Meal Prepping for Seniors: An Option for Helping Ensure Seniors Eat Right
Unfortunately, many older Americans do not plan for nutritious meals and instead bow to fast-food cravings. Or they lack the mobility or skills needed for planning and preparation. This can lead to meals with poor nutritional profiles and contribute to obesity and other chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, Type II diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. For those who struggle with this, meal prepping may help.
A Smarter, Healthier Approach to Eating
Meal prepping is a good way for older adults to establish a routine and plan for variances in appetite. It can help ensure a trusted source of nutritious, manageable meals is ready and available. Whether seniors prep meals themselves or get help from a friend, loved one or hired caregiver, doing this can ensure there are enough meals to cover a week or more.
Meal Prep Considerations
When meal prepping, there are several things a senior or family caregiver may need to think through as they plan. This includes the following:
- Storage – Meals can be stored in sealable plastic freezer bags or food containers with airtight lids. Adequate refrigerator and freezer space is required.
- Labeling – It is important to label each bag or container with the contents and date stored. Consider purchasing storage bags that can be written on or labels that can be applied.
- Reheating – Planning for how to get refrigerated or frozen prepped meals reheated is essential, especially if an item must be heated enough to kill off any harmful bacteria that formed during storage.
- Organizing preparation – To make meal prep go faster and perhaps more fun, consider making it a group project with friends or family. Put on some music or a movie.
- Considering a meal service instead – For some, opting for a custom meal plan delivery service may be the answer. Seniors who can afford it can choose from various services such as Silver Cuisine, Amazon Fresh, Magic Kitchen, Mom’s Meals or Schwann’s to have meals shipped directly to their home. Seniors of limited means or who have trouble affording or accessing fresh foods may need a meal assistance program, such as Meals on Wheels, or may qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
- Community resources – A senior center or senior living community may be a good option for some older adults who can’t or don’t want to prepare meals. Check with the kitchen manager or dietician to make sure they can accommodate all dietary needs.
Meal Prep Nutritional Tips
Meal preparation is a proven way to ensure an elderly loved one eats a consistently well-balanced diet that keeps calorie counts low, avoids excess sodium, sugar and fat, adds nutrients, and maintains health. Seniors with specific vitamin deficiencies, dietary restrictions or nutritional needs can plan meals rich in what their bodies need and that keep sodium, sugar and fat levels in healthy ranges. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most Americans consume too much sodium, sugar and saturated fat. The culprits are highly processed, packaged convenience foods. By contrast, a healthy diet emphasizes fresh, natural, whole foods.
Planning out a week’s meals in advance not only helps with proper nutrition but also with controlling portions, reducing waste, and supporting regular eating patterns. Making meal prep work requires making dishes in batches large enough to accommodate two or three meals each but not so large there’s more than can be reasonably stored.
And, by prepping a week’s worth of meals in one day, seniors save time on grocery shopping and meal cleanup.
Here are some tips:
- Research and plan for sourcing the right ingredients.
- Have the proper pots, pans, utensils, storage containers and time needed to make and portion out meals.
- Stick with easy-to-prepare and repeat recipes.
- Write out the meal plan and recipes for easy reference.
- Consider devising a variety of meal plans for different months; plan accordingly to make healthy versions of holiday favorites.
- Incorporate items from each food group—fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy—into each meal.
- Consider including in every meal and snack many of the so-called “superfoods” that are nutritionally dense. Berries, nuts, leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, fish, olive oil, whole grains, legumes, tomatoes and yogurt are deemed superfoods because they’re strong sources of vital nutrients.
Meal Prep Menu Ideas
Here are some ideas for simple and nutritious meals:
- Try kale or spinach with berries in a “green smoothie” for a natural energy drink loaded with vitamins and nutrients.
- Try overnight oats topped with nuts and fresh or frozen fruit.
- Have a muffin made with whole ingredients and no refined sugar.
- Make a DIY breakfast sandwich using a whole-grain muffin, lean protein such as smoked salmon, and some veggies. A hard-boiled egg with a side of fruit and a muffin is about as simple as it can get.
- For an extra light breakfast, try a parfait that mixes yogurt with nuts and fruit.
- Quinoa salad
- Egg and potato casserole
- Salmon wrap
- Taco salad
- Stuffed peppers
- Beans and rice
- One-pot chicken and rice
- Cabbage stew
- Chicken soup
- Vegetable soup
- Perhaps change things by having breakfast items for lunch or dinner and vice versa.
Important: Remember that adequate water intake needs to be a part of any healthy diet, as it aids in absorbing nutrients and digesting foods.
How Right at Home Can Help
Whether meal prepping or subscribing to a meal delivery service, it’s essential that seniors have access to nutritious food. Right at Home’s compassionate caregivers can help with cooking healthy meals, grocery shopping, and a multitude of other things ranging from light housekeeping and medication reminders to mobility assistance and hygiene care. Contact an aging adviser at your local Right at Home office for more information about how we can help.
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