If your restaurant leftovers container collection has gotten to be quite impressive, it might not be just because portions have gotten larger. (They really have, though!)
It could also be that you’re not eating as much as you used to. That’s OK – it’s not uncommon to feel less hungry as we get older. However, if you find yourself with a serious loss of appetite, or that you need to gain weight because you recently lost weight without trying …that can signal a more serious problem.
What Causes Loss of Appetite?
There are many reasons why we may experience loss of appetite as we age. Maybe foods don’t taste as good as they used to, or medications we’re taking affect our feelings of hunger, or whoops – maybe you just forgot to eat! It happens, sure, but try to nip it in the bud before it becomes an issue.
So I Lost a Few Pounds – So What?
Losing weight might be a goal for you if you’re overweight, but losing too much weight, or too much too fast, can be cause for concern. And on the other hand unintended weight loss can be a sign of a more serious health issue. In fact, it might be more dangerous for seniors to be underweight than overweight.
If you’re underweight, you’re also at increased risk for falls and hip fractures. Not only that, but when you’re not eating enough, you’re not getting the nutrients you need to feed your brain and keep it sharp, and to keep the rest of your body healthy as well.
If your loss of appetite is causing you to regularly under-eat or skip meals, you may actually need to gain weight in order to stay well.
10 Tips to Increase Appetite and Gain Weight for Good Health
- Experiment with Herbs – Tantalize your tastebuds by trying new flavors using herbs and spices. (Go easy on the salt shaker, though – while salt can enhance flavor, it’s not great for the heart.)
- Eat With Your Eyes – Take a tip from restaurants and arrange the food on your plate in an attractive way. Add garnishes such as a sprig of parsley or a dollop of sour cream.
- Sip Nutritional Drinks – Between-meal beverages that are packed with extra nutrition are a great way to get in some nutrient-rich calories. Try a ready-to-drink nutritional shake that provides protein and essential vitamins such as B12 and D.
- Be Social – Breaking bread with friends is not only good for your mental health, but you tend to eat more too. If you can’t meet people in person, meet for a meal via video or phone with friends or family.
- Move More – Exercise can stimulate your appetite. You might also gain weight because you’re building muscle.
- Go Bigger with Smaller – Maybe you simply are less hungry, so when you do eat – make that food work hard for you! Maximize nutrition by choosing nutrient-packed, calorie-dense foods such as avocados, nuts, salmon, beans and fortified foods such as cereals or nutritional drinks.
- Make it a Routine – Eating on a regular schedule helps balance out your daily nutrient needs. It also ensures you don’t skip a meal when you’re struggling with loss of appetite.
- Keep it Easy With Finger Foods – Make meals that don’t require a lot of utensils to eat, such as sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, fish sticks and chicken strips.
- Have a Liquid Lunch – Soups and smoothies are easy ways to get extra nutrients and help gain weight, especially if chewing is a problem.
- Seek Help – Some medications can also cause a loss of appetite, if so, see if your doctor can make adjustments. It’s important to note that sometimes a loss of appetite is related to depression, which can become more common as we get older. The best thing you can do to care for yourself is to reach out to a trusted medical professional.
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