As your loved one ages, you may notice a difference in their appetite. While their usual ways of eating may have once been satisfying, they may begin eating less, or gaining weight, depending on their activity.

That’s why it’s important to learn about healthy eating habits for seniors, so that you can be sure that your loved one is helping, not harming, their well-being with their food choices.

Why Age Affects Diet

Before we move into what foods your aging parent or relative should be eating, it’s important to know exactly why their eating habits might need to change.

To start, as we age, our metabolism slows down. Additionally, health issues may cause us to engage in less physical activity. As a result, we may need to cut back on calories so as not to gain weight — when we eat more calories than we burn, we start to put on unhealthy weight.

On the opposite end of that, we need to ensure we’re getting enough calories, too. Age can lead to a loss of appetite in some cases, and if your loved one is eating significantly less, this can lead to malnutrition and bigger health problems.

How to Form Healthy Eating Habits

It’s important to consider that your loved one may not want to change or alter his or her diet. Staying patient is key and incorporating or removing one food category at a time allows for an easier transition.

While your loved one’s actual nutritional needs can vary based on their medical conditions and body type, here are some basic structures to put in place:

1. Eat Foods Rich in Nutrients

While the food pyramid we learned about in grade school doesn’t exactly hold up these days, we can still get a grasp on what foods are healthy: fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, and nuts are a good place to start.

2. Drink Plenty of Water

Drinking at least 8 glasses of water per day still holds up as we age. It’s important to remind your loved one to stay hydrated — perhaps even give them a refillable water bottle so that they know exactly how much water they’re drinking.

3. Eat Plenty of Fiber

If your loved one is already eating a well-balanced diet, fiber should be a part of it to ensure a healthy digestive system. However, if it’s tough for them to eat enough fruits, veggies, beans and lentils, try offering a fiber supplement, instead.

4. Add Supplements

You might find your loved one is opposed to eating certain foods where they’ll get many of their vitamins and minerals, which is where supplements like magnesium, calcium, and vitamin D can help — just be sure to check with their doctor first.

5. Make it Fun

Helping your loved one change his or her diet can also be fun for both of you. You can create new memories by helping cook recipes together and find new dishes you can both enjoy.

Helping your loved one change his or her diet and incorporate healthier eating habits is essential to their overall well-being, and your peace of mind. Start small and build from there — forming new habits takes time, but it will be worth it.