Best Foods for Dementia Patients to Eat

Photo of elderly male taking a bite of pizza

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 7.7 million new cases of dementia are diagnosed each year (1). Weight loss is common in dementia patients, which can lead to worsening cognition (2)

Nutritional interventions are frequently needed among dementia patients to assist in preventing or at least delaying weight loss and malnutrition. This article will explore some of the best food options for dementia patients to eat. 

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a general umbrella term used to describe a group of progressive conditions affecting cognition, memory, judgment, and reasoning. 

There are multiple forms of dementia including:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease: progressive brain disease causing memory impairment and declines in cognitive function.
  • Vascular Dementia: caused by impaired blood supply to the brain
  • Lewy Body Dementia: protein deposits in the brain impact chemicals affecting memory, behavior, and mood.  
  • Parkinson’s related dementia: impaired thinking and reasoning that develops during the progression of Parkinson’s disease
List of types of dementia on green & beige background: alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, lewy body dementia, parkinson's related dementia
Types of Dementia

Dementia Risk Factors

  • Aging
  • Genetics
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Stroke
  • Inactivity
List on green and white background: Dementia Risk Factors: Aging, genetics, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, smoking, stroke, inactivity.
Dementia Risk Factors

Nutritional Implications of Dementia

Many of dementia’s symptoms affect nutritional status and can lead to weight loss, malnutrition, and dehydration. These symptoms include: 

Malnutrition can speed up progression of dementia by worsening cognition and increasing frailty with muscle wasting. A higher BMI (Body Mass Index) may be protective against poor health outcomes in dementia patients (3)

List on green background of nutrition related dementia symptoms: weight loss, dehydration, malnutrition, forgetting to eat, inability to ask for food, decreased taste, depression, agitation, decreased hunger, dysphagia, visual changes.
Nutrition Related Dementia Symptoms

Best Foods for Dementia Patients


As we age, taste changes are common. Sweet is typically the last to diminish. Dementia patients frequently have a preference for sweet foods.

While high sugar foods do not typically have many vitamins or minerals, they are high in calories. This can be helpful for dementia patients who need high calorie foods to meet their energy needs. 

Sprinkling sugar onto savory foods can also be an effective way to increase consumption of other foods. Since taste is commonly declined sugar can actually make savory foods have flavor again, which may increase intake.  

Finger Foods

Self feeding can become difficult as dementia progresses. Dementia patients can actually forget how to use utensils, however may also be resistant to feeding assistance. 

Finger foods can be best for these situations to ease self feeding and promote intake. Suggestions for serving finger foods include:

  • Put meat/protein on rolls or bread 
  • Cut proteins in “finger” slices for easy pick up
  • Drain vegetables and canned fruits for cleaner grasping
  • Serve soup in a mug
  • Put sauce on the side for dipping instead of on items
  • Give bite size servings 
  • Try non-finger foods in individual bowls 
List of how to serve more finger foods to dementia patients: put meat on bread, cut protein in slices, drain veggies & canned fruits, serve soup in mug, put sauce on the side, give bite sized servings, serve food in individual bowls.
How to Serve More Finger Foods to Dementia Patients

Calorically Dense Foods 

Since intake is frequently declined during dementia, it can be beneficial to make every bite count. Serving high calorie foods to dementia patients can increase nutritional intake. 

Increase calories in food items by adding extra butter, gravy, cream sauce, cheese, sour cream, sugar, or peanut butter. 

Oral Nutrition Supplements

Nutritional needs are difficult to be met by many dementia patients. While a food first approach is ideal, fluids may be better accepted.

Nutrition supplements can be a successful way of adding additional calories, proteins, and other nutrients to a dementia patient’s diet. 

Ideally they are provided between meals so as to not interfere in meal intake. However could also be offered after a meal if intake is inadequate. 

List on beige background: Best Foods for Dementia Patients: sweets, finger foods, high calorie foods, oral nutrition supplements.
Best Foods for Dementia Patients to Eat

Final Thoughts

Serving sweets, finger foods, high calorie foods, preferred foods, and/or nutritional supplements can help to delay weight loss and malnutrition in dementia patients. 

As dementia progresses strategies can become less effective at increasing intake. This is when having advanced directives already in place regarding artificial nutrition can be helpful.

Frequently the best foods for dementia patients to eat are whatever sounds good and that they are willing to eat. 

2 thoughts on “Best Foods for Dementia Patients to Eat”

  1. Lori,

    Thank you for this very important information on Diet and Dementia. Few of us elderly really understand the daily impact of what we eat and its implications on aging and memory, in particular Dementia. As someone who lived with a father suffering from this disease, I am particularly concerned about its possible impact on me.
    Michael Wrona

  2. Lori, I really enjoyed reading this article. There are so many useful and practical ideas. I couldn’t help but think about other conditions where these ideas can be helpful to encourage dietary intake when promoting intake! Thanks again for a concise update.

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