Meal Ideas for Seniors
November 20 2020
Meal Ideas for Seniors
Having a nutritious diet is essential for everyone, especially for the aging population. As we get older and frailer, our body needs a lot more care and healthy food. Having a meal plan can help ease the stress of thinking about what meals to prepare for the day and ensures you will at least be getting something tasty during the day.
If you or someone you love are looking for a quick and easy guide for good meal prep ideas, here is a food schedule template that you can follow. It is important to check with a medical professional before proceeding with any kind of diet to find out any specific recommendations or restrictions.
Food With Great Nutritional Value for the Elderly
1 Studies have shown that while elderly people should increase their intake of protein as compared to young adults, they do not consume an adequate amount of protein. In fact, they tend to consume even less than what is recommended for a daily amount of protein intake. Proteins are the building blocks of life and are the main component of cells. This means that it helps with gaining strength, boosting physical performance, and attaining lean muscle mass as it builds, repairs, and maintains our tissues.
Protein-rich foods include:
- Lean Beef
- White Fish
Fruits and Vegetables
2 Fruits and vegetables are low in calories, fat, salt, and sugar. They are also a good and natural source for rich nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. It is necessary to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables in order to be healthy and maintain your body while reducing the risk of chronic diseases. To have an overall healthy diet, it is important to have a variety of fruits and vegetables – no single one will contain all the nutrients required for your body.
Fruits and vegetables include:
- Sweet Potato
3 Usually, when individuals see “fats,” there are negative connotations surrounding it. However, not all fats are bad. Fats are divided into four types: saturated fats, trans fat, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. The former two are known to be the bad fats and can raise bad cholesterol levels (LDL) in your blood, whereas the latter two can be consumed as part of a healthy diet. Good fats are needed for energy, vitamin absorption, and to protect your overall health.
Foods with good fats include:
- Coconut Oil
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Probiotics are basically good bacteria that are naturally found in the body. Like fats, “bacteria” is also viewed through a negative lens. However, our bodies have good bacteria that help eliminate “bad bacteria” when they enter into the body via infections. Good bacteria are mostly found in your gut – more specifically, your large intestines. This indicates that good bacteria is necessary in order to digest and absorb nutrients. In addition, they produce vitamins in the intestinal tract such as folic acid, niacin, and vitamins B6 and B12.
Foods with good bacteria include:
Daily Recommendations From the U.S. Department of Agriculture
When planning meals for the elderly, be sure to keep key nutrient recommendations in mind. The USDA has recommended eating these daily amounts of important nutrients:
- Protein: 65 grams
- Fruits: 2 – 5 servings
- Vegetables: 2 – 2.5 cups
- Calcium: 1200 mg
- Whole Grains: 6 – 7 oz.
- Sodium: 1500 mg max.
Important Notes Before Thinking of Meal Planning Ideas
The older we get, the more special dietary requirements or other considerations may be necessary. Here are a few things to keep in mind before proceeding with providing any type of food:
Difficulty in Chewing and/or Swallowing
1 Soft food without large chunks may be a good idea when it comes to feeding senior citizens. Some food may need to be puréed or finely chopped. It is a good rule of thumb as well to note that some people might have issues with dentures, so they would prefer having soups or thick juices as alternatives.
2 Food for the aged may be bland. It would be a nice gesture to keep their food exciting and savory, especially since their senses of smell and tastes have started to decline. Adding more zest to food such as peppers (or sweet-tasting food like berries in oatmeal) can go a long way. In addition to this, it means knowing their favorite food (if you are preparing for someone else) so you can incorporate what they like into their diets.
3 As we have established throughout the article, proper nutrition is required for people of age. They may have deficiencies that might require a focus on certain nutrients to keep them strong. This is also important for those that may even have a lack of appetite. Do not forget that, as the word suggests, they are just supplements; therefore, proper nutritional meals are essential for the elderly person. Food supplements are something taken together with nutrient-rich foods.
4 Particular diets may be required for an individual’s specific diagnosis. An example of this is hemodialysis, where high-quality protein must be consumed as the production of waste will be less, thus not having much to remove during dialysis treatments.
Quick and Healthy Meals to Prepare
Here are a few samples of what meals can be provided. Mix it up every day or add your own twist for a more enjoyable experience.
Warm Oatmeal and Berries (Serving 1)
- ¼ Cup of Berries
- ½ Cup of Oats
- ½ Cup Low-Fat Milk
- ¼ Greek Plain or Vanilla Yogurt
- 1 Tablespoon of Honey
- Put the oats in a bowl.
- Pour in the milk.
- Add blueberries and Greek yogurt.
- Top with honey.
- Add warm water and mix.
Other Breakfast Options:
- Hard-boiled egg with whole wheat toast and fruits at the side
- Chia seed pancakes topped with fresh berries
- Yogurt mixed with nuts and fruit to turn into a parfait
- High fiber cereal with skim milk and a side of fruit juice
Salmon and Vegetables (Serving 3)
- 3 salmon fillets, up to 4 oz. each
- 1 zucchini cut into round slices
- ½ onion cut into wedges
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1 sliced bell pepper
- 3 tbsps of olive oil
- 1 tsp of Cajun seasoning
- 1 optional lemon
- Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
- Toss all the vegetables with 2 tablespoons of oil and seasoning into a large bowl.
- Spread them into a single layer on the baking sheet.
- Settle your salmon fillets with the skin side down between the vegetables.
- Brush the salmon with any remaining olive oil.
- Top the salmon with two thin lemon slices each.
- Roast for 12-15 minutes. The salmon should look opaque and flaky.
Other Lunch Options:
- Strawberry and Spinach salad whisked together with oil, vinegar, sugar, paprika, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and preferred dressing
- Chicken sandwich with wholemeal bread and oil based spread
- Parboiled red potatoes heated and cooked with extra virgin olive oil topped with vegetables and grated cheese for cottage fries
Vegetable Pasta (Serving 3)
- ½ pound short pasta
- 2tbsps olive oil
- Summer squash cut into round slices
- 1 small diced onion
- 1 pound of frozen peas
- Fresh basil
- Lemon juice
- ½ grated Parmesan cheese
- Sauté squash, onion, and olive oil over medium heat in a pan.
- Heat salted water on the stove and cook pasta as per the instructions on the package.
- Add frozen peas in boiling water when there are only 5 minutes remaining.
- Take 1 cup of the starchy pasta water, then drain the rest of the pot.
- Mix drained pasta and peas with onion, olive oil, and vegetables.
- Add Parmesan while the mixture is hot. Stir while adding starchy water to the mix until it becomes creamy.
- Sprinkle lemon juice, salt and pepper, and olive oil
- Add basil
Other Dinner Options:
- Sweet potato and black bean chili
- Lamb and Potatoes
- Rice and beans
- Chicken salad
There are various myths about senior diets that are, unfortunately, misinformed. We’ll tackle some of the most common ones, so you will be sure not to apply them to your situation.
Myth 1: Loss of Appetite is Normal for the Elderly
It is a common belief that appetite decreases over time and is, therefore, usually ignored. On the contrary, though, while it is natural for metabolic changes to occur, losing one’s appetite may ultimately indicate underlying issues such as dental complications, a decline in the sense of taste, problems in the thyroid gland, etc.
Furthermore, an older person should avoid skipping meals, especially due to a loss of appetite, as it may lead to unbalanced sugar levels in the blood. This, in turn, could progress into more severe issues. If you notice an elderly person has a sudden drop in weight due to a loss of appetite, it is crucial to seek help from a medical professional.
Myth 2: Slow Metabolisms Mean Fewer Nutrients Are Needed
While senior citizens do have slow metabolisms and do not require as many calories, this does not mean that they do not need more nutrients. It is essential to continually have nutrient-rich food as it becomes more difficult for an older adult to absorb nutrients. This is also why it is recommended that food supplements should be taken alongside food with proper nutrients and not just be reliant on one versus the other to have an overall balanced diet.
Myth 3: It is Completely Okay for Old People to Eat Alone
Having an elderly person eat all alone can put them at risk or can lead to unfortunate outcomes. Elderly people who live alone and have to prepare food on their own may have a difficult time and not cook food as nutritious or adequately as they should. Moreover, it might even increase feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and stress. Being in isolation gives options for old people to skip a meal all together since they do not have anyone else around the table to share food with anyway.
This is one way that senior living communities can contribute to the well-being of our aged loved ones. Having other people for them to interact and have activities with socially can boost their mood and possibly even socialize while at a table eating. An added benefit is that there will be staff at senior communities who will keep an eye on what and how the elderly person is eating.
Myth 4: Starting a Healthy Lifestyle as a Senior Citizen Is Too Late
Age is not a factor when it comes to making the right choice of desiring a healthier lifestyle. Even if the elderly person may have ailing impairments, diseases, and the like, making an effort to reduce or delay further risks to live longer can be made through improving health and diet. Anyone can continue to age with grace while having enjoyable food that sustains for a better life.
There is no crime or shame in trying to manage risk factors by eating healthy and getting active. In fact, studies have shown that getting into a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of another heart attack for those that have experienced one before.
Myth 5: Food Found in Senior Communities Does Not Taste Good at All
It has become somewhat of a stereotype that nursing homes have awful tasting food. However, with more assisted living options such as All American Home Care, communities focused on senior living hire chefs who work with dieticians or nutritionists as part of their team. It is highly important that the aged still enjoy tasty and nutritious food. Care for senior citizens has improved by a great deal as times have changed, and more research has been dedicated to them.
We all want to give the best to our elderly; knowing what and how they will be eating for the remainder of their years is an important factor to take into consideration. To settle the score, it is generally alright for you to visit during at least one mealtime for you to get a gist of what the food tastes like and the atmosphere the senior citizens will be interacting in.
Why Elderly Meal Plans Are Important
1 Aside from picking healthy food, it is crucial to have a healthy lifestyle in general. Too much stress can be fatal to one’s health. Cooking a meal should not be a stressful event. Reducing stressful factors by having a systematic order in place puts a sense of ease and security on the mind. Another option that can help are deliveries that offer meal plans with ingredients to be cooked. This way, there is no more hassle of going to the grocery store. There are also options that have ready-made meals prepared, although those can get a little more pricey.
2 Besides the reduction of stress, you can also save a lot of time knowing what you will be cooking and how. You have the option to pick food that is easy to make for your healthy meal plan ideas. There are a variety of foods that you can have that can be made in under 10 minutes or less. This applies to those that have to prepare for someone who has to prepare meals for their elderly parents, for example, as you do not have to worry every single day what they should be having for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
3 Food can be altered to your tastes and preferences. Since you will be the one preparing it, having your own recipe altered to precisely what you want in a dish could not get any more perfect. Aside from the taste, if you have any restrictions, you can be 100% certain that there isn’t anything that shouldn’t be there.
4 Having planned meals means using a proper grocery list each time you go shopping – which, in turn, does not make the experience overwhelming. You are not running back and forth to the store because you have forgotten something and thus spending more on several trips. Moreover, it can help with the overall budgeting for the family every single month if you know how much you will be spending.
5 It is no secret that as you get older, you may start to experience more and more complications. This is why you have all the more reason not to let go of yourself. Meal planning for seniors consists of good, nutritious foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals. Having good nutrition improves the body’s ability to fight off illnesses, reduce the risk of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, and furthermore, aids the body in recovering from injury or illness.
Get Help With Meal Planning
Taking care of an elderly person can be a tough job – or, if you yourself are an elderly person, it can be a struggle to maintain yourself at that age. However, food is something that should be enjoyed and not one to be stressed about. While none of these are cures to any ailing problems, it can reduce risks for you to enjoy a longer and healthier life. It is also always vital to remember to seek medical advice and follow the proper dietary recommendations. This is why it is important to try companies like All American Home Care that are professionals that seek to give you the best out of your health and personal care to keep your mind and body at ease.