Cooking for the Elderly
How to Cook for an Elderly Person
A well-balanced, whole foods diet is essential to good health at all stages of life, and the elderly years are no exception. Many basic food rules apply whether you are a toddler, busy college student, or active senior, such as to limit your intake of refined sugar products, eat a wide variety of foods, and opt for good old fashioned cooking at home.
But as you age, your nutritional requirements change somewhat and other factors influence the changing role of food for seniors.
You need fewer calories, for one thing, the older you get, but this also depends on how active you are. But eating more nutrient-rich foods to make up for the caloric decrease becomes especially important.
Elderly people may also exhibit vitamin deficiencies, B6, D, calcium, and zinc to name a few. Chronic disease or dental problems may contribute to malnutrition. And quite simply, food just doesn’t taste as good as it used to. By age 75, people have only half as many taste buds as they did at age 30.
Financial restrictions, depression, drug side effects, forgetfulness, lack of transportation, and loneliness can also affect an elderly person’s eating habits.
With all these factors to consider, here are some guidelines for helping special seniors in your life to eat more nutritious and healthy meals and help them avoid diet-related problems.
- Choose organic foods over non-organic. A large percentage of pesticides and herbicides are considered carcinogenic, so why burden a senior’s already more fragile health with potentially poisonous chemicals?
- As a general rule, portion sizes should be smaller for seniors. They don’t need as much food as they did in their 30s.
- Include plenty of foods rich in fiber to help seniors stay regular, as constipation often afflicts the elderly. Leafy green veggies, whole grains, and sprouted grain products are especially good.
- Serve cultured and fermented foods that will aid in digestion and promote a healthy gut. The digestive processes slow with age and a healthy digestive tract is important for optimal assimilation of nutrients. Cultured foods, such as kim chee , raw sauerkraut, kombucha, and kefir are some examples of foods that enhance the digestion process.
- Cook dishes full of flavor and aroma. Appealing foods may help stimulate appetite and you can intensify flavors with herbs, marinades, dressings and sauces. Serving a wide variety of foods throughout the week can also keep an elderly person interested in eating. Try combining textures, such as yogurt with granola, to make foods seem more appetizing.
- Be especially careful when handling raw chicken and meat to avoid cross-contamination, as elderly people are more susceptible to food-borne illness. Wear gloves and sanitize cutting boards, knives, and countertops with a mild bleach solution.
- Soaking grains before cooking them is a time-tested way to make them more digestible and the nutrients more readily available. For example, when oatmeal is planned for breakfast, soak the oatmeal in water overnight. For more information about soaking grains click HERE.
- Encourage healthy snacking by having easy to grab snacks ready in the refrigerator: Pre-cut raw vegetables such as carrot and celery sticks, pea pods, broccoli, cauliflower, bell pepper strips, etc. Raw nuts, dried fruits, yogurt, cottage cheese, pitted olives, leftover cooked meats, and cheese chunks are good. Some nutritious unrefrigerated snacks include whole grain crackers, bananas, and nut butters.
Following these practical tips for cooking for your elderly loved ones should go a long way toward helping them stay healthy and active in their golden years.