Blog Post 2020

Nutrition and chronic disease self-management

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By VHA
Bowl of oatmeal for breakfast with a glass of orange juice and an apple in the background

Many studies have shown that with age, appetite declines and eating a balanced diet becomes difficult. Changes that can make older adults eat less include: a decreased sense of taste or smell, difficulty chewing and swallowing, side effects of daily medications, and difficulty preparing meals due to arthritis and chronic pain (feeling like hard to use the kitchen or go to the grocery store). Sometimes healthy eating is hard to achieve due to less or limited income, eating alone, or having difficulty adjusting to others’ cooking.

Maintaining a nutritious diet is one of the keys to healthy aging and having a good quality of life for longer. It can help older adults maintain a healthy weight, provide essential energy and nutrients to have an active lifestyle, and lower the risk of both chronic diseases and muscle/bone loss (which will reduce fall risk, fractured or broken bones).

Tips for healthy eating while living with chronic illness

  • Make a grocery list to help you remember what foods you need
  • Take advantage of senior discounts offered by stores on specific days of the week or use a mobile smartphone application to price match
  • Buy frozen or canned fruits and vegetables – they are often as nutritious as fresh ones and most of the preparation is complete
  • Prepare meals and snacks when you have the most energy
  • Find recipes that only use a few ingredients and require little to no cooking
  • Remember to choose foods that have little to no added sodium, sugars or saturated fat
  • If you have difficulty reading the nutrition facts labels, you are likely to find the same information online but in an easy-to-read format

For more information and helpful resources when managing your chronic illness, please visit VHA’s Chronic Disease Self-Management webpage.