Offering soft snacks for the elderly can be one of the best ways to prevent weight loss, improve food intake, and prevent malnutrition. But it’s important that the snacks are of high nutritional value providing adequate protein, calories, and fat to get the most value in smaller quantities than a meal.
As a Registered Dietitian that has worked with the elderly population for over 8 years, here is my list of the top soft nutritious snacks that you can offer!
What to Look for in a Snack
There are certain things that you should look for when choosing a nutritious soft snack, here’s a few things:
- 15-30 grams of protein
- More than 250 calories
- More than 15 grams of Carbohydrates
- A healthy source of fat (oil, avocado, cheese, dairy products)
- Variety of vitamins and minerals
Every snack does not need to contain all of these items, but I would recommend focusing on a high source of protein and calories.
Protein is an essential nutrient for elderly people (the whole population in general). Elderly individuals are prone to certain health conditions due to a lack of protein, which makes adding some into snacks an essential part of a healthy diet.
Protein can help to prevent:
- Skin breakdown
- Pressure injuries
- Sarcopenia (Age related muscle mass loss)
- Weight loss
Why Someone Needs Soft Snacks
Soft snacks can be beneficial for someone who has dental problems, chewing or swallowing difficulties, recovering from surgery, going through head neck or throat cancer treatment, or dementia.
Soft snacks can make the chewing and swallowing process much easier creating less fatigue in elderly individuals that struggle with regular texture foods, but don’t quite need pureed foods. Research suggests that elderly tend to ‘self select’ soft foods naturally. So offering soft snacks to any elderly person may be a better choice!
Soft Snack Choices by Food Category
Mixing up the snacks offered throughout the day and week can be a great way to ensure someone is getting a variety of vitamins and nutrients. Pick and choose a variety of snacks from the lists below to keep the elderly wanting more!
Soft Dairy Snacks
- Greek yogurt
- Cottage cheese with soft fruit mixed in
- Cheese slices
- Pudding made with high fat milk
- Cream cheese spread on bread
- Tzatziki with soft crackers
- Ricotta cheese on bread with tomatoes
- Sour cream on a baked potato
- Ice cream
Soft Protein Snacks
- Boiled eggs
- Cheese and soft crackers
- Smooth nut butters on bread
- Egg salad sandwich
- Tuna salad sandwich
- Grilled cheese
- Chicken salad sandwich
- Black bean brownies
Soft Sweet Snacks
- Nutella sandwich
- Soft cookies
- Baked loaves (Banana, Lemon, Maple nuts, etc)
- Ice cream
- Pudding with whipped cream
- Bread pudding
- Rice pudding
- Fruit compote
Benefits of Snacking
Elderly food intake typically declines as they age, leading to weight loss, poor health, malnutrition, and if not taken care of early mortality. By providing snacks consistently 1-2 times per day, these can be prevented early. Studies have shown that regular snacking can contribute as much as 25% of an elderly person’s daily calories!
Regular snacking can contribute to an elderly person:
- Meeting daily protein and calorie needs
- Increasing carbohydrate intake
- Reducing risk of malnutrition
- Improving skin integrity
- Increased intake of Vitamin A, C, E, Magnesium, Copper and Potassium
- Improved physical performance
Dietitian Takeaway Points
- Increased snacking in elderly has benefits to their quality of life, physical markers, and increased food intake.
- Snacks should be offered consistently at least 2 times per day, accommodating preferences.
- Offering a variety of snacks daily can improve intake by reducing the effect of people getting sick of the same snack over and over again.
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Michelle Saari is a Registered Dietitian based in Canada. She has a Master's Degree in Human Nutritional Sciences and is a passionate advocate for spreading easy to understand, reliable, and trustworthy nutrition information. She is currently a full time online entrepreneur with two nutrition focused websites.