Food not only fulfills our basic dietary needs, but it can also be a source of comfort. However, our relationships with food can change as we age. Taste buds evolve, dental health becomes a factor, and medication side effects can impact appetite.
All of these factors can make meal planning for elderly parents more challenging. However, with a little creativity, you can create a meal plan that is nutritious and easy, one that your parent will look forward to eating.
Here are a few key tips for meal planning for elderly parents.
Embrace Cereal and Cereal Bars
Cereal is a food group that a lot of adults phase out over time, particularly when kids are out of the house. However, cereal can be an easy way to get a good portion of essential vitamins and minerals in one meal.
Some caregivers rely on supplements for essential nutrients, but food is usually a better alternative. There are dozens of cereal and cereal bar options on the market that contain critical nutrients such as:
- Vitamin B
- Vitamin E
Best of all, cereal and cereal bars don’t require any prep time and can be easily varied from week to week.
Protein is an important nutrient for people of any age, but especially for older adults. A good rule of thumb is to aim for 20 grams of protein with each meal, although individual needs will vary.
Many older adults do not get enough protein, mostly because animal proteins are more difficult to prepare and chew, and also because changing taste buds can make protein taste bitter.
When meal planning for elderly parents, try to stock up on foods that are easy to eat and that can be easily incorporated into other dishes. Examples include:
- Cottage cheese
- Tuna pouches
- Pre-made meatballs
- Shredded chicken
If your elderly parent is not getting enough protein, it can lead to a host of health problems and can impact their overall mood and motivation. Experiment with different high-protein foods to find out what works best, and consider trying a meal delivery service that focuses on nutrient balance.
Incorporate Smoothies and Soups
When meal planning for elderly parents, the priority should be getting them to eat enough calories and nutrients. Incorporating smoothies and soups into their regular diets is a great way to do this.
Smoothies and soups are easier to eat and digest, and they have the added benefit of providing fluids for hydration. When selecting flavors and brands, choose options that are nutrient-dense and high in fiber.
If you make your own smoothies and soups, you can easily incorporate healthy elements like spinach or kale that won’t even be noticeable.
Try Frozen Food
When trying to identify what your elderly parents enjoy and what they won’t eat, it’s important to stay flexible. Usually, planning meals far in advance that are all made from scratch doesn’t work very well.
On the other hand, frozen foods allow you to quickly whip up a nutritious meal when your parent is hungry, rather than make them wait during preparation time. In addition, changes in taste buds can be unpredictable, so what may be a favorite item this week could be a hated item next week. Frozen food also prevents waste and lets you store food for the future.
Be Ready for Taste Changes
As mentioned, a common side effect of many medications is a change in taste buds. Even if your elderly parent is not on any medications, taste buds tend to change naturally over time. Just because a food is a staple of your meal plan one week doesn’t mean it will be a favorite in the future.
Changes in taste preferences can become a challenge if your parent suddenly starts disliking many foods with protein, fiber, or other specific nutrients. Be understanding that things may suddenly start to taste bitter or sour to your parent. Also, be ready to change up your recipes and account for any losses in nutrient intake.
You Can Make Meal Planning a Success
Meal planning for elderly parents isn’t always easy. It can require creativity, patience, and persistence. What has worked in the past may not be possible in the future, and you may find yourself frustrated and out of ideas at times. However, creating a successful meal plan is possible. Don’t forget that there are resources out there to help you. From cookbooks and support groups to advice from your parent’s doctor, don’t hesitate to reach out if you become overwhelmed.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.