Julia Child once said that “the dinner hour is a sacred, happy time when everyone should be together and relaxed.” Of course, we also know how important it is to be able to whip up quick and healthy dinners on a regular basis — particularly for busy family caregivers!
Food is one of the biggest cornerstones of health for people of all ages. For older adults, however, eating well can also be a challenge. Many elderly adults have unique dietary needs, which can change and develop over time based on their lifestyle, their overall health, and other important factors. Some older adults have difficulty with chewing, swallowing, or serving themselves, which can make dinnertime feel more like a chore or burden than a welcome event.
As a result of these difficulties? Studies have shown that about 20% of adults who live alone show at least four warning signs of poor nutritional health — and that roughly one-third of all older adults who are admitted to the hospital are experiencing some form of malnutrition.
Healthy and Easy Dinner Ideas for the Elderly
As a family caregiver, one of the best ways to help care for your aging loved one is to serve nutritious, filling meals, catered to their unique needs and preferences.
Looking to change up your elderly loved one’s dinner menu, while keeping things easy and healthy? Here are five nourishing and enriching dinner ideas for seniors and caregivers to keep in mind:
1.) Baked or Grilled Fish
Fish is a staple component of many popular and healthy diets, including the DASH Diet and the Mediterranean Diet — and it’s easy to see why! Many types of fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your heart and can actually reduce inflammation and lower your risk for cardiovascular disease. Regularly eating fish has also been shown to improve brain function. People who eat a diet rich in seafood may also enjoy better sleep, better vision, and improved strength. Meanwhile, fish is fairly lean, offering an ample amount of protein without too much saturated fat.
Best of all, salmon, tuna, cod, and other types of fresh seafood are easy and quick to prepare on the grill, stovetop, or oven. When cooked well, fish is soft, flaky, and easy for older adults to cut up and consume.
2.) Beans and Rice
For quick and easy comfort food, you could do a lot worse than beans and rice. A popular dish around Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean, this nutritionally balanced dish is simple to prepare and even easier to eat.
Beans are nutrient-dense, and a wonderful source of fiber and protein. Eating beans regularly.may also help to lower your cholesterol and allow you to maintain a healthy weight. This dish is also endlessly customizable and can be seasoned with your favorite herbs and spices, while keeping a limit on your salt intake.
One thing to watch out for? Some people do have trouble digesting high-fiber foods such as beans, so be sure to talk with your elderly loved one to make sure they’re comfortable giving them a try. You can also look for ways to make this healthy powerhouse a bit easier to digest.
3.) Roasted Root Vegetables
A little bit of olive oil and some time in the oven can transform sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and other root vegetables into a truly delicious and nutritious meal that’s simple to make, and easy to eat.
Even better, all of these hearty and filling vegetables pack a nutritional punch. Sweet potatoes, for example, are loaded with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, protein, and fiber, while carrots are rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin K, along with carotenoids and anthocyanins, two powerful antioxidants.
4.) “Breakfast for Dinner”
Breakfast is often called the most important meal of the day — so what if you served some of your older loved one’s favorite breakfast foods for dinner?
Breakfast staples like fresh fruit and whole-grain toast are delicious and filling. Meanwhile, eggs are a great source of protein, and can be used in any number of classic, senior-friendly preparations. In addition to serving them poached, fried, scrambled, or hard-boiled, eggs can be served as quiches, frittatas, and omelettes — all of which can be a great way to quietly fold roasted or sauteed vegetables into your elderly loved one’s diet.
5.) Hearty, Healthy Soups and Stews
On a cold fall or winter day, what could be more satisfying than soup? A big bowl of hearty soup or stew warms you up from the inside — while also being easy to consume for older adults who may have some difficulty with chewing or swallowing. Look up recipes for healthy classics like vegetable soup, chicken soup, or matzoh ball soup. You could also slowly simmer a meat and veggie-filled chili in the slow cooker. One thing to watch out for? Be mindful of the amount of salt that goes into your soups and stews, particularly if you’re buying pre-made canned soups, which can often come loaded with unnecessary sodium.
How to Make Dinnertime Easier for Seniors
So, now that you’ve got some ideas to add to your menu, it’s time to make dinner easier and more accessible for your whole family. To make sure dinner is as enjoyable, fulfilling, and enriching as possible, it may help to…
- Try to make mealtimes a social event. Older adults who enjoy meals with company report making healthier choices and getting more out of the experience. They even say that the food tastes better! Try to be present for meals as often as possible. When you cannot be there, a friendly companion can step in to make sure your loved one is able to enjoy social and fulfilling mealtimes.
- Cut down on distractions. Turn off the TV or radio. Make sure everyone keeps their cell phone away. The more everyone can come together and focus on the food, the more meaningful and enriching the dinner will be.
- When dinner isn’t doable, try nutritious and filling snacks. Many older adults ultimately have trouble sticking to a set dinner schedule. If your loved one doesn’t have the appetite or time to sit down for an entire meal, look into filling their fridge and pantry with nutrient-dense snacks, such as nuts, sliced vegetables, or smaller “heat and eat” portions of their favorite meals.
- Remember that proper hydration and exercise can increase appetite. Food is one piece of an overall health puzzle. Talk with your loved one’s doctor about other healthy lifestyle choices that can supplement their nutritious meals — including getting enough physical activity and staying hydrated.
- Tired of cooking? Look into local meal delivery options. When cooking starts to feel overwhelming, take some time to research local meal delivery options. Here in Chicago, for instance, there are lots of ways for older adults to connect directly with their favorite local restaurants, as well as senior-friendly services that prepare and hand-deliver balanced, nutritious meals.
We’re Chicago’s Go-To Resource for All Things Senior Care
Ready to help bring more life and activity back to a senior loved one’s kitchen? Want to talk about any other healthy meal ideas you have? Interested in getting your eldelry loved one the support they need to live a more enriched and independent life? That’s where we come in.
At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to help the elderly maintain their independence while providing a higher quality of life. To do this, we make food and mealtimes a cornerstone of the care we provide. A companion can help your senior loved one in many different ways – from sharing meals, to assisting with grocery shopping, to providing reliable meal preparation services.
Our companions don’t look at cooking, shopping, and eating with our clients as a chore, but a privilege. We recognize that making grocery lists, planning menus, and sharing a meal all present an amazing chance to connect with seniors, and help truly enrich their lives. When our caregivers cook and share meals with their clients, they talk about their days, share stories, and, most importantly, forge a lasting bond. We often hear that these shared meals become highlights for not only our clients, but for our caregivers as well.
Our professionally trained and bonded companions offer flexible hours and personalized care plans, designed to help meet the needs of each of our senior clients and their families. If you have a loved one that could use assistance at dinnertime,we’d love to help out. We are proudly locally owned in Chicago, with clients in the city and suburbs.
Want to learn more or get in touch? Don’t hesitate to reach out through our convenient online portal, or give us a call at (866) 910-9020 to get the conversation started!