Amp Up the Calories and Protein in Your Diet

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to listen to a case study given by a Registered Dietitian, like me, who is passionate about older adult health and nutrition. Her case presentation was about a gentleman who had recurrent c.diff and his struggle with eating and eating enough. During her presentation, I thought back to the many older adults I’ve worked with who have also dealt with malnutrition. Malnutrition is a common and a very serious problem among older adults.1

Malnutrition can occur for a number of reasons, including lack of adequate food intake, intake that would be adequate but is not properly absorbed or metabolized due to an illness or medical treatment, or increased needs, again possibly due to an illness or medical treatment.

Malnutrition puts you at increased risk for adverse health outcomes, such as increased susceptibility to infection, delayed wound healing, and impairment of both physical and cognitive function.2 Older adults are particularly susceptible to malnutrition because as we age our appetite naturally decreases – labeled “the anorexia of ageing.”3 Given this fact, it’s especially helpful for older adults to make sure that their meals are higher in calories and protein – without necessarily being larger in volume, which may lead to discomfort.

Easy Ways to Add Calories and/or Protein to a Meal:

  • Powdered milk
    • Mix a few tablespoons into a glass of milk, pudding, mashed potatoes, soup, milkshakes, yogurt, hot cereal, and pancake batter
    • Eggs (cooked)
      • Add to casseroles, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, cooked cereal, etc.
    • Butter
      • Add to pudding, casseroles, vegetables, hot cereal, bread, and pasta
    • Cheese
      • Add to casseroles, vegetables, potatoes, soups, sandwiches, eggs, etc.
    • Mayonnaise, Salad Dressing, Oil
      • Use liberally on sandwiches, salads, and bread, or to dip raw or cooked vegetables
    • Avocado
      • Add to sandwiches, salads, and casseroles
    • Evaporated Milk
      • Use in place of whole milk in desserts, baked goods, casseroles, and hot cereal
    • Sour Cream
      • Add to casseroles, potatoes, dips, sauces, and baked goods
    • Sweetened condensed milk
      • Add to pies, puddings, milkshakes
    • Nut Butter (peanut, almond, etc.)
      • Spread on bread, crackers, bananas, apples, celery, etc.
    • Gravy
      • Use liberally on meat, mashed potatoes, noodles, rice, etc.

A special thanks goes to Anne, co-author of this blog entry. You can read her blog at


1) Seiler W.O. & Stahelin H.B. (1999) Malnutrition in the Elderly. Springer, New York.

2) Sullivan D.H. (1995) The role of nutrition in increased morbidity and mortality. Clinics in Geriatric Medicine 11, 661-674.

3) Morley J.E. (1997) Anorexia of aging: physiologic and pathologic. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 66, 760-773.


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