Dietitian-approved: 10 Helpful Must-haves to Navigate Eating and Mealtime Challenges

Molly Robinson, MS, RD, LD

Written by Molly Robinson, MS, RD, LD on Fri Mar 10 2023.

Dietitian-approved: 10 Helpful Must-haves to Navigate Eating and Mealtime Challenges

Providing proper nutrition and ensuring a balanced diet for the person you care for can be a significant challenge as a caregiver. Many factors can contribute to this challenge, such as the person’s health condition, medications, dietary restrictions, and personal preferences.

Older adults and people with dementia often experience unique nutrition, eating, and mealtime challenges. Some of the changes impacting nutrition that may be experienced by older adults and those living with dementia include:

  • Changes in food intake and acceptance

  • Chewing and swallowing problems

  • A decline in the ability to self-feed and independence

As a registered dietitian nutritionist with over 18 years of experience, I’ve put together a roundup of nutrition products to make life easier for you as a caregiver and improve nutrition and mealtime for your loved one.

Nutrition Products for Swallowing Disorders

1) Thick & Easy Clear Honey Consistency Beverages

Thickened liquids are often recommended for those with dysphagia or difficulty swallowing. Changing the consistency of drinks can make swallowing easier for people with dysphagia and reduces the risk of choking or liquids going down “the wrong pipe” and getting into the lungs.

Pre-thickened products save time and can increase your confidence by providing the correct consistency of fluids for your loved one. They can also improve oral intake and hydration, which are essential for maintaining overall health and well-being in individuals with trouble swallowing. Read more here about pureed meals for dysphagia or trouble swallowing.

Key Benefits & Features:

  • Accurate consistency with each serving

  • Convenient and quick for caregivers

  • Safer for a person with swallowing difficulty

2) Thick-It Purees

Thick-It Purees Beef in BBQ Sauce Puree, 15 oz., H309-F8800, 1 Each
Thick-It Purees Beef in BBQ Sauce Puree, 15 oz.

Price: $15.96 - $133.99

What about texture-modified food products? Pureed foods can be just as helpful because they provide a safe and easy-to-swallow option for those with difficulty chewing and swallowing. This helps to improve overall nutrition and can reduce the risk of choking.

Dignity is especially important for older adults and those living with dementia, and using prepared pureed foods with various options helps maintain dignity in the dining experience.

Key Benefits & Features:

  • Increase your confidence by providing the correct texture with each serving

  • Easy to prepare and serve, saving time for the caregiver

  • Useful for those with late-stage dementia, as purees and soft foods are often better accepted

Other Nutritious Options

1) Boost Nutritional Pudding

Boost Nutritional Pudding
Boost Nutritional Pudding

Price: $8.78 - $105.39

Sweet-tasting foods are often better accepted by older adults and people living with dementia due to changes in their taste preferences and their brain's response to sweet flavors, which can stimulate their appetite and provide a sense of pleasure and satisfaction.

Key Benefits & Features:

  • Portable, quick, and easy option for the caregiver

  • Contains 7 grams of protein plus added vitamins and minerals

  • A nutrient boost in dessert form, which is often better accepted when appetite is poor

2) Kate Farms Nutrition Shake

Nutrition shakes can be a helpful tool for individuals who are not eating well. They are often fortified with vitamins, minerals, and protein, making them a convenient and easy way to help meet daily nutrient needs and prevent malnutrition.

Enhance nutrients in homemade shakes and smoothies using the Kate Farms Nutrition Shake with nourishing ingredients like yogurt and frozen fruit. Nutrition shakes are beneficial for those not meeting nutrition needs with food alone. 

Key Benefits & Features:

  • High-quality ingredients that taste good

  • Contains 15 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber

  • Ready to drink, convenient

3) Orgain Organic Nutrition All-In-One Nutritional Shake

Key Benefits & Features:

  • Nourishing option with 16 grams of protein for those who prefer sweet tastes

  • Convenient for caregivers and loved ones in ready-to-drink form

  • Great tasting flavor to drink solo or combine in a shake or smoothie

4) Nestle HealthScience Beneprotein Instant Protein Powder

Nestle HealthScience Beneprotien Instant Protein Powder, 8 oz., 10043900284108, 1 Each
Nestle HealthScience Beneprotein Instant Protein Powder, 8 oz.

Calories Per Serving: 25

Protein Per Serving: 6g

Price: $23.69 - $128.59

Meeting daily protein needs can take effort to do through foods alone. Protein powders can help older adults meet those needs and maintain muscle mass, which can help improve their overall function and reduce the risk of falls and fractures.

Key Benefits & Features:

  • Provides 6 grams of quality protein per scoop

  • Easy to add to foods like applesauce, pudding, hot cereals, shakes, smoothies, soups, mashed potatoes, and more.

Nutritious Snacks

1) Larabar Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Snack Bar

Larabar Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Snack Bar
Larabar Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Snack Bar

Price: $37.58 - $70.49

Snack bars can be a convenient and healthy snack option for caregivers who may not have the time or energy to prepare elaborate meals or snacks. They are portable and easy to grab on the go, making them ideal for busy caregivers on the move. 

Many snack bars are designed to be nutritious, providing a source of protein, fiber, and other essential nutrients. We’ve highlighted two specific bars that offer nourishment to help you maintain energy levels throughout the day.

Key Benefits & Features:

  • Portable and convenient

  • Minimal ingredients with a low count of added sugars (4 grams)

  • Contains 5 grams of protein and a good source of fiber (3 grams)

2) Peanut Butter Jelly & Oats Bob's Bar

Peanut Butter Jelly & Oats Bob's Bar
Peanut Butter Jelly & Oats Bob's Bar

Price: $33.49

Key Benefits and Uses:

  • Nourishing snack option containing 7g protein and a good source of fiber (3 grams)

  • Sweet taste can be appealing to those with poor appetite

  • Portable snack for caregivers and loved ones

3) Love Crunch Dark Chocolate & Red Berries Granola

Another healthy snack option for caregivers is granola because it is typically made with whole grains, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. These ingredients are often high in fiber, protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants, which can help boost energy levels and support overall nutrition in you and the person you love.

Granola can be easily mixed with yogurt, fruit, or milk for a more filling and satisfying snack. For those who are not eating well at meals, granola can be a delicious way to add nourishing calories at meal and snack times.

Key Benefits & Features:

  • Eat solo or add to yogurt, hot cereal, ice cream, or smoothies

  • Great way to add calories in a smaller quantity of food

  • Add to trail mix for a convenient and nourishing snack option

4) Bob’s Red Mill Old Fashioned Rolled Oats

Bob's Red Mill Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
Bob's Red Mill Old Fashioned Rolled Oats

Price: $28.24 - $78.60

Oats are highly nutritious whole grains rich in fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. The high fiber content of oatmeal can help regulate digestion and prevent constipation, which is often a common issue for those not eating well. 

Oatmeal is an excellent option for someone who isn’t eating well because it’s soft and easy to eat. Adding ingredients like whole milk, peanut butter, honey, and dried fruits to oatmeal is an effective way to enhance its nutritional value and boost calorie intake without eating a large portion. 

Key Benefits & Features:

  • Good source of fiber with 4 grams of protein

  • Mix in egg whites or protein powder for a boost of nutrition

  • Serve as a hot cereal, as overnight oats, or mix with peanut butter and dried fruits for a bite-sized snack

Commonly Asked Questions

1) What if my loved one is having difficulty chewing or swallowing?

Is the person you care for experiencing swallowing difficulty? If so, request a consultation with a Speech Language Pathologist from their healthcare provider to assess the safest texture and technique for them. 

If pureed or thickened consistencies have been recommended, browse the Thickened Food & Beverages to find a product that works best for you and your loved one.

2) Which products can be helpful if my loved one isn’t eating well?

Getting the proper nutrition for the person you love can be tricky, especially when poor appetite and mealtime challenges are present. In older adults and those living with dementia, changes in the body can affect appetite and the ability to eat. These changes often include changes in the sense of taste or smell, varying food preferences, and a decrease in meal acceptance.

Additionally, many older adults experience medical conditions and take medications that further impact their appetite and eating habits. As a result, it can be challenging for older adults to maintain a healthy and balanced diet, leading to malnutrition, weight loss, and other health complications.

3) How much protein should my loved one get a day?

Curious about the amount of daily protein needed for yourself or your loved one? If so, request a referral to a registered dietitian from your healthcare provider. Nutrition needs vary from person to person, and a registered dietitian can make specific recommendations for protein, calories, and other nutrients to meet those daily needs.

Takeaways

As a caregiver, you play an important role in ensuring the health and well-being of the person you love. Meeting their nutrition needs can seem like a daunting task, but it is also an opportunity to provide them with the nourishment they need to thrive.

Remember to focus on variety and balance and incorporate plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein sources, and whole grains into their meals and snacks. If you need help, don't hesitate to reach out to a registered dietitian or healthcare professional for guidance. By taking the time to prioritize their nutrition needs, you are helping to improve their quality of life and overall health, and that is truly something to be proud of.

Need More Help?

Choosing the right product can be overwhelming - Carewell's team is here to help. If you need help finding the perfect product for your needs, talk to one of our caregiving specialists today. Call (800) 696-CARE. We’re here to support you, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!

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Molly Robinson, MS, RD, LD
Molly Robinson, MS, RD, LD

Molly Robinson is a Registered Dietitian specializing in nutrition for older adults and people with dementia. She is passionate about supporting caregivers to break through the nutrition and mealtime challenges their loved ones may experience. Molly lives in Lexington, Kentucky, where she enjoys hiking and exploring the outdoors with her husband, Grant, and Vizsla puppy, Pearl.