Have you noticed your elderly loved one seems to be eating only sweets? Don’t worry, they are not just making up for their moms not allowing them to eat too much Halloween candy when they were younger. There is actually some interesting science behind your elderly loved ones craving sweet and salty snacks.
Elderly Eating Too Much Sugar
If you find the elderly person in your care constantly having sweet and salty cravings, it could mean something important is missing from their diet. Constant sugar cravings likely mean the body is not getting enough carbohydrates. A proper diet should include complex carbohydrates like whole grains (wheat bread, oats, etc) in addition to protein, fats, fruits and vegetables.
Salt cravings are generally an indication of dehydration and pass once the senior is rehydrated. Salt intake should be monitored as it can lead to hypertension (also known as high blood pressure) which can cause harm to the heart.
One way to avoid craving sugary or salty snacks is by eating three balanced meals per day along with smaller snacks throughout the day even when the senior is not particularly hungry. This assures they are receiving proper nutrition and can help prevent cravings. Staying hydrated is equally important so keep water handy throughout the day so the senior can sip as needed.
Elderly Eating Only Sweets?
Along with the other changes that happen to our bodies as we age, we also lose some of our taste buds. This explains why some elderly people seem to lose their appetites or suddenly want more seasoning than seems realistic on everything - 2 out of 3 taste buds can essentially disappear by age 70.
Sense of smell begins to decline as well which contributes to food tasting bland. Dry mouth is a side effect of some medications commonly taken by seniors which can make it difficult to swallow. There are many factors that can contribute to eating being less fun as we age, and in order to make it more fun, seniors may start craving sugar.
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Why Do Dementia Patients Crave Sugar?
Dementia patients struggle with all of these eating-related changes even more than the elderly who are not suffering from cognitive decline.
Studies show that dementia attacks the area of the brain - prefrontal cortex - responsible for self-restraint in food choices. So if your senior loved one is suddenly reaching for the chocolate bars more than they ever did before or are adding sugar to things that don’t quite make sense, this could be a sign of the early stages of dementia.
Some Healthy Snacks to Replace Sugary Sweets
Here are some healthy snacks you can make for your elderly loved ones when the sugar cravings. You may even enjoy some of them yourself:
- Cut up fruit or berries with yogurt
Cut up veggies with nut butter
Popcorn sprinkled with cinnamon
Unsweetened granola with fresh fruit
Dried apples with cinnamon yogurt dip
Applesauce with cinnamon
Fruit and cottage cheese
Baby carrots (which taste sweeter than regular carrots)