Seniors and older adults like to reminisce about past food experiences. Mealtimes may offer the means to remembering some wonderful experiences.

Summers remind me of watermelons. In fact, watermelons take me back to a childhood summer occurrence when I carved a “house” from a watermelon my grandfather had set on the back steps near the kitchen door.

If this experience is a highlight of my past, imagine how meaningful mealtime experiences are for seniors in their 70s and 80s. When caring for an older adult in their home, always validate their past experiences and offer them the opportunity to reminisce, but don’t forget to consider their food likes and dislikes. Always, validate healthy food choices.

Preparing foods in advance and knowing what your senior’s nutritional needs are helps provide for a smoother mealtime experience. It pays to organize well in advance. You do not have to spend your time preparing what your senior loved one is going to eat at “dinner time.”

If you are preparing meals for seniors consider food allergies, as well as the sodium and sugar content of certain foods. Find out if the older adult you are caring for has difficulty swallowing. Are you going to have to purée foods?

Diets change and we have to be adaptable to the needs of seniors. The following is a list of tips to follow when preparing meals for seniors living at home.

- Find out what your senior likes and can eat. Does the care plan list a specific diet plan? Is there a food allergy listed? Always pay close attention to nutrition goals and to doctor’s recommendations.

- Are there problems in swallowing? Check with your loved one’s physician about any dietary changes. The following are a few of some crucial reasons why diets and food consistencies may change: dysphagia, cancer treatment, stroke, and Parkinson’s. However, these are not the only reasons. A puréed or a soft mechanical diet may be required for some patients who are undergoing cancer treatment. Some patients who have Parkinson’s develop swallowing problems, too. Does your older adult have dysphagia?

- Keep a food journal to write down what was served and what was consumed at mealtime.

- Condition yourself to preparing foods in advance. You are more apt to prepare and serve a healthier meal or snack if you do so in advance, and have a system set and written out.

- When refrigerating produce, the temperature must be between 34? F and 40? F. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers an awesome website about home food preparation and food storage temperatures. Their website includes a section about Food Preservation.

- Separate uncut fruits and vegetables. Fruits, as well as vegetables age differently.

- If you are planning to include summer fruits such as blueberries, wash these first, dry, and pack into small separate containers enough to fit ½ cup of fresh blueberries each. If you are refrigerating strawberries, these should be packed in a separate container from other fruits, too. Don’t cut up the strawberries when packing, unless you are planning to use these soon. You can always add both strawberries and blueberries to morning cereals and to low-fat organic yogurt or ice cream for a refreshing summer treat.

- Date and label contents of food containers.

We hope some of these food preparation tips help outline some important aspects of food preparation for seniors living at home.

Senior Helpers of Orlando likes to make sure seniors eat a nutritious meal that follows healthy wellness goals. Take the time to plan ahead and make mealtimes a joyful occasion for your loved ones.

If you need our assistance in providing home health care for a senior, give us a call at 407-628-4357.

Ana P. DeLane

Senior Helpers of Orlando Team Member


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