Breakfast and dinner may get all the glory, but lunch is an incredibly important meal in its own right. This mid-day meal is a great opportunity to slow down, catch your breath, and get the fuel you need to dive into the rest of your day.
With that being said, it can also be difficult to squeeze in time to eat lunch, which makes it essential to have quick and nutritious options ready to go in your back pocket.
This is particularly true for seniors and family caregivers. Eating well can be a major challenge for the elderly. Older adults may not have the motivation or desire to eat lunch each day, particularly if they have to cook it for themselves or sit down to eat at an empty table. In other cases, older adults may face difficulties with chewing, swallowing, or serving themselves — all of which can make the idea of setting aside time for lunch sound a whole lot less appetizing.
As a family caregiver, what can you do to make lunchtime a highlight of your senior loved one’s day? One important place to start is by serving nutritious, filling meals, catered to your loved one’s unique needs and preferences.
Here are five filling and nutritious lunch ideas for the elderly that are also quick, easy, and affordable:
1.) Make Lunch Out of Filling, Easy Sandwiches and Wraps
Sandwiches and wraps are simple and speedy to prepare. As handheld foods, they also leave behind fewer messy utensils to clean up after the meal — and can be easier for some older adults to eat. Best of all, sandwiches and wraps are endlessly adaptable, and can offer you many ways to fold protein and vegetables into your elderly loved one’s mid-day meal. From salmon and greens, to chicken and beans, to eggs and ham, there are countless tasty and nutrient-dense options to try. For an even better lunch, look for high-fiber bread or low-carb, protein-fortified tortillas.
2.) Use Chicken as a Versatile Standby
Chicken breasts are lean and provide a solid amount of protein per serving, making them a reliable lunch option for older adults. Even better, chicken is easy to prepare, easy to eat, and incredibly versatile.
In fact, you and your loved one can enjoy a filling week of chicken-based lunches, without ever having to turn on the stove. The next time you go shopping, consider purchasing a whole rotisserie chicken, which are affordable and available at most major grocery stores. Over the next week, you can pull or slice the bird and add it as a protein boost in soups or salads; transform into a delicious chicken salad with Greek yogurt and crisp vegetables; or prepare it as a stir fry to be served over steamed brown rice.
3.) Choose Healthy Sides
Building a healthy habit that lasts a lifetime starts with making some simple swaps in the here and now. At lunchtime, this may mean substituting chips in favor of healthy side options such as yogurt, fresh fruit, steamed vegetables, or rice. And if your older loved one typically washes down a lunchtime sandwich with a can of soda, encourage them to occasionally swap out their favorite soft drink for a low-sugar seltzer; fruit juice; or plain water.
4.) Create Your Perfect Salad
Who said salad has to be boring? While most people associate this lunchtime staple with lettuce and tomatoes, it’s important to remember that “salad” can mean almost anything — and it’s all about finding what works for your loved one’s tastes! Healthy salads can include all sorts of elements, including nutritious grains like farro or quinoa; protein-packed options like boiled eggs, fresh salmon, or canned tuna; nutrient-dense greens like spinach or kale; fresh berries and apples; or even roasted root vegetables.
5.) Consider Easy “Take and Bake” Options
Sometimes, you may only have a minute or two to prepare lunch — which makes having something that can be sliced and served useful to have on hand. Consider making a nutrient-loaded baked good early in the week, then simply reheat a portion at lunchtime. Options might include a veggie-heavy quiche; a savory tart; or a meat- and vegetable-filled empanada or hand pie. All of these make for fast and hearty options, perfect for being served on their own or alongside a healthy salad or warm, filling soup.
How to Make Lunchtime Easier for the Elderly
Ready to make lunchtime as enjoyable, fulfilling, and enriching as possible? Here are some ideas for caregivers to keep in mind…
- Try to minimize distractions during the meal. Many people try to fill up their lunch hour by watching TV or reading. To make the meal feel more satisfying, try to cut out distractions by switching off the tube or silencing the radio. This makes it easier to focus on the food — and the pleasant company provided by a family caregiver or professional senior companion!
- If your loved one isn’t interested in lunch, try preparing nutritious snacks throughout the day. Some older adults won’t have the appetite for lunch. If this is the case, you may want to try serving several nutrient-dense snacks instead of one large meal. Ideas might include fresh fruit, oatmeal, yogurt, or nuts.
- Keep your loved one’s fridge and pantry clean and organized. Lunch is often prepared in a hurry — so having access to a clean and organized pantry and fridge is extremely important. Regularly work with your elderly loved one to throw away expired food, and try to keep things in the kitchen organized and tidy.
- Consider using up dinner leftovers at lunchtime. If you meal prep with your elderly loved one, consider making extra portions of each dinner, which you can serve later in the week as a fast and simple lunch.
Looking for Help? Trust Chicago’s Resource for All Things Senior Care
Ready to help bring more life and activity back to a senior loved one’s dining room table? Interested in getting your eldelry loved one the support they need to live a more enriched and independent life? We are here and ready to help.
At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to help the elderly maintain their independence while providing a higher quality of life from the comfort and safety of home. 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 during the day,we’d love to help out. We are proudly locally owned in Chicago, with clients in the city and suburbs.
Want to learn more? Don’t hesitate to reach out through our convenient online portal, or call us at (866) 910-9020 today!