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Taking the Fight Out of Meal Time!

By Rita Miller-Huey

At any age, eating may seem to be the one thing you can control. Witness the two year old who will only eat the bun , but no hot dog. Two days later she will only eat hot dog, but no bun! Or the senior who seems to only pick at his meal, and the teen who thinks a burger and coke provide all the essential nutrients, as long as a chocolate bar is thrown in for good measure! How can you share the control you have as the caregiver with your loved one, no matter what their age?
Here are some tips:

Offer meals with a variety of choices (you control the what) and let the care recipient choose how much. A protein source (meat, fish, chicken or beans), a dairy product (milk, yogurt or cheese), a starch (rice, potato, peas, corn or bread), vegetables (from artichoke to zucchini) and fruit (as dessert) will give them choices. 

Put small portions of all the meal items (including dessert!) at the place setting at the beginning of the meal. Let her eat in whatever order she wishes. She'll most likely eat more, even if dessert goes first. (A fruit and vanilla low-fat yogurt compote is an excellent dessert choice filled with vitamins, minerals and protein).
Involve your loved one in planning the family dinner as often as they are able, but at least once a month.

As much as possible, let him help with meal preparation. For example, let him make fruit salad using a blunt knife or tear the greens for a tossed salad.
Be sure she is erect and seated comfortably when she is eating, whether at the table or in an easy chair or bed.

Provide utensils that support his independent ability to feed himself. Speak to an occupational therapist about special utensils if self-feeding is too laborious.
Snacks are an important source of nutrients if your loved one eats small meals. Offer foods with lots of protein, vitamins and minerals.

Offer water to quench thirst before meals. Drinking juice, fruit punch or soda will make one too full to enjoy healthy meals and snacks.

Provide opportunities to engage in physical activities, if at all possible. Exercise builds muscle, naturally stimulates the appetite and gives a sense of accomplishment. There are exercise videos for those confined to a chair, too!
 



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