Best of 2020: 6 Ways to Get Seniors with No Appetite to Eat

Good nutrition is important for senior health. Try 6 ways to get seniors with loss of appetite to eat more.

Caregivers struggle to nourish seniors with no appetite

Getting seniors who have no appetite to eat can be a challenge. 

There are many reasons why some older adults lose their appetite or refuse to eat.

But that doesn’t change the fact that you’re worried about them and are doing your best to give them the nutrition they need.

Sometimes simple changes can make a big difference. We share 6 suggestions for encouraging seniors who have lost their appetite to eat.

When trying these ideas, be patient, be creative, keep experimenting, and do your best not to get discouraged.

 

Advertisement


 

First, rule out serious health problems

The first and most important thing to do is rule out serious health conditions, medication side effects, or dental problems as the cause of their loss of appetite.

If these issues aren’t causing the loss of appetite, your best bet is to experiment with different ways to get your older adult to eat.

 

6 ways to get seniors with no appetite to eat

1. Have a regular meal and snack schedule
Having a regular daily routine and serving food at roughly the same times every day helps their body be ready to eat at those times. 

Don’t rely on your older adult’s ability to feel their hunger (it declines with age) before giving them food.

 

2. Serve smaller portions of high nutrient foods
Some people may feel overwhelmed if they see a large amount of food in front of them. Instead of a big plate, serve smaller portions.

Or, you could try switching to a daily routine where your older adult eats 5 small meals instead of 3 larger ones.

Boost the healthy calories in those smaller servings by adding:

  • Avocado
  • Finely chopped meat, cheese, egg
  • Olive oil
  • Peanut or other nut butters
  • Soft cheeses like ricotta or mascarpone

To save time, you can still cook food in larger batches. Just store it in smaller individual containers so it’s easy to heat and serve.

 

3. Reduce the need for utensils
The frustration of not being able to use a spoon, fork, or knife could make some older adults not want to eat at all. 

To help them eat more easily, try serving foods that can be eaten without utensils or trying adaptive utensils.

Some suggestions:

  • Chicken strips or nuggets
  • Fish sticks
  • Steamed or raw veggies like carrots, broccoli, bell pepper strips, or cucumber pieces
  • Meatballs

 

Advertisement


 

4. Have plenty of easy-to-eat snacks on hand
Some people might prefer to graze throughout the day rather than eat full meals. That’s ok too. 

Keep plenty of healthy, delicious, and easy-to-eat snacks available so they’re choosing from nutritious options.

Some suggestions:

  • Cheese sticks or string cheese
  • Full-fat yogurt
  • Diced fruit, fresh or packaged
  • Peanut butter and crackers
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Full-fat cottage cheese
  • Whole milk or chocolate milk

 

5. Make milkshakes or smoothies
If chewing is difficult or tiring, even with small pieces of food, consider serving softer or more liquid-y foods.

Some suggestions:

  • Nutritious soups – enhanced with cream, olive oil, or pureed meats and veggies
  • Healthy smoothies – add bananas, fruit, full-fat yogurt, or veggies like carrots and spinach
  • Hot cocoa
  • Full-fat milk
  • Milkshakes – good quality ice cream is better than eating nothing!

Important: This is not a solution for those with dysphagia (swallowing problems).

 

6. Keep track of what works
Take notes so you can keep track of the foods that your older adult enjoys, things they don’t like, and things that might be difficult to eat or are harder to digest.

You can also track what times of day they’re more willing to eat or when they have a better appetite. 

Keeping track lets you experiment more with things that are working and avoid the things that aren’t.

 

Next Step  Get 9 more ideas for encouraging seniors with no appetite to eat

 

Recommended for you:

 

By DailyCaring Editorial Team


39 Comments

  • Reply January 7, 2021

    Anna Graham

    My uncle has loose dentures. He uses a denture fixative, but it only works up to a point. To make eating more pleasant, I follow many of the recommendations above. I love to maintain a (flexible) routine. Cutting food up very small pieces helps enormously. In addition, I have some tips: 1. play classical music during mealtimes 2. use a bib to protect garments 3. use the person’s favourite plates and dishes 4. eat together 5. make conversation at mealtimes and 6. occasionally make a chocolate malted: approx. 1/2 cup chocolate ice cream, 1/2 cup milk, 3 tablespoons Briess Traditional Dark Dry Malt Extract. Blend and serve!!! (This reminds many older adults of after-school drugstore counter soda fountain Chocolate Malteds of the 1920’s – 40’s.)

    • Reply January 7, 2021

      DailyCaring

      It’s wonderful that you’ve found strategies that work well for your uncle. Thank you for sharing these great tips and the delicious recipe!

  • Reply January 7, 2021

    Avril Robson

    I make a smoothie for myself I’m 85 , and for people who like fruit:
    Juice of 1 orange
    Half a banana
    Good tablespoon of berries ( frozen are good )
    Blend together and drink .

    • Reply January 7, 2021

      DailyCaring

      That sounds delicious and nutritious! Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  • Reply July 11, 2020

    mampo

    I love everything i had .l also need help with mother that she have a loss of appetite ever since she fall on the bed and crack the groin bone .My mother is 86years.

  • Reply June 1, 2020

    Nonna

    Hi, thts all great ideas; but my dad is 82 and can’t have alot of those foods. He’s a diabetic w kidney issues as well as other things.
    So wht do I do?

    • Reply June 1, 2020

      DailyCaring

      Since your dad has specific dietary restrictions, it would be best to ask his doctor or nutritionist for advice. They can make recommendations that are safe and healthy for him.

    • Reply October 28, 2020

      KDJ

      This doesnt help if the senior has been picky about food since they were three, theyre taste buds are gone because they are so old and all they can taste are foods high in sugar and salt, and they have high blood pressure and diabetes so those foods are not allowed. I take care of a 92 year old that eats the same breakfast everyday, 2 different lunches, and two different dinners, as over an 8 year period of time, they have stopped liking almost everything. Soon, she will probably have to be fed intraveiniously or tubes into her stomach directly, as well as water/fluid intake, as she refuses to drink liquids as well.

      • Reply October 28, 2020

        DailyCaring

        That’s definitely a challenging situation. In cases like these where someone has strong preferences and serious health conditions, it may be best to work with a doctor and nutritionist to find foods that will work for the person’s specific needs.

        In case it’s helpful, we’ve got some suggestions on how to encourage someone to take in more fluids – 6 Ideas to Get Seniors to Drink More Water https://dailycaring.com/6-ideas-to-get-seniors-to-drink-more-water/

  • Reply May 5, 2020

    Margie Gonzalez

    My mom is 98 and her appetite is not as good as before. She has coffee with almond milk with crackers in the morning. After that she don’t want to eat. She likes vanilla wafers cookies and sips on water during the day. Dinner time she don’t want to eat like before I would have to spoon feed her and beg her to take some bites what can I do to get her appetite back

    • Reply May 5, 2020

      DailyCaring

      Hopefully some of the above suggestions will be helpful in encouraging your mom to eat. You may also want to investigate to see if you can find the cause for her loss of appetite. This article might be helpful — Why Do Seniors Lose Their Appetites? 10 Possible Reasons https://dailycaring.com/why-do-seniors-lose-their-appetites/

    • Reply October 28, 2020

      KDJ

      Coffee is a natural appetite suppresant. i would oust the coffee.

      • Reply October 28, 2020

        DailyCaring

        Everyone’s body responds differently to different foods and drinks. Some may find coffee to reduce their appetite and others might not be affected. The only way to know what works for someone’s specific tastes and body is to test it out.

  • Reply January 21, 2020

    Diane

    Any good smoothie recipes.
    My mom does not like vegetables, meat, eggs, yoghurt, or cottage cheese.

    She has a sweet tooth – DY’s no to spaghetti bolognause but yes to jelly worms.

    She grazes throughout the day-

    It’s difficult

    • Reply January 21, 2020

      Diane

      I mean- has anyone got easy smoothie recipient they can recommend. She does not like Ensure or protein shakes or heavy soups. Just difficult

  • Reply December 11, 2018

    Rhonda Murphy

    Im now caring for my Dad after he had a stroke. His appetite has been bad, he complains nothing tastes good. I love the smoothie idea and hope he likes it too. Thank you so much! 🙏🏻

    • Reply December 11, 2018

      DailyCaring

      So glad these suggestions are helpful! I hope his recovery is going as well as possible and that his appetite improves ❤️

      • Reply November 22, 2019

        Rosie Rangel

        My dad is 87 and was hospitalized for 11 days. He had abdominal surgery, surgery went well but got him home and all he does is sleep. No appetite. I’m worried

      • Reply October 16, 2020

        Maria

        My mom is 90 and has dropped roughly 16 pounds in a year, she eats very little and says she’s never hungry. I have to really beg her to eat. Just took her for check up and everything seems fine. Waiting in blood results but in the meantime what should I do?

    • Reply December 15, 2019

      Daniel

      Hi my Dad is in hospital with no appetite especially hospital food. Mum cooked him up some pumpkin soup with garlic, red unions, leek bacon blended it up and he woofed it down he took his medicines.

      We’re doing the same today with finely chopped up chicken,

      Dan

      • Reply December 15, 2019

        DailyCaring

        Those are wonderful ideas for tasty, appealing, and easier to eat meals! So glad your dad is enjoying these thoughtful meals while he’s recovering.

  • Reply October 22, 2018

    Jill Vasos

    I have found that pureed cream soups work well. I use heavy whipping cream for the calorie density

    • Reply October 22, 2018

      DailyCaring

      Excellent suggestions! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • Reply July 21, 2018

    Carolyn

    This is not helping my issue. I’m looking for ideas to cook for my mom she’s a senior in her own home dealing with an issue health wise that has caused her to loss 15pds in a month . Her appetite is nothing is appealing. And when she does try..she sometimes get the reflex in her throat and she’s done or she manages to eat very little. I now axienty and stress has a lot to do with it. But her foods are not what u mention. She don’t eat yougurt, cheese , avaucado .etc the new foods She’s old fashion food. Smoothies is a no. Milkshakes yes ..but she also takes ensures . She needs the nutrients in her daily meals. I well just have to try on my own.

    • Reply July 21, 2018

      DailyCaring

      It sounds like quite a challenge to keep your mom’s nutrition up. You may want to consult a doctor to find out the cause of her lack of appetite and her swallowing problems. It’s possible that there’s a medical or physical problem that needs to be addressed. And you may also want to keep experimenting since you know your mom’s food preferences the best. In case it helps, we also have another article with more suggestions — http://dailycaring.com/9-more-ways-to-get-seniors-with-no-appetite-to-eat/

    • Reply December 9, 2018

      Diane

      Your story is exactly my mom’s. Have you found anything to work?

    • Reply July 27, 2019

      Avis

      My mother had the same issues. Eventually she wouldn’t drink the ensures. She ended up being weak and went to hospital with her potassium and sodium being really low. She complained that everything got stuck in her throat as she ate less and less and got weak. Hospital ran tons of test and said her throat was good but she had beginning stages of dementia. They told me to have her swallow hard as they though liquid was remaining had the base of her throat a little, maybe from allergies. We later found out she had thrush and she was given medicine for it. I try and give her yogurt. I got her the tasty fruit flavored yogurt and put it in a bowl and told her it was pudding. She tried it and liked it. Although she had always said she hated yogurt. Off and on she has the thinks get stuck in her throat and I tell her to swallow hard and it seems to work so that she eats enough.

  • Reply October 16, 2017

    Raymond Howard

    The smoothie idea is great. I’ve been doing smoothies for a while now with my mother of 89 that has Alzheimer’s. I can add coconut oil to them easily which seems helpful for her. She loves the flavor of the smoothies and it’s a great way to get fruits, vegetables, and other nutrients into her that she normally wouldn’t get. I have found that cutting food into smaller pieces, using processors to soften or puree some foods can mean the difference between eating one or two bites or more. I also add honey or Xylitol to sweeten some things and that seems helpful.

    • Reply October 17, 2017

      DailyCaring

      That’s wonderful! It’s great that you found so many ways to help your mom enjoy food and eat more ❤

      • Reply April 24, 2020

        Fagmeda

        Hi. My mom has mouth cancer and the cancer made a hole in her cheek. She can’t understand what is happening to her and is very confused. She don’t want to eat and sleep the whole day. I tried to feed her with a syringe but she don’t eat a lot. Must I wake her to feed her? She is awake in the morning for me to feed her but at supper time she is asleep. Must she eat 3 times a day? HELP.

        • Reply April 25, 2020

          DailyCaring

          I’m so sorry that she’s going through this. It’s a tough situation for both of you. It would be best to contact her doctor right away to find out how to best manage the wound in her cheek as well as get recommendations on how often she should eat as well as how to make eating easier for her.

  • Reply August 15, 2016

    Susan Emmanule

    What a wonderful website!

    I am one of the founders of the Alzheimer’s Association, and my mother died of Alzheimer’s in 1987. I can tell, by the questions and answers to everyday issues that you have set up here, that you have really thought through very carefully questions and answers that will really help caregivers understand the “why” and know what to do for the various issues that arise when caring for someone with dementia. I had to do everything by the seat of my pants!

    Bless you!

    • Reply August 16, 2016

      DailyCaring

      Thank you so much for your kind words and support! I’m sorry for your loss and am thankful for your hard work at such a wonderful organization. Alzheimer’s and dementia are such devastating diseases and they cause behaviors that are so counter intuitive. We feel passionately about helping families solve these everyday challenges and care for their aging loved ones while maintaining quality of life for everyone involved.

Leave a Reply