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Loss of appetite during COVID? Here’s how to make food fun again.

Older adults have been greatly impacted by COVID-19. A Census Bureau study reported that 46% of adults ages 65 and older said that worry and stress related to coronavirus has had a negative impact on their mental health, and more specifically 1 in 4 seniors reported experiencing anxiety or depression.

Loss of appetite can occur due to inactivity, change in daily routine, dehydration and other medical conditions. Many seniors, and especially those with underlying medical conditions, took strict precautions during the pandemic, which may have included isolating from family and limiting outings such as going to restaurants, social gatherings and grocery shopping.

“For those who have experienced loss of appetite, it’s important to try to regain interest in nutritious foods to maintain overall health and wellness” says Amy Julicher, director of nutritional services for Elderwood.

With restrictions being lifted and more of the population being vaccinated, seniors can begin to feel safer visiting with others, grocery shopping and even dining out. Here are some ideas to help you or a loved one to find enjoyment in eating once again!

Make any day a holiday

Perhaps last year you missed out on your traditional Thanksgiving feast with family. Why not have a Thanksgiving dinner in July? Try rotating in your favorite holiday or special meals again. Taste and smell stimulates the senses and can help to bring about positive feelings, or even cherished memories of your favorite holidays.

Try new cultural cuisines

Once a week, pick a different global or regional cuisine and find a new recipe to make. Tasting foods from various cultures can be exciting and lets us experience new and different flavors. You can even take things a step further, by learning about food preparation techniques or cultural traditions associated with a specific meal.

Transport yourself to Oaxaca, Mexico and try a Healthy Street Taco recipe, one week followed by a North African Tagine the next week!

Swap recipes

Do you have a family member with their own beloved “signature” dish? Why not ask them for the recipe, and share one of your own in return? Take turns making each other’s recipes or put your own spin on their dish. You can even have a video call while cooking or enjoy a meal together virtually and show each other how the final product turned out!

“Food can help boost more than just nutrition,” says Julicher. “Cooking and creating meals, as well as enjoying them with others helps to build a sense of connection.”

Get outdoors

With warmer weather upon us, it’s a great time of year to go outside, fire up the grill or host an outdoor potluck with friends and neighbors. For those still leery of close gatherings, an outdoor setting allows people to safely interact, while maintaining a social distance if necessary.

Keep it simple, and colorful!

“Some days we’re just not in the mood to cook or create a robust meal,” says Julicher. Stock your fridge with healthful snacking options such as fruit, cottage cheese or vegetables with hummus.

“If you’re not feeling up to a big meal, blend a fruity smoothie with milk or Greek yogurt. You can add in greens like spinach for extra nutrients or peanut butter for additional protein.”

There are plenty of other ways to build interest and enjoyment in eating again. Start slowly and reintroduce foods at your own pace. For specific medical concerns, always be sure to check with your physician or dietician for more information.

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