What are the best meals for seniors? This is a common question most senior citizens…
Preparing healthy meals for seniors is not always easy. You may feel lazy to prepare even your meals after a long day. Instead, you end up taking on some junk food and call it a day.
Now imagine how the elderly feel, especially those living alone. They may want to prepare some healthy meals, but they always face some constraints.
According to a study conducted by WHO, a poor diet is one of the leading causes of old-age illnesses. One of the reasons is because their nutritional needs change, as well as their metabolism rates. Below are more reasons why malnutrition occurs in the elderly.
- 1 What causes malnutrition for the seniors?
- 2 Best Meals for Seniors
- 3 A Word of Advice on Best Meals for Seniors
- 4 Final Thoughts
What causes malnutrition for the seniors?
Some senses such as taste, touch, smell, and vision become less sharp as you age. It becomes a challenge to differentiate some tastes and odors thus reducing your appetite.
Since you may not be able to smell as you used to, you may mistake stale food for fresh food, leading to food poisoning and many other health complications.
Medication Side effects
In most cases, you may be under some medication for other illnesses. One common side effect of the pills is the loss of appetite. Other side effects that may cause you to detest food include nausea and the inability to taste the food.
Most chronic diseases cause physical difficulties in seniors. Also, as you age, your muscles and your heart becomes weaker. It becomes difficult for them to carry out even simple tasks such as peeling fruits, cooking, or even walking to the store. Considering the difficulty you may experience, especially when it’s raining and snowy, may prevent you from traveling to the store to get some groceries.
Lack of Finances
Since you may not be receiving a big paycheck as you did when you were working, you may not have enough money to purchase some of the ingredients. You may resort to cheaper food, which may be detrimental to your health in the long run.
Deteriorating dental health
Some common issues associated with aging include the loss of teeth, weak gums, painful jaws, and several other dental health problems. They may not be able to chew essential foods such as meat, fruits, among others.
Some diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia, lead to memory loss for seniors. They may forget to take medication, prepare a healthy meal as instructed by the doctor, or even skip a meal altogether. It’s a common fact that most seniors skip at least one meal in a day, making it hard for them to meet their nutritional goals.
There are many reasons why you, as a senior, may feel depressed. Your kids may have settled far away, or you may have lost a spouse or a close friend to death. Living alone isn’t that appealing either. All these issues lead to depression, making it difficult for you to focus on essential matters such as eating healthy food. Besides causing the loss of appetite, depression has many other detrimental effects to people across all age brackets.
Best Meals for Seniors
Whether you’re a senior looking for meal ideas to keep you healthy or a caregiver looking for ideas for make-ahead meals for seniors, below are some of them. Whichever ingredients you choose, you should ensure that you serve a balanced meal. That is, it should include carbohydrates such as rice, proteins such as beans, and fruits. Below are some of the nutrients that are essential for seniors’ health. And the foods that have a lot of them.
A healthy meal for seniors should include a considerable amount of carbohydrates. The low carb diet may be famous, but it’s not the best for the elderly. Also, you should avoid sugary foods. Instead, aim for natural sources of carbs such as Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, and brown rice. Corn and potatoes are the best, especially for starch.
Other foods such as fruits, dairy products, and legumes such as beans are also sources of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are essential for they contain fiber, which aids in digestion, preventing issues such as constipation for the seniors. Carbs are also good sources of energy, and they improve the mental state of the elderly.
Since excessive salts and fats from proteins are detrimental for seniors, eating carbs can help them minimize their intake. Also, since seniors may forget to take their meals, serving them with carbs keeps them energized and with fewer food cravings throughout the day.
The elderly should consume at least 130 g of carbs per day.
Protein foods are vital for the elderly. By including a lot of them in their meals, they help maintain muscle mass and strength and maintain bone health. Proteins also help maintain “functioning” for seniors. As they age, they may not be able to do some activities like getting out of bed or clothing themselves. Proteins ensure that they remain functional even in old age. The most common sources of proteins include;
- Lean meats (beef, pork, mutton, bacon)
- Dairy products (milk, cream, cheese
- Legumes such as beans
The ideal amount of protein for a senior should be at least 0.8 g of protein per kg (2.2 lbs.) of weight.
Calcium is one of the most abundant minerals in the human body. It’s mainly found in bones and teeth. If you don’t consume enough of it, your body extracts it from your bones, causing them to be weak, also known as Osteoporosis, and it’s common among the elderly.
Calcium is also essential in other functions such as the excretion of hormones, nerve transmission, and vasodilation. Consuming enough of it is known to prevent your bones from fracturing, Diabetes, and Osteoporosis.
Foods rich in calcium include;
- Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
- Fishbones such as those from Sardines and Salmon
- Vegetables such as cabbages and broccoli
- Soybeans such as Tofu and Edamame
- Seeds such as sesame, poppy, and chia
Seniors should consume 1000 mg to 1200 mg of calcium per day.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
One inevitable effect of old age is cognitive decline, where the elderly may fail to remember some stuff, or have trouble learning and making important decisions. Well, Omega-3 Fatty Acids are known to slow down this decline.
They also prevent inflammation, hypertension, platelet aggregation, cancer, and other medical conditions that may result from gene expression. Omega-3 fatty acids also help the elderly deal with Dementia, anxiety, and depression.
Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids include;
- Fish such as Sardines, Tuna, Salmon, and Mackerel
- Leafy vegetables like Spinach
- Canola Oil
- Chia seeds and Flaxseeds
A senior should consume at least 250 mg of omega-3 per day to stay healthy.
Iron is vital in a human body as a protein, and it also facilitates the production of hemoglobin, which ensures a supply of oxygen to your body tissues. The elderly need iron in their diet since some factors lead to an iron deficiency in their bodies. These factors include a high calcium intake, low Vitamin C intake, and chronic diseases. A deficiency in iron could lead to anemia.
Here are some of the foods rich in iron;
- Organ meats such as kidneys, liver, and the heart
- Legumes such as lentils, beans, and peas.
- Pumpkin seeds
- Fish such as Tuna
8 mg of iron per day is enough to keep the elderly healthy.
Vitamin C enhances the body’s immune system by facilitating the production of white blood cells. Since the elderly are more susceptible to diseases, Vitamin C can help ward off these diseases. Besides facilitating the creation, it also prevents their damage by disease-causing elements.
The following foods contain Vitamin C;
- Sweet potatoes
- Red pepper
- Snow peas
- Orange juice
A senior should consume at least 80 mg of Vitamin C daily.
Vitamin D is essential for seniors, for it helps prevent bone fractures, Osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular problems. It also facilitates the uptake of calcium into your body. Sunlight is a good source of Vitamin D. Other sources include;
- Fish, e.g., Tuna
- Organ meat such as liver
- Fortified soy and cow milk
Several supplements can help you achieve your daily Vitamin D intake. An 800 IU (International units) per day is the recommended intake for seniors.
Other nutrients that you will get from most of these foods include potassium, which helps prevent kidney stones, Vitamin B12, and magnesium. A senior should consume at least 4700 mg of potassium per day.
A Word of Advice on Best Meals for Seniors
There are millions of recipes out there to prepare a healthy meal for a senior. Most of them differ based on the regions you are from and the availability of the ingredients. The above review helps you identify which foods to include to achieve a balanced diet. If the foods available in your region aren’t listed above, you can consult a nutritionist on the nutrient levels of the specific food.
If you’re a caregiver, you can prepare make-ahead freezer meals for the seniors you’re taking care of. First of all, choose a recipe from reputable blogs and channels. Using the details above, you can adjust the recipe to include the healthy items, and adjust the servings to the amounts that your loved one should eat in a day.
To make their life more comfortable, you can cook a lot of different meals and store them in a freezer. Do not store all of the food in one container; package it into small packs that he or she can finish in a single meal. Zip-lock bags, muffin tins, and glass jars are some of the ways that you can store the meals in a freezer.
Seniors may have trouble meeting their nutrition goals for several reasons, including memory loss, medication side effects, reduced sensitivity, poor dental health, depression, among many other issues.
From the several recipes available, it’s essential to make sure that the meals you prepare for seniors have the right amounts of carbs, proteins, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, fiber, iron, and other nutrients. Since it’s hard for them to cook, you can also prepare make-ahead meals enough to serve them for days and conveniently store them in a freezer.