What’s for Dinner? Making Meals Seniors Like.
Making meals for seniors has its challenges. As people age, they lose interest in eating. They lose their sense of smell and taste. Chewing and the mechanics of getting food to mouth is hard. Food doesn’t digest like it used to. Medicines affect appetite, and constipation increases with age or medication use. Throw in a bit of dementia and the problems are magnified. I wrote about this before in. What To Eat When Nothing Tastes Good. but what foods can I actually get my parents to eat?
“When the brain is involved, as in dementia, any part of seeing, thinking, or moving can be affected—from problems seeing the food clearly to difficulty planning the movement of scooping with a utensil and bringing food to one’s mouth… Sue Coppola, MS, OTR/L, BCG, clinical associate professor of occupational therapy/University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For more info on the particular challenges of eating with dementia see this link. https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/features/encouraging-eating-advice-home-dementia-caregivers
Every week I go through the angst of trying to think of something my parents will like for dinner. What is easy to chew, nutritious, uses seasonal fruits and vegetables, won’t take forever to cook and dirty every dish in the kitchen?
Our local market has good and economical meats. They grind their own beef. I buy my meats there, except fish which is cheaper in the next town. I pick three or four proteins from their sales items each week. We have access to open air produce markets and berries from a local stand. I home can a lot of fruit all summer and freeze vegetables.
So armed with whatever fresh produce is in season, pantry staples and sale proteins, I try to figure out what to fix for the week. I use the crock pot as it makes the meats soft, but lacks variety. Grilling meat is dicey because it dries out, but grilled vegetables work well. They eat roasted vegetables better than steamed. Below are some of my parents’ favorites and my go-to meals (You’ll notice they’ll eat almost anything in the form of a pie)
Chicken pot pie and Shepherd’s Pie–these are a good way to add vegetables they won’t eat plain
Chicken tenders with peas, mashed potatoes and pan gravy.
Meatballs, beets or green beans and polenta
Almost any fish, grilled, microwaved or baked. They think fish tacos are weird, though. (We love them).
Four Grain Blueberry Pancakes with the local market’s fresh sausage. This is the basic recipe I use but I add two tablespoons of flax seeds, two tablespoons of cornmeal and two tablespoons of uncooked oats to the dry ingredients. You can add a bit more buttermilk if you need to. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/blueberry-buttermilk-pancakes-recipe2-1941526
Any of the “Impossible Pies”, they are easy for them to eat they especially like Impossible Cheeseburger Pie, or Ham and Cheese Pie.https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/impossibly-easy-cheeseburger-pie/8c78aa78-c368-40fa-8a88-1654640c7525
Braised bone-in pork chops (long, slow cooking in oven or crockpot) with warm homemade applesauce and acorn squash.
They like salads, so I mix just about any fresh vegetable, lettuces, kale, spinach, or pickled vegetable in salads. I even add fruits, like oranges, berries, apples or pears. I just have to finely chop everything, including the lettuce. I serve their salads in small plastic bowls–easy to get out and easy to bring close to their mouths.
In the fall I make steel-cut oats mixed with fruit for breakfast. We eat eggs often because, well, we have 22 chickens, they lay a lot of eggs. The homemade equivalent of Egg McMuffins are popular.
Hamburgers are hard for Mom to eat, but we still eat them because everyone else likes them. Mom likes hot dogs. I cut them in small pieces.
Smoothies work well but they like them sweet–more like a milkshake. I use frozen fruits, yogurt, milk and a banana. Mom likes pudding cups, I keep chocolate and tapioca on hand, the only flavors she likes. I get the big tubs of chocolate ice cream on sale for my dad. When I don’t make dessert he is happy to eat that. Sometimes I put fruit on top or nuts.
Those meals work for me. What works for you? Do you have any special tips or trick to share?