Focus on Healthy Calories

Besides simply increasing the amount of calories, it’s also important to choose high-calorie foods that are also healthy. Low-quality, high-calorie foods won’t help because the body will process them out quickly and not absorb them as needed. Essentially, they become wasted calories that the body gets rid of rather than keeping. Seniors should include plenty of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, eggs, and fish in their diets. These foods are high in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that promote good health. It’s a good idea to stay away from high-sugar or processed foods, which are not only low in nutrients but can also lead to weight gain. You can also add dairy products in moderation. According to research, adding Include full fat foods like cheese with 20% or more milk fat and 3% milk fat yogurt can make a big difference in weight management.

Eat Four Times Per Day

Seniors who are trying to gain weight should try to eat four times a day. Eating smaller meals throughout the day keeps blood sugar levels steady, prevents overeating at one meal, and can make it easier to get the daily nutrients and calories that the body needs. Seniors can choose to eat more frequent small meals or two or three larger meals per day. The best approach is the one that each individual can best maintain.

Add Calories to Foods They Like

How do I get my elderly to eat more? One simple trick is to add calories to foods they like. If seniors are eating a healthy diet but are still having difficulty gaining weight, they can add calories to their meals by adding oil, butter, cheese, or fatty sauces like gravy or sauce. It’s important not to add too many calories to a meal all at once, but to add a little bit to each meal. It’s also important to try to keep those calories as healthy as possible. That way, they are not introducing things that will cause health problems going forward. Seniors with dentures might want to consider removing them while eating rich and fatty foods like steak, bologna sandwiches, or creamy foods like macaroni and cheese. This can prevent food from getting stuck in the dentures and being difficult to remove.

Whole Eggs

Eggs are a rich source of high-quality protein, which is important for helping seniors build and maintain muscle mass. They’re also high in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are important for seniors. A single large egg contains about six grams of protein and 78 calories. Since eggs are high in cholesterol, seniors should eat them in moderation. One egg per day is considered a healthy amount. If seniors want to eat more eggs, they can try cooking them in different ways or eating only egg whites.

Beans and Lentils

Protein-rich foods like beans and lentils can help seniors maintain muscle mass, which is important for seniors who are trying to gain weight. Beans and lentils are also rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are important for overall health. Like with eggs, seniors should eat these foods in moderation. No more than one-third of one’s daily calories should come from these foods.

Whole Grains

Whole grains are an important part of any healthy diet. They’re packed with essential nutrients and can help seniors maintain healthy blood glucose levels. There are many different whole grains to choose from, but seniors should try to eat at least three servings per day. The biggest challenge for many seniors when it comes to whole grains is finding ways to eat them. Whole grains can be a bit tougher to process, and also come in food options that may be hard for seniors to eat. For example, whole-grain bread is harder to chew with dentures. Whole-grain bread and pasta are good sources, but there are many other foods that are also made with whole grains.

Meat and Poultry

Some seniors are worried that eating more protein-rich foods will increase their cholesterol levels, which is not true. Protein is an important part of a healthy diet and seniors can help their bodies use it to make new cells and maintain muscle mass by eating more protein-rich foods. Some protein-rich foods are low in fat, but others are high in fat and calories. If seniors are trying to gain weight, they should choose foods that are high in protein but low in fat, like fish, poultry, eggs, and legumes.

Fats and Oils

Seniors who are trying to gain weight might be tempted to add a lot of rich, fatty foods to their diets. While this can help with gaining weight, the fats and oils in these foods can also raise cholesterol levels. Seniors can add more fats and oils to their diets by eating more nuts, seeds, and avocados. They can also choose fattier cuts of meat, heavy cream, and butter. But they should try to limit their daily intake of these foods and focus on getting more essential nutrients and vitamins from other foods as well.

Make Changes Now To Extend Your Independence

Seniors often worry about maintaining their independence as they age. Nutritional issues can take away that independence which is why it is important to make the necessary changes early. When the time comes for a bit of daily living assistance, consider an assisted living facility like Gardens Care. Call us at 303-566-1085 to schedule a consultation today.