Nutrition is such a critical part of senior health. Eating the right foods and staying hydrated decrease the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimers, keeps seniors strong so they are less prone to falls and helps elderly adults remain active.
Cooking healthy meals for seniors is a single step that leads to multiple, long-term benefits.
Things to Consider When Cooking for Seniors
Even so, there are things you need to take into consideration when you prepare meals for seniors. Their dietary restrictions may prevent common ingredients like butter and high-fat meats. They may have a sensitivity to acid as the result of medications they are taking, and so on. First, be aware of any dietary restrictions by speaking with the senior’s doctor.
Then, use the following tips to create delicious, healthy meals:
- Skip the salt. Most seniors are on some type of salt restriction so paying attention to sodium content is key. Use low-sodium products whenever possible and then beef up the flavor by adding white wine, lemon juice, vinegar and other acids that can replace the need for salt.
- Make it easy to chew. Even if seniors have their own teeth, it chewing and swallowing is more difficult once we’re older. Swap out some of the traditional “meat and potatoes” meals for stews, soups or braised versions, which are softer in texture and easier to chew and digest. Using fresh, moist ingredients also keeps food from being tough. Invest in a slow cooker cookbook, or check out slow-cooking websites for great recipe ideas. Dishes made in the slow cooker typically cut down on kitchen labor and you can make freezable leftovers to boot – so it’s a win-win.
- Look into a cooking class. There are cooking classes and other programs geared to senior health. Check with your local senior center to see if they know of anything in your area. They may also have cooking classes or short tutorials aimed directly at seniors, focusing on low-maintenance meals they can put together without a whole lot of standing or food prep.
- Learn about smart substitutions. There are some pretty smart substitutions you can make in order to cut down on fat and cholesterol. Once example is to use a can of white beans or boiled, diced potato that can be pureed and used as a substitute for cream in soups. Adding canned beans – like white beans or pinto beans – to soups is also great, zero-fat, zero-cholesterol way to boost protein content. Try swapping equal parts applesauce for oil in any baking recipe.
- Let them choose. Do you remember going to the cafeteria at your high school or university? The good news was that you didn’t have to cook; the bad news was that you didn’t have a choice in the food selection. Give seniors some autonomy by letting them choose recipes from a favorite cookbook or cooking-oriented magazine. Then make sure you incorporate the recipes they choose in with your weekly menu plans.
- Use whole-wheat whenever possible. The benefits of whole-wheat are incontrovertible. They are higher in protein and fiber, both of which are better for seniors. They are also lower in carbs, which makes them better for seniors who are pre-diabetic or who have diabetes. Look for whole-wheat pastas, tortillas and breads and get rid of the white stuff.
- Ask them about their favorite childhood food memories. So many dishes from the past have been sort of lost along the way. Sometimes, this is for health reasons. Other times it’s simply the result of a shift in food trends. Ask your senior clients or loved ones what their favorite foods were as a child and then try to prepare them. Make healthy substitutions wherever you can, but remember that once in a while, it’s okay to splurge.
Are you concerned your senior loved ones aren’t eating nutritious meals? Does your busy lifestyle make it difficult to keep track of what is being eaten and what isn’t?
That’s what HomeAide Home Care is here for. We have an entire team devoted to providing compassionate senior care, right in the comfort of their home. This includes meal planning and preparation. Contact Us to learn more.