Nutrition & Hydration Week – Malnutrition in Older Adults

Malnutrition among older adults poses significant health risks and challenges. Recent studies, including one from 2020, revealed that over a third of elderly individuals admitted to hospitals were either malnourished or at risk. It’s crucial to recognise the signs, understand the causes, and take proactive steps to prevent malnutrition, ensuring the health and well-being of our elderly loved ones.

Understanding Malnutrition:

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malnutrition encompasses deficiencies, excesses, or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients. This includes both undernutrition and overweight, obesity, and diet-related non-communicable diseases.

Signs of Malnutrition:

Identifying signs of malnutrition is crucial. These include unintentional weight loss, chronic fatigue, muscle weakness, decreased appetite or loss of interest in food, cognitive impairment, slow healing from injuries or illnesses, increased susceptibility to infections, changes in mood or behaviour, skin, hair, or dental problems, swelling in the legs, fragile bones, and heightened risk of fractures, as well as mobility issues.

Causes of Malnutrition:

Several factors contribute to malnutrition among the elderly, including limited financial resources for purchasing nutritious foods, chronic illnesses or digestive disorders affecting nutrient absorption, medication side effects suppressing appetite, dental problems, or mobility limitations hindering eating, social isolation leading to decreased food intake, and age-related changes in metabolism and nutrient requirements.

elderly man eating dinner

Preventive Measures:

Preventing malnutrition requires a proactive approach from caregivers. Here are some key preventive measures:

Nutrition-Based Preventive Measures:

  • Meal Planning: Designate and prepare well-balanced meals in advance to promote healthier eating habits.
  • Medication Consideration: Be vigilant of medication side effects that may affect appetite and consult healthcare professionals for adjustments if necessary.
  • Social Engagement: Encourage social interactions during mealtimes to enhance enjoyment and stimulate appetite.
  • Healthy Snacking: Incorporate nutrient-rich snacks into daily routines to provide additional nourishment, especially for those with reduced appetites.

Other Supportive Measures:

  • Regular Monitoring: Keep track of the older adult’s weight, appetite, and overall health regularly to identify any changes or concerns.
  • Encouragement and Support: Provide positive reinforcement and encouragement during meals to motivate older adults to eat and enjoy their food.
  • Variety in Meals: Offer a diverse range of foods to ensure a balanced diet and prevent mealtime boredom.
  • Assistance with Eating: Offer assistance with meal preparation, serving, and feeding if needed, especially for individuals with physical limitations or cognitive impairments.
  • Educational Resources: Seek out educational resources or nutrition programs for caregivers to enhance their knowledge and skills in proper nutrition and meal planning for older adults.
  • Regular Exercise: Encourage regular physical activity to stimulate appetite and promote overall health and well-being.

Seeking Professional Support:

Seeking professional guidance is vital for addressing malnutrition effectively. Healthcare professionals can offer tailored dietary advice, recommend supplements, and provide counselling for underlying mental health issues contributing to malnutrition.

By raising awareness, understanding the signs, and implementing preventive measures, caregivers can significantly contribute to combating malnutrition among the elderly. Prioritising nutrition and overall well-being ensures that our elderly loved ones lead healthier and more fulfilling lives. If you or someone you know is experiencing malnutrition-related issues, don’t hesitate to seek guidance from healthcare professionals for appropriate support and intervention.

Light Summer Meals & Snacks for Older Adults

During the summer months, older individuals often find themselves inclined to snack rather than consume large meals. The combination of heat and decreased appetite can make heavy meals less appealing. Opting for snacks provides a lighter and more manageable approach to meeting nutritional needs while maintaining energy levels throughout the day.

To help you stay satisfied and nourished, we have gathered a selection of healthy snack ideas that are both enjoyable and nutritious.

Salads & Pasta Salads

Salads are a convenient choice for older adults in the summer. It requires minimal cooking and offers balanced nutrition, hydration, and easy digestion, providing a light and refreshing meal that’s easy to prepare.

By adding whole wheat pasta, such as fusilli or penne, adds fibre and complex carbohydrates for sustained energy. You can enhance the salad with lean proteins like sliced steak or chicken breast, along with vegetables, chickpeas, feta cheese, or beans, for added nutrients and flavour.

Including lean proteins, such as chicken breast, adds nutrition and satisfaction to the meal. Fresh vegetables like bell peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The salad’s ingredients, combined with the dressing, also contribute to hydration.

Preparing the pasta salad ahead of time and dividing it into portions makes meal planning easier. It saves time and effort while guaranteeing tasty and nourishing meals whenever you want. Here are a couple of pasta salad recipes to inspire you and help you create your own delicious pasta salad.

Chicken pasta salad recipe

Tuna Pasta Salad

Easy Mediterranean Pasta Salad



Sandwiches are an excellent option for older adults seeking a light and healthy evening meal during the summer. They can be filled with nutritious ingredients to enhance their health benefits. Moreover, you can add variety by using different types of bread, such as wraps, bagels, pitta bread, or French baguettes. This creates a delightful range of flavours and textures, making each sandwich a satisfying and enjoyable experience.

Consider filling such as:

  • Salmon, which is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids supporting brain function and overall well-being.
  • Egg salad provides an affordable source of protein and various vitamins and minerals.
  • Tuna, similar to salmon, is high in omega-3 fatty acids and can be mixed with mayonnaise and sweetcorn for added flavor.
  • Ham and cheese offer protein and a range of B vitamins, but should be enjoyed in moderation due to their higher sodium and saturated fat content. Customize sandwiches with favourite vegetables and dressings for a satisfying meal.

Burrito Bowls

Burrito bowls are a versatile and convenient choice for older adults seeking a healthy summer meal. Personalize the bowls with nutrient-rich ingredients like lean proteins, colourful vegetables, whole grains, and flavourful toppings. The adaptability of burrito bowls makes them suitable for various dietary restrictions, and they can be prepared in advance with minimal cooking time. Take a look at the provided recipe links to get started.

Chicken Burrito Bowl

Beef Burrito Bowls

Burrito Bowls Recipe

Spanish Omelette and Frittatas

Spanish omelettes and frittatas are excellent choices for summer meals, especially for older adults. These dishes not only offer delicious flavours but also provide great versatility and numerous nutritional benefits.

Frittatas, which are open-faced omelettes cooked in a skillet or oven, can be loaded with fresh seasonal vegetables, herbs, and proteins, offering a wide range of flavours and textures.

Spanish omelettes, traditionally made with eggs, potatoes, and onions, deliver a hearty and nutritious combination. Additional vegetables like bell peppers or spinach can be added for enhanced nutritional value. Both frittatas and Spanish omelettes are easy to prepare, making them ideal for quick and hassle-free summer cooking. Here are a few recipes to try:

Real Spanish Omelette Recipe | BBC Good Food

Jamie Oliver | Spanish Tortilla

Fritatta Recipes | BBC Good Food 

Chorizo Spanish Omelette

Frittata Recipes

Fruit Salads

To add a refreshing touch to summer meals, fruit salads are an excellent choice. Fruits are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that support a healthy immune system, vibrant skin, stable blood glucose levels, and cardiovascular health.

Choose fruits that are rich in beneficial nutrients such as apples, oranges, bananas, strawberries, and grapes. The natural sugars in fruits provide satisfying sweetness without the need for added sugar.

You can mix fruit salads with yogurt, honey, or fruit juice for variety. Fresh fruits also contribute to hydration due to their high water content. It’s important to consult a medical professional to determine which fruits are suitable for your specific needs. Certain fruits are more appropriate for individuals with diabetes, while others may need to be avoided if you are taking certain medications. For example, grapefruit is known to interact with certain medications and should be avoided.

If you’re looking for ideas to create your own fruit salad, check out the links below for inspiration and fruit salad recipes:

Fruit Salad Recipes

Fruit Salad Recipe with Yoghurt 

Jamie Oliver | Fruit Salad Recipes

We hope these summer meal ideas and recipes have inspired you and made your taste buds tingle. As we age, it’s easy to stick to the same foods, but trying new flavours and revisiting our favourite dishes can bring back the joy of eating.

However, it’s important to remember that before making significant changes to your diet, it’s best to speak to your doctor or healthcare professional. Our nutritional needs can change as we get older, and certain health conditions or medications may affect what we should eat. Seeking professional advice ensures that any dietary changes we make align with our health goals and take into account our specific medical needs.