Meal Planning for Seniors: Why It Is Important
It doesn't matter what age group you are talking about — meal planning makes life a whole lot easier in the long run. But with seniors, it is even more important. Malnutrition is one of the biggest health issues facing the elderly, particularly those living alone. In addition to concerns about being malnourished, there are numerous other reasons to consider meal planning for seniors.
If you or a senior you care for lost weight recently, it may be a cause for concern. Weight loss is common among seniors since as we age, our metabolism slows. Often, seniors experience a loss of taste or smell that may or may not be related to medication, so food becomes less flavorful. And sometimes, it is just easier to get fast food instead of cooking for one. By meal planning for seniors, you can not only regulate the nutritional content but also the serving size of your elderly loved one’s meals.
If you or your loved one is having health issues such as digestive problems or mouth pain, you may also avoid certain foods that are hard to chew or upset the stomach. Make sure that this is addressed with your doctor so that you can once again enjoy these foods. Certain medications may also cause sensitivities or allergies to some foods. Again, check with your physician.
Planning and pre-packaging meals to fit into your meal plan will save time and prevent indecision for you or your loved one. By preparing an entire pot of soup, or roasting a whole chicken and freezing it into individual serving sizes, you can save time and be sure that you have the correct portion size. Planning ahead also lets you save energy and gas money by omitting multiple trips to the market for ingredients and fresh food.
It is often difficult for any person to learn to cook for one. This often results in food waste. By meal planning for seniors, you can still prepare larger batches of your meal and freeze additional portions for later.
In addition to wasting food, all those trips to the supermarket are costing you additional money. With a meal plan, your ingredients will be planned in advance.
Make It Easy
Sometimes spending a little more upfront pays off in the long run. If you or the senior you are caring for has trouble cutting produce, buy it pre-cut. You can purchase apple slices, pre-cut veggies, or single-serving salads. Yogurt in single-use containers is less likely to go to waste. Boil eggs and peel ahead of time so that a bite-sized protein snack is always available. Avoid purchasing items such as large bags of pre-cut lettuce or a whole watermelon. These may spoil before they can be eaten.
Safety Is Important
Nothing is more important than your safety. And the more frequent you or your loved one must go out, the more exposure you have to potential dangers. COVID-19 has its own set of challenges, but in addition, there are other communicable diseases to be aware of. Inclement weather, traffic accidents, and crowded gatherings all increase the exposure to accidents and illness. If dementia or mobility is an issue, additional trips or cooking steps can also threaten your safety.
It is important that you pay special attention to the surroundings if you are caring for a senior. Check the refrigerator for outdated or spoiled food. Observe a meal that they would prepare for themselves to see if it is nourishing, fresh, and properly prepared. Does your loved one complain of a lack of flavor, forgetting to eat, or being too tired or ill to cook? If so, developing a special meal plan for seniors may help to get them on the right track.