Appetite Stimulant for Elderly: 12 Proven Natural Ways!

Appetite Stimulants for Elderly People: 12 Changes That Can Help

08 Jan 2024


Involuntary weight loss is common in older adults, and eating more is a commonly suggested solution. That, of course, is tough when you're experiencing a loss of appetite. You might thus be tempted to try appetite stimulants for elderly people, but little scientific evidence shows these medications to be effective. In fact, the FDA has yet to approve any appetite stimulants for use with older adults.

The good news is that certain non-medication changes can potentially help you get your appetite back. Below, learn about some possible ways to restore your appetite, as well as why your appetite might be lower and why you should increase it.

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What can cause appetite loss in older adults?

There's a laundry list of potential reasons why your desire to eat might be lower, and they include more than medical conditions. The most common causes of appetite loss in older adults are:

  • Medication side effects such as dry mouth
  • Decreased metabolism and need for energy
  • Changes in sense of smell, vision, or taste
  • Cancer
  • Changes to the hormonal or digestive systems
  • Alzheimer's and dementia
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Pain or difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Wearing dentures
  • Loneliness or depression
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Dehydration
  • Dental conditions
  • Lack of routine
  • Reduced saliva production

What are the potential consequences of appetite loss in older adults?

It's not the appetite loss itself that's the problem - it's the accompanying reduction in food, calorie, and nutrient intake. The possible results of these changes include:

  • Anemia
  • Decreased cognitive function
  • Edema
  • Falls and fractures
  • Increased risk of death
  • Osteoporosis
  • Pressure ulcers
  • Nutrition deficiencies

12 lifestyle changes to stimulate older adults' appetites

Almost all the ways to work toward an increased appetite involve solely lifestyle changes or natural remedies.

1. Figure out why your appetite is lower

Sometimes, getting your appetite back is as simple as identifying one problem in your daily life and addressing it. For example, if you've been using poorly fitting dentures that cause pain, try different dentures. Without pain and with a proper fit, you might no longer associate eating with unpleasantness, and your appetite might return. In other cases, the issue might be medical in nature. If so, speak with your doctor about the appropriate treatments.

2. Create eating habits

When your body learns to expect meals at the same time each day, it may be more likely to trigger hunger at these times. Setting eating habits such as sticking to the same daily meal times can thus be all it takes to boost your appetite.

3. Eat smaller meals

When you've struggled to feel hungry, a big portion might feel imposing. A small meal, on the other hand, might feel like something you can get through even if your stomach isn't rumbling. It can be plenty nutritious too if you use ingredients with balanced macros and lots of calories, such as full - fat peanut butter, eggs, and avocado.

4. Eat with other people

It's natural to get caught up in the moment as you chat with your friends and family. When there's food in front of you both, being caught up in the moment means you might find yourself eating despite lacking an appetite. So go ahead and fill up that social calendar - at mealtime, having others around might make all the difference.

5. Get more exercise

After exercise, you might find yourself feeling hungrier since your body has burned calories and thus needs more energy. This correlation makes increasing your physical activity an often reliable step in your quest to get your appetite back. Your exercise certainly doesn't have to be strenuous - even regular walks around the block can help.

6. Talk to your doctor about mirtazapine

Although the FDA hasn't approved any medications for appetite stimulation in adults, it has approved the drug mirtazapine to treat depression. When used in this way, mirtazapine often has the side effect of boosting appetite.

To be clear, mirtazapine isn't approved for appetite stimulation - this side effect is just a nice bonus of using it to treat depression. As such, only seek it out from your doctor if they determine that your depression is the root of your appetite loss.

7. Enjoy small snacks

Some nutritionists say that snacking boosts metabolism, and when your metabolism increases, your appetite might too. See what happens if you incorporate occasional healthy snacks into your routine at roughly the same time each day. Just as with sticking to consistent daily meal times, regular snacking can get your body in a pattern of knowing when to be hungry.

8. Find meals that look appetizing

As the way you eat changes, you might feel relegated to foods that don't look particularly pleasing. And sure, you don't eat with your eyes, but it's entirely possible to grow less fond of food if you only see it as ugly. Infusing your meals with natural pops of color - say, soft blueberries atop a bed of plain oatmeal - can make them look more appealing. Doing this for every meal may help bring your appetite back.

9. Add seasonings to your meals

Some herbs and vegetables are correlated with increased appetite. The seasonings most commonly associated with this effect are rosemary, ginger, turmeric, and fennel. Others that may help restore hunger include cinnamon, parsley, cardamom, and pepper. Adding seasonings to your meals thus potentially makes your body inclined to want food again, all while boosting flavor.

10. Seek out foods that require little to no silverware use

Loss of appetite can have purely emotional roots. For older adults, one such root might be feeling embarrassed about struggling to use silverware. When the idea of eating reminds you enough of this feeling that you avoid eating, try cooking foods that basically fall apart upon contact.

For example, you can steam broccoli so thoroughly that it easily gives under the pressure of a fork. You'll get vitamins and minerals, alongside fresh veggie flavors, with virtually no strain. Alternatively, go for finger foods such as spring rolls. These nutrient - packed foods are easy to lift and move, plus they're full of crisp textures and savory flavor.

11. Try soft foods

If difficulty chewing or swallowing is why you're struggling to maintain an appetite, soft foods might be the answer. These foods are often liquid purees of solid food, making them as tasty and healthy as traditional full - plate meals. Plus, they're often quick to make if you have a blender.

12. Vary things up

Eating the same meals every day can lead you to become uninterested in food and experience a lower appetite. Incorporating variety into what you eat can potentially combat this monotony and restore your interest in eating. It's also easy to get delicious, nutritious meals of all kinds at home without any prep work.

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