hands stirring food in a pan

Have you ever heard your aging loved ones say things such as, “I’m not hungry,” or “That is not appetizing to me anymore”? Aging can significantly impact our eating habits, but there are many ways we can modify our diets to be balanced, nutritious, and delicious!

Changes in Eating with Age

As we get older, we may have a tendency to eat less and/or choose different foods than what we used to eat before. Reasons for changes in eating habits as we age include, but are not limited to (Yada, 2023):

  • Change in appetite (increase or decrease)
  • Loss of muscle and functional status (ability to eat and cook foods)
  • Presence of illness and disease (more dietary restrictions)
  • Change in digestion, absorption, and metabolism of nutrients
  • Social environment (the who, when, and where we eat)
  • Change in taste (certain tastes can be heightened or dulled)

Other factors that may affect the way we eat include marital status, income, education, socioeconomic status, diet-related attitudes and beliefs, and convenience (Drewnowski, Shultz, 2001)

Oftentimes, societal pressures may push us to believe that “healthy eating” should be about sacrificing the foods we enjoy or taking on extreme diets. However, healthy eating should be about enjoying tasty food, using wholesome ingredients, and eating in the company of friends and family. Once we take the steps necessary to improve our diet, we can subsequently live longer and stronger by improving our physical health, sharpening our minds, and feeling better overall through good moods and self-esteem  (Robinson, Segal, 2023).

Making Our Favorite Foods More Nutritious

Many of our favorite Japanese and Japanese American foods have hidden nutrients and vitamins that we may not even know are there. There are also alternative ways to make these meals even more delicious and nutritious (Yada, 2023):

vegetable curry with rice and red ginger

Dish: Curry

  • What’s in it? Stewed meat and vegetables seasoned with a blend of spices, commonly garam masala and a Japanese curry powder mix that consists of spices like turmeric, coriander, cumin, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and fenugreek.
    • Potato: Antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium
    • Carrot: antioxidants, vitamin A, potassium
    • Chicken: B vitamins (B1, B2, B3,B6, B12), selenium, phosphorus, zinc, potassium
    • Onion: Antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin B6
    • Curry Roux: Antioxidants, iron
    • Rice: Iron, vitamin B1, may be enriched with B vitamins
  • Alternative Ways to Make the Dish More Nutritious:
    • Add 1 cup of lentils to the dish to add fiber and protein.
    • Use curry as a “topping” to turn grilled vegetables into a meal.
    • Instead of using a store-bought roux or curry mix, make your own spice blend at home.
hamburger steak

Dish: Hamburger Steak

  • What’s in it? Minced meat, often beef and pork, combined with onion, egg, milk, and panko. Often served with a shoyu-based gravy sauce.
    • Beef: B Vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12), zinc, selenium, iron, phosphorus
    • Pork: B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, B12), zinc, iron, phosphorus
    • Onion: Antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin B6
    • Panko: Less nutrient-dense, some iron
    • Milk: Calcium, vitamin B2 and B12, potassium, phosphorus, often fortified with vitamin A and D
    • Egg: Vitamin D, vitamin B6 and B12, iron, selenium, calcium
  • Alternative Ways to Make the Dish More Nutritious:
    • Add your favorite vegetables into the meat mixture or stuff a vegetable with the meat for more fiber and nutrients.
    • Use a citrus sauce to get a vitamin C boost and a healthy nutrient pairing with grilled meat.
soba noodles over salad

Dish: Udon and Soba

  • What’s in it? Udon and soba are two common types of Japanese noodles that are served hot or cold in diluted tsuyu broth. Udon is a flour-based noodle and soba is a buckwheat-based noodle.
    • Udon Noodles: Iron, potassium, B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B9), zinc, potassium
    • Soba Noodles: B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9), iron, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, potassium, soluble fiber
    • Shoyu: Antioxidant, sodium
    • Bonito Dashi: Vitamin B12, selenium, potassium, phosphorus
    • Shiitake Dashi: Vitamin D, potassium, vitamin B3 and B5
    • Kombu Dashi: Vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, sodium, iodine
  • Alternative Ways to Make the Dish More Nutritious:
    • Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables can improve the nutrient quality of food. Having 2-3 colors of vegetables in the noodles can make it more nutritious and visually dynamic!

Healthy Eating for Older Adults — It’s a Team Effort

Whether you are a family member, friend, or health care professional, there are many ways we can support the older adults in our lives with their food choices. We can encourage people to experiment with different food textures to find creative ways that are acceptable, appealing, and enjoyable for older adults — especially those who have difficulties chewing or swallowing. It is also important to practice proper food safety when it comes to handling the food and ingredients that we buy (DeSilva, 2021;, 2022).

The social aspect surrounding food is a key ingredient in enhancing the ways that we enjoy eating. Sitting down for a meal with our family members, cooking a traditional family meal together, or delivering food and having a conversation can go a long way to make a meal more meaningful.

Thank you to Kristine Yada, MS, RDN, for providing information and insight for this article.


DeSilva, Dana and Anderson-Villaluz, Dennis. (2021). Nutrition as We Age: Healthy Eating with the Dietary Guidelines. Retrieved from

Drewnowski, A and Shultz, J M. (2001). Impact of aging on eating behaviors, food choices, nutrition, and health status. Retrieved from (2022). People at Risk: Older Adults.

Robinson, Lawrence and Segal, Jeanne. (2023). Eating Well as You Age. Retrieved from

Yada, Kristine. (2023). Making the Most of Your Favorite Foods.