Expert advice to help you maintain a healthy weight
Dissatisfied with your weight?
We're bombarded with scare stories about weight, from size zero to the obesity 'epidemic'. But a healthy weight is determined by different factors for each of us. Our expert advice is designed to help you achieve and maintain a healthy, life-enhancing weight.
Overweight or underweight?
Being the right weight has a positive effect on wellbeing but also on our health, as being the wrong weight can cause a range of medical problems.
Maintaining health as we age can be challenging, so a diet rich in nutrients is increasingly important as we grow older.
Factors that affect nutrition
There are many factors that influence nutritional status in older adults, and they can be broadly grouped into four main areas:
Those that naturally occur during the ageing process, such as a reduced ability to absorb nutrients efficiently, or a sore mouth due to dentures
Disease-specific conditions such as cancer, which place greater nutritional demands on people
Some drugs that interact with nutrients and prevent absorption, for example aspirin, which can interfere with the absorption of vitamin C
Social influences, such as not being able to get to shops, or social isolation
Continuing to enjoy food and to eat a diet that maintains nutritional status is key to coping with illness. Poor nutrition has been shown to increase the risk of infections, bed sores, chest infections and poor wound healing. Good nutritional status will help ensure a quicker recovery.
Other common problems:
Loss of taste
The ability to taste flavours declines as we age. Food can often taste bland to older people so try:
Using herbs and spices, tomatoes and other flavouring such as lemon juice to flavour food, but avoid using too much salt
Choosing foods with a strong taste - go for strong-flavoured meats, sauces, dressings, mustards and pickles
Loss of interest in food
Older people can lose interest in food for a variety of reasons. Depression due to loss of independence or bereavement, or simply eating alone can reduce appetite.
Explore the possibility of lunch clubs in your area
Eat with company when you can
Make meal times special by laying the table and presenting food in an attractive way
Choose a variety of foods where possible to keep the experience interesting
If you're unable to eat much, try small appetising meals and calorie-rich snacks in between meals to boost nutrient intake. To increase your calorie intake, try the following tips:
Fats and sugars provide energy and help food to taste good, so use these generously. Add extra cheese to sauces or grate on potatoes, add butter or margarine to vegetables, or enrich full-fat milk by adding dried milk powder. Try using sugar or honey on breakfast cereals.
Eat pudding once or twice a day, such as yoghurt, milky puddings, ice cream, trifle, cake, fruit pie, sponge puddings with custard and ready prepared desserts. Cakes, biscuits, chocolate and crisps provide extra energy when eaten with meals, but ensure they don't spoil the appetite for more nourishing foods.
Enriched-nourishment drinks, available from pharmacies and supermarkets, may be taken between meals to increase calorie intake, but shouldn't replace meals.
Alcohol in small amounts can actually stimulate the appetite, but check with your GP first, especially if you're taking medication.