Meeting a Senior’s Dietary Needs
As our loved ones age, their nutritional needs change, as do their abilities
to tolerate various food textures and flavors. Dexterity challenges might
make it more difficult to eat foods that crumble. Swallowing issues due to
stroke or Parkinson’s might make larger bites more challenging. Denture
or jaw pain might make it tough to take smaller bites. Generally, our
taste buds will age as well, making foods that used to be appealing seem
bland or, conversely, overly spicy. Seniors left to their own devices may
start to avoid the challenges of meal preparation altogether, shorting
themselves on valuable nutrition.
While our loved ones may need fewer calories as they age, they
specifically need more B vitamins, calcium, protein, and hydration. As we
age, our ability to absorb nutrients decreases. Additionally, your senior
may have varied nutritional requirements to help with medications or
supplements they may be taking. It may be valuable to connect with a
nutritionist to help guide food and nutrition choices.
Foods to Choose
As you think through a revised meal plan for your loved one, ensure they have variety to address all their nutritional
needs. It is important to make sure that the meals we make are easy for them to consume, simple to prepare, and
appealing in both taste and smell. Some considerations include:
Foods that are soft in texture and easy to chew like scrambled eggs, oatmeal, beans, or mashed potatoes.
Foods that are already bite sized (no larger than 1 inch)– Consider the use of a food processor – not to turn the meals into mush but to reduce the size of all ingredients to bite sized chunks. Steamed vegetables in a variety of colors. There is some truth to the “eat the rainbow” adage. Soups are also a good way to include more veggies. Meats that are skinless and boneless, perhaps shredded or
flaked, like cod, salmon, pulled pork or hamburger. Fruits that are soft and precut or blended into delicious smoothies – Add yogurt, milk, or supplements to smoothies to get some added nutrition without affecting taste. Natural seasonings such asginger, green onions, and garlic for added nutrition.
Chefs for Seniors, A Place for Mom and Elderly Health Service, Department of Health, Hong Kong