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.
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 pre-cut or blended into delicious smoothies – Add yogurt, milk, or supplements to smoothies to get some added nutrition without affecting taste.
- Natural seasonings such as ginger, green onions, and garlic for added nutrition.
Foods to Avoid
Foods that may be more difficult for your loved one to eat might include:
- Foods that are coarse or dry, hard or stringy in texture.
- Vegetables that are stringy or hard to bite like celery, carrots, or kale, unless they’re cut into smaller pieces.
- Fruits that are dried, hard or fibrous, like dried apricots, apples or pears, unless they’re cut into smaller pieces.
- Foods that crumble easily and are hard to pick up.
- Overly salty seasonings – the elderly are more easily dehydrated and salty foods will contribute to this.
- Meats that are tough, on the bone, or chewy, like ribs or squid.
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Source: Chefs for Seniors, A Place for Mom and Elderly Health Service – Department of Health, Hong Kong