What To Do When Your Parent Becomes a Picky Eater

Children have a reputation for being picky eaters, but some older adults can give any kid a run for their money. Taking care of your parents as they get older presents all kinds of challenges, including figuring out how to meet their nutritional needs. While it may feel alarming, there are things you can do to soothe and satisfy adult picky eaters. Here are some tips from Elder Care Alliance for what to do when your parent becomes a picky eater.

How To Care for Adult Picky Eaters

Caring for an older person whose appetite and food preferences have changed is not easy. It’s tempting to categorize picky eaters as people who are fussy and hard to please, but there is almost always more to the story.

Before you decide how to move forward with your parent’s nutritional plan, ensure you have a holistic understanding of their health. Whenever possible, talk to your parent’s primary care doctor about any medications your parent is on and address the other probable root causes of any sudden changes when it comes to their interest in food and eating.

A female, adult picky eater finds a nutritional meal she can tolerate.

Why Are Some Adults Picky Eaters?

If you want to know why some people are picky eaters while others embrace all types of food, start by looking at underlying health issues. Adult picky eaters often experience symptoms of constipation and gastrointestinal discomfort such as bloating, excess gas, or heartburn. Constipation impacts approximately 26% of women and 16% of men who are 65 years of age or older and makes many people want to avoid eating altogether. 

Certain medications and lifestyle factors can increase the chances of constipation. Many older people don’t get regular exercise and experience depression due to loneliness and isolation. These factors can also make your parent not want to eat. Working with these issues instead of against them will make your efforts more sustainable and effective.

Make Eating a Social Affair

The best way to address the issue of loneliness and isolation is to make eating a social affair. Schedule regular times during the week when you can sit down for a meal with your parent, and reach out to others in your family and community to make sure your parent feels supported. 

Check in with your parent about their friendships and social calls. Help them build relationships by taking them to the local community center to meet other older adults.

Involve Adult Picky Eaters in Meal Planning 

You don’t have to decide on your parent’s menu alone. Involving adult picky eaters in meal planning is a great way to discover which foods they will and won’t eat, which foods they digest well, and which foods they crave but have difficulty preparing. 

Planning meals with healthy food for picky eater adults is about striking a balance between what they want and what they need. Offering their favorites every other day while introducing nutritional foods on alternate days is a great way to keep their interest.

Do Gentle Exercise Before a Meal

If your parent needs help getting their bowels moving and building up an appetite, do some gentle exercise before you sit down for a meal. Go on a walk around the neighborhood or inside a mall if the weather is too cold. For music lovers, turn up the tunes and have a dance party. Even a little bit of movement can inspire your parent to eat a healthy meal.

Get Your Adult Picky Eater To Drink More

Getting your picky eater parent to drink more fluids will help them have regular bowel movements and a healthier appetite. The best drink to achieve a healthy digestive system is water, but your parent might find it bland or boring. Add a bit of lemon, mint, or crushed fresh fruit to pique their interest, but remember to avoid carbonated and alcoholic beverages, which can have negative impacts on health. 

Woman prepares food for her mother, who is an adult picky eater.

Offer Healthy Foods Mixed With More Familiar Options

If your parents complain about the taste of nutritious foods such as vegetables, you may want to try mixing healthy foods with more familiar comfort foods. Try hiding healthy foods in savory or sweet dishes. For example, add diced broccoli florets to macaroni and cheese or place a dollop of whipped cream on a bowl of fresh fruit. Getting creative with your recipes can make all the difference when it comes to meals for picky eater adults.

Focus on Ready-To-Eat Snacks

Take advantage of the option of ready-to-eat snacks for those moments when your parent expresses hunger between meal times. Some items you can carry in a bag when you go out are: 

  • String cheese 
  • Nuts and seeds 
  • Protein bars
  • Fruit and veggie pouches
  • Hard-boiled eggs

Prepare Foods Adult Picky Eaters Can Eat Comfortably

If you’re responsible for preparing meals for your parent, prepare foods that your parent can eat comfortably. Dentures and missing teeth can make it difficult to enjoy foods such as corn on the cob, carrot sticks, and tough meats. Opt for mashed potatoes, stewed meat, and soft vegetables instead. Soup is always a great choice for people experiencing dental or digestive issues.

Add Spices and Explore New Foods

Because taste buds and preferences change over time, don’t be afraid to add spices and explore new foods with your parent. Oftentimes, the answer to why are people picky eaters comes down to changes in their taste buds. Experiment until you discover new favorite foods that your picky parent actually looks forward to eating each week.

How To Achieve the Nutritional Needs of Adult Picky Eaters

When your parent shows signs of being a picky eater, you can rise to the occasion and achieve all of their nutritional needs. Stay flexible with your strategies and always be aware of any underlying health issues affecting your parent’s appetite. With clear communication and a little bit of creativity, you can ensure that your adult picky eater stays healthy and full for many years to come.

If your parent lives in a senior living community, check to see if the available menu matches your parent’s needs. Elder Care Alliance takes great care to plan and create menus that older adults can easily enjoy. Schedule a visit today to discover what makes our communities better for older adults.

For help or more information contact us or schedule a visit at a location today.