One of the mistakes that we often make as adult children is assuming that Mom and Dad are happy to eat anything we’ll cook for them. While this is true to a point, we often forget that senior citizens have different dietary needs from the rest of the family, especially when those seniors are over 80 years old.
As our bodies age, so does the way we metabolize food. And, when preparing meals for senior citizens, we should take into account their taste buds may have also changed along with the way they eat and digest food.
5 tips you should know
When bringing meals to homebound senior citizens, it’s important to understand that they might not be able to enjoy the same foods as the rest of your family. These 5 easy tips will help you plan a healthy meal that a senior would enjoy:
1. Easy to chew and swallow: Our digestive processes changes with age and seniors tend to produce 30% less saliva then they did while younger. These means that foods that are on the dry side can be difficult to chew and swallow. Also worth remembering is that many senior citizens wear dentures, and tough fibrous meats and raw veggies can be impossible to chew. When planning a meal, its best to select softer foods that are easy to eat.
2. Lower in salt: Most seniors have salt restrictions to reduce the risk of water retention and high blood pressure. Cooking with low or no salt is best; processed foods and salted meats should also be avoided.
3. Make it savory: Prescription meds can affect the flavor of foods and as we age, our sense of smell and taste also changes. Foods that once were tasty may taste bland to the elderly. When preparing a meal for a senior, adding savory (but not spicy!) seasonings will make a meal taste more flavorful.
4. Use nutrition dense recipes: Most seniors tend to have smaller appetites which can contribute to weight loss. Instead of preparing light & lean meals, meals that are high in nutrition and calories can help a senior maintain a healthy weight. This link from the University of Virginia Extension Office is a great meal nutrition resource for the seniors and their caregivers.
5. Ask: Sometimes the simplest way of planning a meal for a senior is to ask him directly what he might enjoy for dinner. Most seniors know what kinds of food are agreeable and what might lead to indigestion. Instead of deciding on your own what type of entree to prepare for a senior, it’s really best to ask first what he or she might prefer eating instead.