You Are What You Eat

brown potato in front of french fries
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“Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.”  3 John 1:2 (NASB)

Someone once said, “You are what you eat.” I suppose that’s why as I age I’ve begun to look like Ronald McDonald.  I’ve eaten my share of the “billions and billions served” as it says on the sign.  I suppose if I’d eaten the protein-rich beef patty and less of the fries and colas I would have a healthier body. Though the carbs and sugars are empty calories, the patty is rich in protein.  However, grass-fed beef is even better.

Protein is an integral part of good health especially for the young and the old.  Young bodies need the building blocks to grow, whereas older bodies need it to maintain muscle mass and combat illness. My mother’s lab results indicate too low protein levels.  According to her doctor, this is common among the elderly for two main reasons, reduced appetite and difficulty swallowing.  Additionally, elderly adults don’t process protein well.

Sometimes dementia patients just don’t want to eat.  My mother says, “I just don’t get hungry anymore.”  Even when I prepare food she once liked and ask her opinion, she typically responds, “It’s okay.”  She never compliments it, but occasionally proclaims, “I don’t want that slop.” Though mother was blunt in her younger years, she never would have been so rude.

She seldom eats all her food.  However, she will always eat a dessert.  So, I try to supplement her meals with sweet, protein-rich entrees, desserts and snacks.  For instance, she won’t eat cottage cheese unless I mix it with applesauce.  This gives it the sweetness she craves.   I give her fruit-flavored yogurt for dessert.  She probably wouldn’t accept it if I told her it was yogurt, so I ask, “Want some pudding?”   She takes it with a smile while getting the benefits of the extra protein.

A little later I give her a protein drink.  I serve it very cold and call it a shake.  I’ve tried different brands and now buy the one she likes best.  I typically serve it with a soft cookie so she will drink all her protein drink with it.  After all, most of us like a little milk with our cookie.

Speaking of cookies, some cookies are more nutritious than others.  Check the package.  Some have some protein or fiber added.  Dementia patients often have trouble swallowing, so choose the softer varieties.  My mother spits out anything hard like chocolate chips.  So, I select only those easy to chew.

I add vanilla protein powder to her bran flakes in the morning.  It dissolves in the milk and enhances the flavor. Also, I use whole A2 Milk which is more comfortable on the stomach than conventional milk.  Coconut milk is another alternative.    Of course, I add sweetener to her breakfast cereal so she will eat it.

We must be creative when feeding dementia patients.  We are challenged by their reduced appetites, difficulty chewing or swallowing, and their body’s reduced ability to process nutrients from food.  Switching to soft protein-rich foods may help but only if it’s tasty.  They might eat more protein if sweetened.

Disclaimer-consult your doctor for nutrition advice.  My food choices for my mother are made in consultation with her doctor based upon her laboratory results.  Your doctor may recommend a different menu.

(©)  Copyright 2018 Ronald Milburn