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Overcoming Obstacles to a Healthy Eating Plan

We all start off with the best intentions. We understand the important role a healthy diet plays in our overall good health, not only in our sense of well-being, but for disease prevention as well. So why is it so hard to stick to healthy eating choices? If you, like many other Americans, have found that your road to good nutrition has often included unhealthy detours, let’s identify some of the obstacles you’ve faced. The following is a list of issues that can prevent older people from making smart food choices.

1 Tired of cooking or eating alone?
If eating is usually a solitary experience, you may feel that it’s just not worth the effort to create a healthy meal for yourself. If that’s the case, why not change your routine? Try scheduling some potluck meals with neighbors or friends. Each person can bring one healthy dish to comprise the entire meal, resulting in good nutrition and a fun social encounter. Or consider cooking with a friend to collaborate on a meal you both enjoy. You can even create a new food-oriented theme activity that you and your friends can do on a weekly basis, like a ‘crafts and lunch’ event, or ‘brunch and mall walk.’ And check out the group lunch and dinner schedules at your local community or senior activity center, where you can share good company and a low cost nutritious meal.
2 Problems chewing food?
If you avoid some foods because they’re hard to chew, you’re missing important nutrients. Meat, fruits, vegetables and nuts are some of the common foods avoided when people are having problems with their teeth or dentures. If you’re having difficulty chewing, see your dentist to check for potential problems. If you wear dentures, the dentist can check how they fit. If finding affordable dental care presents a challenge, The National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics can give you information on dental services available in your area by contacting them at 1- 703-647-7427.
3 Difficulty swallowing your food?
When food seems to get stuck in your throat, it may be caused by less saliva in your mouth. Drinking a lot of liquids throughout your meal might help. If there are other medical issues that are causing swallowing difficulty, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), problems with the muscles and nerves in your throat, or problems with your esophagus, speak with your doctor about what may be causing the problem.
4 Does food taste different?
Do you find that foods are not as tasty as they used to be? It may be that your sense of taste, smell or both has changed. Growing older can cause these senses to change, but so can medication side effects or dental problems. Taste and smell are important incentives for a healthy appetite and eating.
5 Sadness and loss of appetite
Sadness can cause a loss of appetite. While having ‘the blues’ occasionally is normal, extended periods of a sad mood that interferes with your ability to eat can be a sign of depression. You may need to speak with a professional who is trained in treating depression. Consult your doctor about finding help.
6 Just not hungry?
Changes in appetite that occur as we age can sometimes cause us to feel full sooner than we did when younger. Other changes in appetite may be a side effects of a medicine you are currently taking. You can discuss this with your doctor, who may be able to suggest a different drug. You can also increase your daily amount of physical activity. Regular exercise has a host of benefits to your well-being, and may also increase your appetite. Since ‘we eat with our eyes first,’ try adding some healthy variety and color to your meals. Steaming an array of vegetables will retain their nutrients, increase their flavor, and add visual appeal to your plate. Spices, herbs and lemon juice give your food an additional flavor boost without adding salt. Be adventurous. Try a new food or recipe that brings both variety and nutrition to your menu. Swap recipes with friends, or share meals that include healthy food items that may be unique to you but still inviting.
7 Food and Medicine Interactions
Your prescribed medications can cause a number of side effects, including dry mouth, loss of appetite, or changes in the way you taste food. At the same time, certain foods can change how some medications work. Grapefruit juice change the efficiency of several medications, but chocolate, licorice and alcohol can cause medication changes as well. Whenever your doctor prescribes a new medication, ask about the possibility of food/drug interactions.
Sometimes, a little help and ‘food inspiration’ can go a long way in getting you on track for healthy eating. The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services recommends a nutritional resource that will provide a guide to healthier food choices and better eating habits. See:

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