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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
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
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
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!