Tips on How to Gain Weight for Seniors and the Elderly

When you're looking for foods to help the elderly gain weight, choose nutrient-dense embellishments to foods they already eat. Adding tasty, nutritious snacks several times daily will also be beneficial. Their physicians can provide additional guidance.

Focus on eating healthy food. (Image: istetiana/Moment/GettyImages)

Why Seniors Have Reduced Appetites

The human body is constantly evolving, and age-related changes can greatly influence nutrition requirements and appetites, notes Harvard Health Publishing. Compared to younger people, seniors require fewer calories, so they often consume less food and feel full more quickly.

Numerous medical factors can also impact a senior's appetite and weight. Chronic diseases and appetite-suppressing medications can frequently lead to a diminished desire for food. In some cases, dental problems can make it difficult to chew or swallow food, so the person might decide to reduce meal consumption.

Help With Increasing Appetite

To help your elderly relatives or friends with appetite boosting that can lead to weight gain, get their doctors involved, advises Mayo Clinic. Determine if it's appropriate to lift diet restrictions or switch to a medication that doesn't cause a reduced appetite. If dental issues stand in the way, ask a compassionate dentist to resolve oral discomfort or chewing difficulties.

The Institute on Aging provides helpful strategies that help with appetite and weight gain. First, encourage the person to keep the same mealtime schedule every day. If they don't have community-prepared meals, and have no one to dine with, ask whether a local senior center serves meals so you can arrange transportation with a home-care service.

To encourage weight gain in elderly patients, invite them to engage in light exercise, such as leisurely walks around the neighborhood with a companion. By burning calories and stretching muscles, they're more likely to have an appetite when they return. And, although they should drink enough liquids to stay hydrated, discourage excessive drinking that kills appetite. This includes weight-gain supplement drinks.

Keep meal portions small so they don't look too difficult to eat. With approval from the person's physician, add fragrant spices and seasonings to add some zest to each meal. If none of these tactics works, talk to the person's physician about a prescription appetite stimulant or an over-the-counter weight-gain supplement for elderly people.

Foods for Weight Gain

If an elderly person needs to gain weight, but isn't getting enough calories, add calories through nutritious snacking. Easy-to-make small bites include whole-grain crackers topped with low-fat cheese or peanut butter. Other suggestions include a small portion of unsalted nuts, yogurt with fruit or a small bowl of popcorn sprinkled with shredded cheese.

If nutrients are still lacking, ask their doctor about a protein nutritional supplement. These popular weight-gain supplements are generally available at grocery stores and pharmacies. Note that these foods should serve as between-meal or after-dinner snacks, not meal substitutes.

Quick Weight Gain When Underweight

If you can help the elderly person build a healthy foundation for a weight-gain program, they'll have greater odds of achieving success. First, ask their physician if the person has a medical condition that causes them to be underweight. If that's the case, the doctor can address that issue so you can help your relative or friend move forward.

Next, the American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that you help the person adopt a multi-pronged approach to healthy weight gain. First, suggest that they consume multiple smaller meals during the day, rather than sitting down for three full-plate dining sessions. They'll bank more calories overall, and they won't feel stuffed afterward.

Suggest that the person focus on nutrient-packed foods such as protein-rich meats that contribute to muscle growth. Adding beneficial carbohydrates and whole-grain foods will also be useful. Help them choose nutritious toppings for their favorite foods, and introduce unconventional, but tempting, side dishes.

Encourage the elderly person to begin a well-rounded strength-training program that will enable gradual addition of muscle, which leads to desirable weight gain. Yoga is a good option, and a professionally supervised weightlifting regimen can also provide benefits.

Choose the Best Foods

When your elderly relative or friend embarks on a weight-gain program, they might be tempted to throw caution to the wind and eat everything in sight. But, gorging on junk food and high-calorie beverages will only add empty calories and won't give their body the nutrition it requires.

Instead, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends focusing on choosing nutrient-packed foods from all major food groups. Rather than changing their diet, suggest that they add healthy-calorie embellishments to the foods they already enjoy.

For example, they can top a hearty salad with nuts, fresh-grated cheese, sliced avocado and dried fruit. For a between-meal snack, suggest whole-grain crackers topped with almond butter or peanut butter. Whole milk or full-fat versions of their favorite dishes will also add calories. Finally, by not drinking fluids during meals, there will be extra room for those nutrient-dense foods their body needs.

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