Elizz Content Contributor
Date: Dec 18, 2016
A healthy diet for older adults is an important part of active, healthy aging. However, as caregivers, it can be challenging enough to balance convenience with nutrition for your own meals… let alone monitor someone else’s diet!
Ensure the older adult you care for is eating a well-balanced diet and preparing meals with all 4 food groups.
Elizz has got you covered with these caregivers tips for healthy eating to help you support an older adult’s diet and to help the person in your care independently manage a healthy diet.
Healthy eating meal planning
- Aging has an affect on nutrition. While our bodies still require the same recommended daily vitamin and mineral intake (if not more), as we age into our golden years we need fewer calories, so we actually eat less food. This means that as a caregiver, you can prepare smaller meals for the older person in your care, but make sure the meals are packed with the proper nutrients to help them thrive.
- Ensure the older adult you care for is eating a well-balanced diet and preparing meals with all 4 food groups:
1. Whole grains
2. Fruits and vegetables
3. Low fat dairy products
4. Meat and alternatives (meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dried beans, peas or lentils
It’s important for older adults to continue enjoying a variety of nutritious foods at all three meals and with one to three snacks each day. Caregiver tip: Try preparing something new each week to prevent a meal planning rut.
- Protein-rich foods such as meat, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy products at each meal are very important for keeping older adults’ muscles and bones healthy. We lose bone mass and muscle strength as we age.
- Fibre, found in vegetables, fruit, and whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice, or whole grain wheat, help to prevent constipation and soften stools. Fibre also helps prevent and treat a variety of conditions such as high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease.
- Seniors need to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to stay properly hydrated, and to help the fibre work well.
Easy healthy meals that require little or no cooking
- Yogourt with cheese and crackers, canned peaches
- Cottage cheese, fruit salad , banana loaf, and milk or juice
- Tuna with melba toast or crackers, pudding cup, and a banana
- Whole grain English muffin with melted cheese, strawberries , milk
- Bran or oatmeal muffin, boiled egg, applesauce
- Pasta with meat sauce, a bag of premade salad, and a glass of milk
- Canned beans, whole grain toast, microwaveable frozen vegetables, fruit cocktail, milkshake
- Soup with extra beans added (chickpeas, lentils or black beans), ½ cup vegetables, frozen blueberries with pudding
- Toast with peanut butter, banana, and a glass of milk
Shopping for a healthy diet
- Consider a pre-made meal delivery service (e.g., Meals on Wheels) one or two times a week. The frozen meal option gives you more flexibility, but if independence or mobility are limited, a hot meal delivered by a friendly volunteer may be a good option.
- Some communities offer group grocery buying and store trips.
- Many grocery stores offer grocery delivery services, or online shopping.
- As their caregiver, you can also stock an “emergency shelf” for the elder person in your care, filled with canned beans, tuna, canned fruit, skim milk powder, and nutritional supplements such as Boost or Ensure, in case neither of you can get to the store.
Easy food preparation tips
- Prepare extras when you are cooking healthy foods and freeze leftovers in smaller portion containers for the senior in your care.
- Encourage older adults to divide up and share larger portion meals with neighbours or friends, and for alternate cooking days.
Healthy cooking for one
- Suggest ideas to an older adult who lives alone for how to cook a little extra and use leftovers creatively! Extra vegetables can be used in a pasta dish, pureed with milk for soup, or added to an omelette or stir fry.
- Encourage older adults to arrange get togethers with others who also live alone, to create a good environment for healthy eating and socializing.
Coping with taste changes and chewing or swallowing problems
- Sometimes older adults’ taste buds do not work as well as they used to. Caregiver tip: try a different seasoning or spice to liven up the healthy food they are consuming.
- Nutritious meals can be prepared with softer, more moist foods if the person has chewing and swallowing difficulties.
Appetite changes in the elderly
- Older adults do eat less but may also have less appetite due to medical conditions that require changes in eating, such as dietary restrictions.
- Food preparation and eating can cause fatigue or a feeling of being tired in older adults.
Improving cooking and food preparation skills for older adults
- Basic cooking skills can soon be mastered! Teach the person in your care how to prepare 5-10 basic yet nutritious and versatile healthy meals. For example, vegetable puree soups, quiche, roast chicken, or a one-dish casserole.
- Many grocery stores offer cooking classes. Attend some together.
- Help the person in your care shop for easy, ready to eat healthy meals. Be sure to read food labels.
- Always follow specific dietary instructions provided by a doctor or dietitian. See our article on Dining Out and Tips for Diabetic Portion Control.
Consider an Elizz Home Support Worker, who will help with not only healthy meal planning but also assist with preparing delicious and nutritious meals, and grocery shopping. Never stress over cooking again.
You might also like our Elizz article on Meal Planning Tips for the Holidays.
Have more questions about healthy eating for seniors?
Elizz is the place for all things caregiving in Canada and we are here to help caregivers as well as provide care support for those in your care.
If you are a caregiver and you still have questions about healthy meal planning for an older adult, or if you would like to learn more about any of our caregiver support services, please call Elizz at 1-855-Ask-Eliz (275-3549).
Elizz is a not-for-profit Canadian organization powered by Saint Elizabeth Health Care.
Whenever you feel you need to speak with someone, we’ll be here.