Avoiding Malnutrition in the Elderly


Mummy says…. ‘Following on from my first post regarding spotting the signs of malnutrition in the elderly, and how it affects muscle loss, in this post I want to share with you practical things you can do to help in avoiding malnutrition in the elderly.

Avoiding Malnutrition in the Elderly

I want to share with you as well, how malnutrition can make you feel – and hinder such normal every day tasks. When I met with Abbott, we had the opportunity to try on a Sarco suit, a special suit designed to mimic how it feels to suffer muscle loss. It was so heavy (around 20kg) that I couldn’t actually try it on, due to an old back injury. The bloggers who did, were shocked at how much it slowed them down, and how simple tasks such as making a cup of tea, unpacking some shopping, and climbing stairs exhausted them. This not only has a physical impact but a mental and emotional one too.
avoiding malnutrition in the elderly
At the meeting, we were lucky enough to meet Doreen, an 87 year old lady. She reminded me so much of my nan, having been in hospital following a fall too.
Doreen made it very clear that to entice her to eat, it had to be food she liked! Doreen also reminded us (several times) that cake is acceptable – and almost necessary – in her diet! She was a tonic, and proof of the difference that noticing and addressing malnutrition makes in an elderly person.
We all talked about the ‘tea and toast’ diet that so many elderly people have – for the ease of preparation – usually by carers who do not have the time to make meals. The trouble is, there is very little in this to meet the nutritious requirements of an elderly person. 
So what, in simple understandable terms, are the nutritious needs to avoid malnutrition in the elderly?
It is important to remember that elderly people need LESS calories – they may only need around 1300 calories a day, but they need more vitamins, minerals and proteins. Muscle health needs protein and Vitamin D.
With regard to drinking, water is important but not enough – try fruit juices and hot chocolate to help to get nutrients into the diet. ONS (Oral Nutritional Supplements) may be needed. Their diet can be supplemented by these specific nutrient drinks – especially formulated for the elderly, to give them a shot of essential vitamins and minerals. It is important to note that these are NOT the same as energy drinks found in the supermarket. You may have to talk to a dietician to have the drinks prescribed.
Top Tips and Ideas for meals and snacks to help in avoiding malnutrition in the elderly:
1. Cheese and cheese based dishes. Add cheese to a sandwich or toastie. 
2. Yoghurts.
3. Look for high protein bread and cereals.
4. Protein. One chicken breast, or a can of tuna will provide the required daily amount of protein. (Around 70g).
5. Eggs – if your loved one will have one egg, then an easy way to get more protein in to their diet is to double up to two. Try an omelette or scrambled egg.
Offer smaller snacks throughout the day, on a tea plate rather than a dinner plate so your loved one doesn’t feel overfaced.
Their appetite will tend to dwindle throughout the day, so your loved one may want a bigger meal in the morning. Remember it is ok to have a bowl of cereal for tea, if that is all that is wanted.
I want to remind you too, that it is important that the GP is aware of what your loved one is eating (or not), go to them – and get referred to a dietician sooner rather than later.
Since attending the meeting with Abbott, my Nan (who is 95) has had another fall, which saw her spend another 24 hours in hospital. She went downhill mentally and emotionally following this fall, losing interest in everything, including her appetite. My parents went to stay this week, to help look after her and to get her back on her feet. I am thrilled to say that as a direct result of my talking to my parents about all I learnt at the meeting, they were able to implement some of these ideas and my Nan has improved massively in the last few days.
Remember, it is not ageing that brings about frailty and I hope these posts have helped you, if you look after an elderly loved one.
I have been sponsored by Abbott to become an advocate for my nan’s nutritional health.


  1. I love this. Yes and toast really is a typical ‘elderly’ diet and it’s just not good enough
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  2. aww what a lovely read I had no idea about this topic, my grandma always said you had to eat to live when you get old. thanks for sharing k x

  3. Great post. Glad to hear that your nan is recovering and back on the mend!
    Nikki recently posted…#GlutenFreeGlasgow … My Home BakeryMy Profile

  4. My gran lost her appetite and it was difficult to actually get her interested in food, but i agree, we had to tempt her with her favourite things.

  5. Really interesting post. Commenting for myself and on behalf of BritMums and thanking you for taking part.

  6. So true they do tend to lose appetite and I have experience as a carer so sometimes they refuse to eat. But it is important to get nutrients into their diet.
    Ana De- Jesus recently posted…Princess AnaMy Profile

  7. It must be so much harder to prepare things and get the nutriants you need when you’re older and struggling to do everyday tasks x
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  8. Such good advice. I think we all need to be much more thoughtful about diets for different ages.
    Sarah Ebner recently posted…Flying Down to Rio: trying out iPilot in LondonMy Profile

  9. A very nice post, with interesting advice. As I’ve mentions before I do worry about my mum and her diet. xx
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  10. Great post, very informative. My Grandma is very aware of her diet and looks after herself well x

  11. Great post. My nan was always aware of her diet but this slipped in the last few months of her life.
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  12. This makes me so sad, I have taken these tips on board and will definitely be using them x
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  13. Let us not forget also that a there are elderly people who receive only a small pension and can’t necessarily afford good quality food.

  14. My grandad was open to me blending the meals for him. He would go for a yoghurt and raspberries smoothie. I would sometimes prepare something similar with chicken and boiled veggies.

    I think that, in his case, it was a matter of convenience. He just couldn’t be bothered to chew and he was OK with sipping his lunches.

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