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Nutrition tips for seniors

Nutritional needs can change as people get older.

Sometimes health problems, medicine or simply aging can affect eating habits, said Deborah Willcox, a registered dietitian and licensed medical nutrition therapist at St. Joseph Retirement Community and St. Francis Memorial Hospital, both in West Point.

Some common nutritional challenges for seniors, and advice from Willcox to meet those challenges:

Challenge: Decreased sense of taste and smell

Advice: Try to make food more flavorful through seasonings such as pepper. But avoid too much salt, particularly if heart issues are a problem.

Related challenge: Diminished appetite

Advice: Try to eat a variety of food groups in each meal to get needed nutrients. That would include a source of protein, fruits and vegetables, dairy products and grains. The Meals on Wheels program can deliver healthful meals to seniors who have difficulty preparing food and make sure people have at least one good meal a day.

Powdered breakfast drinks made with milk taste like a shake and can help seniors obtain adequate nutrition and calories. People who have trouble chewing would want to make sure to have plenty of soft foods available. And one easy-to-follow suggestion for seniors struggling with a low appetite: Eat what sounds good. As long as the food doesn't cause particular health problems, enjoy!

Challenge: Drinking less water because of issues with incontinence or medications.

Advice: Drink the much-needed water and get treatment for incontinence issues. Avoid caffeinated beverages.

Challenge: Weakening bones

Advice: People need to make sure to get enough calcium and Vitamin D as they age. Good sources are milk, yogurt and dark green, leafy vegetables. A multivitamin would help provide a consistent source of calcium and Vitamin D.

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