Creative Ways for Good Nutrition with Dementia
As we age, physical challenges may negatively impact nutrition. Our risk for dementia increases as we age and having dementia may require extra creativity for meals. Some of the biggest challenges I see when it comes to dementia and nutrition are:
- Changes in taste. Older adults tend to prefer sweeter foods, but these may not always be healthy.
- People with dementia may be extra active. They may be on the go a lot and have a shorter attention span, which means they may not sit for an entire meal.
- Physical changes that impact the ability to eat. Whether a person with dementia is unable to chew for various reasons or use utensils, safely consuming proper nutrients can become problematic.
Why is proper nutrition important?
When you were taking the SATs, you were probably advised to eat a nutritious breakfast, right? That is because proper nutrition is important for cognition. We are at our best when we are eating well-balanced meals.
You will often hear that someone with dementia has good days and bad days. While that can be due to the type of dementia (some types are marked by fluctuating cognition), sometimes this is impacted by the amount of sleep, exercise, or even nutrition. However, an improvement with cognition should not be confused with reversing, slowing, or curing dementia as this is not currently possible.
Trovato, LLC is based out of Annapolis, MD and I am an Annapolis native. We always travel to our clients, so I am always on the go and need something quick and easy to eat white traveling to her next client. I was really excited when I met Jonas Vasquez, owner of Taro Smoothie Bar in the heart of Downtown Annapolis.
Jonas is also a Veteran and during his time in the military, he found ways to incorporate proper nutrition into his life to help him feel physically and mentally at his best. He opened Taro because he had a passion for helping others feel better through nutrition. He sees nutrition as a way to improve health and overall quality of life. Smoothies are a great solution for ensuring proper nutrition for people with dementia.
Changes in taste.
When I worked in as the director of a dementia unit, we went through chocolate ice cream very quickly. This is because we prefer sweeter foods as our we age due to changing tastes.
According to Jonas, “making a smoothie sweet without adding sugar or syrups means finding the right combinations and ripeness of each fruit.” Jonas suggests using a banana as the base of the smoothie. They tend to be sweeter and are nutrient dense. He also mentions that adding watermelon, mango, and berries are another way to sweeten a smoothie.
People with dementia may be extra active.
For residents who were unable to sit for a meal but need nutrients, we would often make ensure milkshakes: ensure + chocolate ice cream. While this was a great option, I wanted to find a healthier way to do this.
One thing I love about Taro is that I can add protein to my smoothie. For years, I drank whey protein, but based on insight from Jonas, this may have contributed to the stomach discomfort I experienced. “Over half of the top eight allergens in the world make up the standard whey protein base: milk, eggs, soy, wheat, shellfish and peanuts,” says Jonas. Jonas suggests, and Taro carries plant-based protein which is “far superior in its nutrient density and probiotics,” according to Jonas.
Physical changes that impact the ability to eat.
I like smoothies because most older adults with dementia can drink through a straw through the end of life. However, if they still have the ability to use utensils or chew, this is something we want to encourage.
Acai cups are a new, trendy meal option. According to Jonas, “the acai berry has more antioxidants than all other berries, they are high in good fats, yet low in sugar” and “can be altered to accommodate most dietary preferences.” Some research suggests that acai bowls can help various health concerns, including: arthritis, weight loss, high cholesterol and much more depending on add-ons. Taro creates a base from acai and freeze this the night before consumption. Then, you can add option fruits on top. If you desire a sweeter treat you can add other options such as nutella or peanut butter. In order for us to be able to have healthy Acai cups we pick out each fruit and base to freeze the night before this way we are able to stay away from syrups or other added sugars.
With many of my clients, we see a decline in eating when the person is no longer able to feed themselves. Acai cups or smoothies could be a good transitional food, a healthy “sweet treat,” or just a great alternative to typical meal replacements.
Do you have a favorite smoothie recipe? If not, stop into Taro or view their website for some ideas for smoothies. Taro is located at 137 Prince George St, Annapolis, MD 21401. You can also follow them on instragram for their secret menu: @410smoothies.
If you need additional ways to encourage independence for someone with dementia as their abilities change, Trovato can help. We specialize in maximizing one’s opportunities by minimizing their challenges. Schedule a free 30-minute phone consultation today.