Solutions for Picky Eaters

Table full of foodAdult picky eaters don’t necessarily mean individuals who were picky eaters as children. There are many adults who become picky eaters after a trauma, medical condition, or personal self discovery.

When seniors or home cared individuals become picky eaters though, it’s a different matter because it can be dangerous for their already compromised health. According to researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, picky eating is hard to explain and even scientists don’t fully understand the causes. However, they do acknowledge that food often carries powerful memories which can sometimes be connected to social or personal anxiety.

Sometimes, the treatment can create sensitivities and certain foods smell or taste bad, but like beer which tastes awful at first can become something you get used to and look for. The issues that may arise for patients and seniors who become picky eaters are:

  • They prefer to only eat soft food and they forget how to chew properly
  • They don’t get proper nutrition
  • It becomes a manifestation of a mental health problem
  • Turns social events into a stressful time
  • Turns out to be Selective Eating Disorder (SED) which results in a preference for a “toddler’s diet” and is a very serious illness because forcing them to eat something that is not soft can cause choking, food phobias, fatigue and often the need for hospitalization and feeding through a tube

Patients who have problems with eating should consult with a nutritionist for alternative source of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. It is important to make the patient feel no shame for shunning certain foods. In fact, what is more critical is to make sure that the patient continues to enjoy food and meal time.

Here are some other suggestions:

  • If you want to introduce a new food idea, only make a tiny batch or buy a sample size.
  • Always introduce new food when the patient is comfortable and in familiar surroundings, preferably when there are no guests or outsiders.
  • Try getting the patient involved in creating the menu or ordering the food by ordering online.
  • Keep a food journal including recipes, preparation, and presentation advice just in case you’re not around when it’s mealtime.
  • Sometimes, the problem is not in the food or flavor but in the difficulty in chewing or swallowing the food, especially red meat and leafy greens. Cut up the food to bite size pieces, avoid dry food (must have sauce), or puree the vegetables/meat into a soup.
  • Have the patient see a dentist regularly and check for unnecessary spaces between teeth where food can get lodged and be difficult to remove.
  • Learn new recipes to tickle the taste buds of your patient.

Finally, consider food therapy. Food therapy desensitizes food phobias, engages the patient to encourage fun during meal times, and even analyzes the way the patient eats. For instance, the patient may have low muscle tone in the face which is a condition that causes drooling because the muscles around the mouth are weak and makes it difficult to chew. The food therapist can then suggest ways and menu items that will provide essential nutrients while trying to build muscle strength.