Wow, have times changed. Appetites have changed. What is a calorie-saving goal for younger folks, often becomes a calorie-enhancing goal for the elderly. Why that-one asks? Taste, illness, energy needs, loneliness, pain, medications – all can take a toll on the desire to plan and prepare a well-balanced meal. It is a time when calorie needs decrease somewhat, but often nutrient needs are even greater in the elderly. [pullquote]Eating well does not have to be difficult, dull and tasteless. Know what you like, what helps you to feel well and enjoy your food![/pullquote]
Aging often results in a change in the absorption of nutrients which can cause deficiencies. And so, the challenges are many. How does one plan a nutrient-packed meal or snack that is soft, eye-appealing, digestible, not too high in salt and sugar, and by the way, tastes good.
Identify the challenges
-Dental – do foods that needs to be soft
-Digestive – spice or no spice, fiber, lactose
-Eyesight – can one see well enough to prepare meals
-Arm strength and agility – can one stand, chop, handle cans etc
-Taste preferences – what does one enjoy
Once the challenges are identified, prepare a grocery list of items that meet the needs. Using categories is a good idea to ensure a variety of nutrients.
Grocery planning categories include:
.Meats and alternatives
Weekly Menu and Planning Meals
Next, think about a weekly menu and plan 3 meals with 2-3 snacks. Smaller portions are better tolerated and always try to have some protein or fat with a carbohydrate food, such as crackers and peanut butter or a baked apple with greek yogurt. This will help to keep blood sugars and energy stable.
Protein: The Essential and Neglected Nutrient
Protein is a very important food for the elderly and one which is often overlooked in favor of the cookie. Why? Protein requires preparation and the ability to chew. Also, as taste acuity declines, meats often do not taste as good, nor are as digestible. Hence, the cookie takes preference.
A good multivitamin with zinc can help with the taste issues. Let’s face it, sweet and refined carbs are easy to eat and do not require preparation or cold storage. Unfortunately, they can also cause an increase in constipation, blood sugar irregularities and an overall nutrient imbalance.
Now for the practical side. What do I eat? What if I don’t feel like cooking? Using that grocery list, be sure to have “survival stock” items on hand, such as Amy’s or Health Valley lower sodium soups with meats and beans, Kashi or Healthy Choice frozen entrees, eggs and frozen egg substitutes, Bell and Evans short cuts and light breaded chicken breast (a bit high in sodium).
Sample menus follow, once again highlighting the combination of protein and fiber rich carbohydrate foods (breads, cereals and crackers with about 3-8 grams or fiber per serving).
-Good old fashioned oatmeal
-1 tbl whey protein powder (available at a local health food store)
-1 tbl ground flaxmeal (available at a local health food store and store in the freezer)
-Cinnamon to taste (adds sweetness to foods, thus less need for sugar)
-1 teaspoon real maple syrup
-Scrambled eggs or eggbeaters
-1 slice whole grain toast
-½ cup natural applesauce with 1 tbl ground flaxmeal
-½ turkey sandwich on whole grain bread such as Ezekiel
-1 cup vegetable soup – See brands above
-Canned lite pears topped with crushed walnuts
-A few slices of rotisserie chicken (bell and evans is hormone and pesticide free)
-Salad greens (buy a bag if prep is an issue)
-Chop chicken with a few grapes and mix with low fat mayonnaise
-3-4 akmak crackers or a slice of grain bread
-Natural applesauce with crushed walnuts and tablespoon of ground flax
-0% greek yogurt with canned lite peaches
-Squares of lindt 85% dark chocolate bar
-Triscuits with natural peanut or almond butter
-If you enjoy cooking, about the size of a “deck of cards” roasted chicken or pork loin roast
-Steamed fresh or frozen vegetables tossed with a pat of butter or olive oil
-About 1/3 cup sized potato, sweet potato, cooked grain such as barley or brown rice
-Kashi cookie – soft, not too high in sugar and has 3 grams fiber!
-An order of chinese steamed chicken with vegetables and 1/3 cup rice
(the steamed orders are low sodium and have no msg)
-Kashi or healthy choice frozen entrée canned lite fruit with a tablespoon of ground flax
Eating well does not have to be difficult, dull and tasteless. Know what you like, what helps you to feel well and enjoy your food!
To more about Julie Freeman – visit http://www.juliefreeman.net