Is your older adult struggling to maintain a healthy weight after starting a special diet because of swallowing problems (dysphagia)?
Swallowing problems associated with diseases like dementia, Parkinson’s, or multiple sclerosis can cause weight loss and nutritional deficiency. Some studies estimate that malnutrition affects more than 35% of adults over age 65.
Not getting enough calories, vitamins, and minerals could make your older adult more vulnerable to colds and flu, increases their risk for bed sores, and affect their overall mood and energy levels.
It can be challenging to learn how to modify the foods and beverages your older adult can safely swallow and make sure they’re getting enough healthy calories and nutrients. And it might seem like the only way to get extra calories is through fried or processed foods or sugary processed drinks like Ensure.
But there are many simple ways to add healthy fats and nutrients into a dysphagia diet. These 4 dysphagia staple foods help seniors maintain a healthy weight and feel more energized.
1. Avocado 1 cup of cubed avocado has about 22 grams of fat. Plus, it’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods. Avocado is loaded with potassium, fiber, Vitamin B-6, and Vitamin C – just to name a few.
Even better, avocados don’t have a strong flavor on their own so they can easily be mixed into existing dysphagia meals to add a smooth, creamy thickness. Consider blending an avocado in with chocolate pudding, a fruit smoothie, or even a creamed soup like broccoli cheddar.
2. Nut butters In addition to peanut butter, nut butters like cashew, hazelnut (like Nutella), and almond are becoming more and more common in grocery stores. They’re delicious and packed with health-boosting vitamins and minerals like protein, calcium, fiber and fat. Nut butters can play a flavorful role in dishes like smoothies made with berries (think PB+J), milkshakes with bananas, and Asian-inspired curries and soups.
3. Greek yogurt True full-fat Greek yogurt could be a great addition to your older adult’s regular diet. It adds fat, protein, and helpful probiotics that support a healthy gut. Plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt is tangy, rich, and creamy. It blends well with both sweet and savory dishes so go ahead and add it to smoothies, savory soups, and desserts!
4. Coconut oil, cream, and milk Coconut oil is one of the few foods out there with medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are known for helping cells in the body quickly convert calories to energy.
Plus, coconut oil is very high in saturated fats – 1 tablespoon has 60% of the daily recommended amount. That’s why it’s great for people who aren’t getting enough fat, but isn’t good for people with conditions like heart disease or high cholesterol. Consider adding a little bit of cold-pressed coconut oil to your older adult’s thickened coffee or morning smoothie. Or simply cook with it when preparing their meals.