Senior man and son preparing a meal in kitchen

8 Tips for Healthy Meal Planning for Seniors

Regular consumption of well-balanced and nutritious meals become more vital as a person ages. As the body goes through many changes, seniors need to fill their system with healthy foods to prevent body declination, like loss of bone density and muscle strength.

As a family caregiver or a professional one working in an assisted living facility, meal planning for seniors can become challenging at first and in the long-run. 

You need to curate each ingredient you put in and make sure that each meal tastes good while also ensuring that it is healthy and filled with the nutrients they need. 

On top of that, you need to think of new healthy recipes to cook so they would be enticed to savor their breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

So, here are eight helpful tips on how to plan healthy meals for seniors.

 1. Plan Ahead

Cooking meals for an average adult might come easy and does not need as much planning as that of seniors. 

To avoid repeating recipes and getting stumped with ideas, it is better to plan at least 3 to 4 days in advance so as to include all considerations when preparing their meals, like their underlying medical condition or medications they are taking. 

Besides adding variety and taste, planning what to cook ahead of time will save much of your time, money, and resources.

 2. Special Nutritional Requirements

As your loved one gets older, their daily nutritional needs change, making specific nutrients more essential than others. This includes:

  • Calcium and Potassium
  • Vitamin D and Vitamin B12
  • Fiber
  • Protein
  • Healthy fats

You need to prioritize these much-needed nutrients to preserve and keep your loved one’s body healthy while also ensuring that their meals fulfill their stomach. You do not want them getting a snack from that unhealthy cookie jar an hour after eating their breakfast, right?

 3. Serve a Nutrient-Dense Breakfast

You have always heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? Well, that phrase has never been more accurate for senior adults.

Seniors need a breakfast packed with the right nutrients to provide them with the sufficient energy they need to function for the day. It would also help regulate their metabolism and jumpstart their appetite.

However, it should also be a quick and easy meal since they would have a lower appetite and energy during the mornings. Some ideas include:

  • Roasted vegetable salad
  • Lean meat wrapped with whole wheat and with diced veggies on the side.
  • Oatmeal with real fruits
  • Scrambled eggs with fresh vegetables

It would also help your loved ones get their appetites if family members or other loved ones joined them for breakfast.

Stuffed vegetable sandwich wrapped in parchment paper on a cutting board

 4. Prepare a Light Lunch

After consuming a considerable amount of food during breakfast, your loved one would prefer to have a lighter lunch meal.

Instead of the usual highly-processed foods frequently used for lunches, opt for a healthier variety to maintain a healthy balance.

You can grill a salmon, then make a sandwich out of it or try a baked honey turkey breast with potatoes. Salads can also prove to be good lunches. Just watch out for high-fat and high sodium dressing.

 5. Make Way for Healthy Snacks

Snacks may come in handy during a busy day or a pumped-up afternoon (after a Zumba workout). 

You would do well to prepare pre-packed or ready-to-eat snacks for your senior loved ones so they can have something healthy to munch on when they want. For this, you can try buying pre-cut veggies at the market (without preservatives) and fashion a tasty dip or fresh, dried fruits like apples.

If your loved one craves something refreshing, then you can make healthy smoothies and shakes made up of blended fruits and vegetables.

 6. Put Together a Diverse Dinner

One of the best practices to adopt during meal planning for seniors is to keep every meal diverse. 

If you have already served lean meats during lunch, then mix things up by choosing healthy seafood instead, like shrimp and fish meat such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel.

You can include a tasty side dish of steamed veggies, long grain rice, or stir-fried eggplant. To preserve each food’s nutrient content, it is better to prepare them by baking, grilling, poaching, or broiling. 

 7. Try Batch Cooking

As much as you want to cook each meal personally for your loved one, sometimes life responsibilities get in the way and interfere with your intricate meal planning.

For busy family caregivers or family members who want to cook something for their loved ones residing in an assisted living facility, you can try batch cooking.

Prepare and cook healthy meals in batches, place them in glass containers, label them, and freeze your entrees. This way, your loved one can just pull it out of the refrigerator and put it in the microwave to heat it.

Some pre-made meals to try include:

  • Lean chicken with vegetable hand pies
  • Mediterranean quinoa burger
  • Egg muffins with kale and roasted peppers
  • Crockpot meals
  • Chicken fajitas
  • Vegetable soup
  • Vegetable lasagna in cups

You can also pre-cut fresh fruits and freeze them so your loved one would have a delicious and healthy munchie later on.

 8. Get Help

Meal planning for seniors is no easy feat. It requires an ample amount of time to evenly schedule sets of decadent and nutritious meals. 

Six months in, and you might find yourself getting repeated ideas or none at all. If this happens, it is okay to accept help from other family members or seek assistance from different sources and experts.

You can try to:

  • Download cooking apps to get fresh and healthy recipes perfect for seniors.
  • Visit credible websites or watch Youtube videos of healthy entrees.
  • Seek help from a professional nutritionist.
  • Sign up for nutritious meal deliveries 
  • Download a grocery delivery app to accommodate you during the pandemic.

There are many ways to make mealtimes exciting and easier for your loved one. Whether they live with you, independently, or in a memory care facility, you can always show your love by cooking healthy meals for them.