Ensuring Proper Nutrition

March 3, 2016

Elderly man and younger woman shopping at farmer's market

Michelle Howard, R.N.

Have you ever had a loved one that eats too much or doesn’t eat much at all?  Or when cleaning out their refrigerator you find old meat or spoiled milk?  I don’t doubt that all of you have experienced taking care of someone that you know would benefit from a healthy diet.  Many factors play a role in how a person eats, such as: low income, social settings are too tempting, life is too short they want to enjoy what they eat, don’t have time to prepare healthy meals, bad habits are hard to change, healthy foods don’t satisfy their appetite or they don’t know what healthy foods are.

Some of you are helping a loved one with grocery shopping and you can play a part in giving advice on healthy meals.  This can be a touchy subject so choosing the right verbiage, as communicate is key.  Here are some tips:

  • Suggest they add a side salad to their meal
  • What about Meals on Wheels?
  • Suggest Do-Able Meals that the individual can make on their own.
  • Suggest eating at the table instead of in front of the television. When eating in front of the television you tend to eat more.
  • Suggest frozen vegetables, they are equally nutritious compared to fresh and can easily be added to soups or stir fry’s.
  • Salsa is a healthy alternate to many condiments. It can be added to a baked potato or on a salad instead of dressing.  Another alternative to store bought salad dressings is oil and vinegar.
  • Suggest or make oatmeal cookies with rolled oats. This is a healthier choice for a baked desert.  Try reducing the sugar amount and adding apple sauce.
  • Frozen desserts can be made by freezing the individual’s favorite juice in a Popsicle container. Yogurt is also a yummy frozen dessert; you can add honey and fruit too.
  • If chocolate is a weakness suggest dark chocolate. It is high in anti-oxidants and a great treat.
  • Smoothies can be a great meal if made the right way. Suggest using yogurt, milk or almond milk, fruit (fresh or frozen), spinach or kale and honey for sweetener.  Flaxseed can be added for a great source of fiber too.
  • Fruit is always a great alternative to chips, candy or ice cream.

Many older adults are on several medications.  There are several food items that interact with different medications.  When an individual is getting their prescription filled, it’s very important for them to ask if there are any foods that they should avoid. For example:

  • Grapefruit juice contains a class of compounds called furanocoumarins; this can change the characteristics of certain medications. Grapefruit juice can increase absorption of specific drugs and can also cause the body to metabolize drugs abnormally. There are several drugs that can be affected by grapefruit juice such as: antihistamines, blood pressure drugs, thyroid replacement drugs, birth control, stomach acid-blocking drugs and cough suppressant dextromethorphan.
  • Green Leafy Vegetables are high in Vitamin K and should be eaten in consistent amounts. If too many green leafy vegetables are eaten it can affect the ability of blood thinners to prevent clotting.
  • Glycyrrhiza is a natural ingredient found in the root of the licorice plant. This can decrease potassium in the body and cause increased retention of sodium.  When potassium is decreased in the body the effectiveness of digoxin can be enhanced, (Digoxin is used to treat heart failure).  Glycyrrhiza can also decrease high blood pressure medicines and can increase the body’s clotting factors when taking Coumadin.  If you love black licorice don’t panic, as long as it’s artificially flavored black licorice it’s not a concern.
  • Salt substitutes most often replace sodium with potassium. Individuals taking Digoxin or ACE inhibitors should be cautious because these drugs replace sodium with potassium.  This combination could cause excess potassium in the body.
  • Chocolate, aged and mature cheeses, smoked and aged/fermented meats, hot dogs, some process meats, fermented soy products and draft beers (canned and bottled beers are fine) are tyramine-rich food. High blood levels of amino acid tyramine can cause an increase in blood pressure.  There are several medications that interfere with the breakdown of tyramine.  Depression medications (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) and Parkinson’s medications.

Cooking should be fun. If nutrition is a concern, involve the individual in the process to ensure adequate intake for the years to come.

Michelle Howard, R.N. is a Care Manager at the Placerville Office of Elder Options. Michelle has a passion for helping older adults and is well versed in dementia care, client assessments, and community resources.

Categories: Healthy Living