As we age, it’s important to pay attention to the types of meals we’re eating. Aging is linked to muscle loss, thinner skin, and less stomach acid, and seniors may also experience a loss of hunger and thirst cues — many of these can lead to nutrition deficiencies and dehydration.

Additionally, older bodies need fewer calories but more nutrients. According to the National Resource Center on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Aging, 1 in 4 older Americans has poor nutrition – this puts them at risk of becoming over or underweight, can weaken muscles and bones, and leaves them vulnerable to disease.

In order to help our parents get the nutrients they need, it’s important to be sure that they’re eating regular, healthy meals that are high in fiber and contain little or no processed foods. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to do this:

  • Be sure that every meal includes a lean protein such as chicken, fish, or lean meat, a whole grain like brown rice, quinoa, or oats, and a whole fruit and/or vegetable.
  • Eat whole fruits and veggies as snacks throughout the day.
  • Try to avoid processed foods, including foods that contain processed sugar and are high in saturated and trans fats and salt. These foods can be high in calories but low in nutrition.
  • Encourage your loved one to eat slowly, stop when they feel full, and then eat a small, nutritious snack in between meals when they feel hungry.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day.

You may also want to talk to your parents about taking vitamin and mineral supplements; their doctor can recommend ones that are right for them.

By making sure your parent is eating regular, nutritious meals, you’ll be helping them manage their weight, stay energized, and even lower their risk of chronic health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

To learn more about how you can help your parent eat healthy, read Nutrition for Older Adults from MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine (NLM).