When a senior lives alone, one of the biggest concerns can be how to keep them eating well and staying healthy. The family meals we remember from years ago often dwindle as the years go by, and it’s not uncommon for sons and daughters of seniors to suddenly be shocked at how little or how poorly their senior mom or dad are eating. You may suddenly notice a mostly empty fridge, or past due dates on food, or simply observe changes that don’t seem healthy. It’s important to observe and listen, and offer support when it’s needed. Nutrition is a key factor in maintaining wellness as our parents age, so it’s worth our time to pay attention.
Some of the concerns about food and nutrition for seniors include nutritional needs and common deficiencies, safe food practices, and risk factors. These are a good place to start when you want to learn more about what to look for, and how to offer support to a senior.
You may find that your senior parent simply needs some inspiration for meal ideas, and some reminders on just how much good food they should be eating. They may be unaccustomed to choosing nutrient dense food or bolstering their old favourite menu items with healthy alternatives and additions. The good news is these can all be learned and new habits can be created. They may simply need a nudge to move past the tea and white toast breakfast routine they’ve had for years.
21 Quick & Easy Meals for Seniors
Steel cut oats with fresh and/or dried fruit
Sausage & veggie skillet
Fruit, yogurt, & granola parfaits
Blueberry banana zucchini bread
Strawberry banana smoothie
Whole grain waffles or pancakes
Beef & barley soup
Hearty salad with cheese, avocado &/or egg
Ham & cheese panini (toasted sandwich)
Turkey, avocado, & tomato wrap
Omelet with cheese & vegetables
Homemade mac ‘n cheese with ham
Roast chicken with garlic potatoes & glazed carrots
Baked salmon with quinoa & steamed broccoli
Beef & root vegetable stew
Homemade chili with whole wheat buns
Chicken, shrimp, & vegetable stir fry with brown rice
Turkey meatloaf with mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce & green beans
Once your senior mom or dad feels confident trying a few new recipes, remind them that each new inspiration can probably be made a few different ways. A panini is simply a toasted sandwich, and can be made with any number of sandwich fillings. A wrap feels new, but really can be made with any favourite ingredients. They can change up the protein in most dishes to suit their tastes, as well as alternate sides, salads, and cooked vegetables. Brainstorming lists of possible protein sources, vegetables, fruits, and healthy alternatives can be helpful as well.
There are a wide variety of sources for recipes, so don’t hesitate to jump online and look for inspiration. If your senior mom or dad is comfortable on a computer, they may be able to check out healthy eating or cooking websites, food blogs, or even curated sites like Pinterest for ideas themselves. We’re sure you’ll find lots of new favourites – just keep in mind to look for healthy options to help meet nutritional needs. When in doubt, use resources that will help you ensure your senior parent is getting all the nutrients they need to stay healthy. You can chat with their family doctor, or look for recommended daily intake for seniors online.
What are clues a senior needs help with meal preparation?
It’s a good idea to watch for signs that support is needed so you’re ready to step in when the timing feels right. There might be small ways you can help in the beginning, with larger interventions or support levels to be discussed as a later date. Stay involved, and you’ll be able to help guide these discussions and offer true support. Some clues that help may be needed can include: a kitchen that often seems empty of fresh food, repeated meals with little variety, meal skipping, regular consumption or mention of low nutrient foods, as well as weight gain or loss.
When it becomes clear that your senior mom or dad needs help with meal planning and food shopping, or someone to take over the cooking entirely, we offer a full range of services to support them.
Have any questions about how to assist your elderly loved one or to learn more about our services, please don’t hesitate to call Senior Homecare by Angels at 403-862-0129 or if outside of Calgary, toll-free at 1-877-209-6142. You may also visit the Contact Us page to complete and submit a simple inquiry form.
Gerry Gatto is a trained health care administrator and the owner of Senior Homecare® By Angels a Calgary based company. Helping Calgary seniors remain in their homes and maintain their independence with the assistance of a dedicated caregiver.