It’s no secret that as seniors age, their tastes change. Taste buds tend to become less sensitive with age. This can be challenging, because it can cause seniors to oversalt their food, or be less sensitive to food that may have gone bad. Additionally, seniors have different nutritional requirements than younger people. Seniors who take prescription medication may also have to be careful of how those drugs interact with certain foods. All of these factors mean it can be frustrating for both seniors and caregivers to find a diet that’s enjoyable for everyone.
Here are some easy ways to make meals more enjoyable and flavorful while eliminating some of the frustration.
Switch to a softer menu
Our bodies tend to produce less saliva as we age. Coupled with dental health issues like lost teeth, this can make it difficult for older folks to chew and swallow. Cooking soft, moist foods can help seniors eat more easily. Plus, many soups and stews can be made right in a slow cooker. This saves you time and gives you something to reheat the next day or even throw in the freezer for later.
Add flavor without adding salt
Use herbs, spices, onion, garlic, and other seasonings to give your dishes tons of flavor without the sodium content skyrocketing. Try acidic flavors such as wine, citrus, and vinegar for an extra punch of flavor.
Substitute cooked potato for cream
Creamy dishes are delicious because of their high fat content. However, they’re not exactly healthy because of their high fat content. The good news is that you can achieve the same effect by adding cooked potato to your dishes. These turn almost any soup into a hearty meal, and when pureed, you can add them to sauces for extra creaminess.
Rotate in comfort foods
Appetite changes can be difficult to deal with. One thing that can help with this, though, is rotating in your loved one’s favorite food. It’s hard to break habits once they’re formed. Chances are your loved one will still enjoy old favorites. Switching out unhealthy ingredients for healthier ones can also help you make sure they’re getting the proper vitamins and minerals.
Swap in healthy fats instead of unhealthy fats
It’s okay to have fat in your diet—yes, really! However, not all fats are created equal. For example, you’ll want to watch out for trans and saturated fats. On the other hand, unsaturated fats help raise “good” cholesterol and can protect you against heart disease. These “good” fats can be found in things like olive oil, fish, nuts, soy products, and avocados.
Cook with naturally sweet foods
Many seniors retain a sweet tooth because they’re able to distinguish sweet tastes the best. This may cause some to eat a few too many sugary snacks. Instead, try cooking with naturally sweeter foods, such as fruits, bell peppers, carrots, and yams.
Keep healthy snacks and smoothies on hand
Smoothies are a great way to pack in some extra nutrition. Plus, they’re sure to fill those sweet tooth cravings. Smoothies are especially great for seniors who struggle to get enough hydration throughout the day. You can even use things like protein powder and a frozen banana to make a healthy snack taste like a milkshake treat!
Let your loved one dictate the menu
This may seem obvious, but give seniors some say in their menu! Allow them to pick recipes that look appealing. You can always alter them to fit dietary needs.
Learn something new
Taking a cooking class through a community college or other local program can give you some inspiring new ideas and new skills to cook for the senior in your life. Some classes are even designed for caretakers.
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