It doesn’t matter what age you are, eating well and getting enough nutrients is essential. Doing so helps to protect your health and may give you a longer life. Choosing good food for seniors is particularly important. After all, seniors need good nutrition, just like the rest of us.
Eating well can also be more difficult for seniors. Many deal with one or more health conditions and need to take the appropriate medications. These conditions or the medications may influence the food that a senior can eat.
For example, some seniors need to limit sodium intake, while those with diabetes may need to be aware of the carbs that they’re eating. Others may need to keep their vitamin K intake consistent. This means being careful with vitamin K rich foods, like dark leafy greens.
Then there are flavors and textures to consider. A person’s sense of taste often decreases with age. Intensely flavored foods are a useful way to make sure that seniors still enjoy their food. For seniors with dentures or gum problems, soft foods may be crucial too.
All of these areas might make food for seniors seem like an overwhelming topic. Thankfully, there are plenty of delicious foods that elderly people can eat.
Food For Seniors
- Dark Leafy Greens
- Fruit and Vegetables
- Shrimp and Pasta
- Pasta and Rice
- Wholegrain Bread
- Herbs and Spices
- Dark Chocolate
- Stews and Casseroles
Oatmeal isn’t just a classic breakfast food. It’s also a very healthy option. After all, oats are packed with nutrients, including a type of fiber called beta-glucan. Beta-glucan is a soluble fiber that has been linked to blood sugar and cholesterol benefits.
Oatmeal is also filling. This makes it perfect for breakfast, as it gives seniors plenty of energy for the day. Plus, oatmeal tends to be soft. It’s easy to eat, even for people who struggle with chewing.
There’s only one serious problem with oatmeal – it’s bland. The breakfast is uninspired when served on its own and gets boring fast.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to make oatmeal more interesting. Try playing around with the toppings. Fresh berries work beautifully. They provide plenty of phytonutrients and antioxidants too.
You could even try savory toppings. This might sound odd, but if you don’t sweeten your oatmeal it pairs well with savory options like an egg and sliced sausages. This style is perfect for anyone trying to watch their sugar intake.
Recommending eggs for seniors might sound strange. After all, eggs are high in cholesterol. But, dietary cholesterol doesn’t affect blood cholesterol as much as you might expect.
Eggs are also nutritionally powerful. They contain a decent amount of protein, along with many vitamins and minerals. There are some carotenoids too, like zeaxanthin and lutein, which have both been linked to improved eye health.
Eggs even contain vitamin D. This is important, as the ability to synthesize vitamin D decreases with age. Plus, seniors are often more housebound than younger people. Eating eggs regularly won’t be enough to prevent vitamin D deficiency, but the vitamin D content could still help.
If you’re worried about heart health and cholesterol levels, be sure to talk to the senior’s doctor before serving eggs regularly.
There are many ways to prepare eggs and they all have their advantages. A hard boiled egg or a couple of poached eggs work well when the senior needs a snack.
Omelets, on the other hand, are a more filling option. You can load them up with healthy ingredients, including tomatoes, red peppers, dark leafy greens, and lean protein.
You might even include some cheese. While cheese is high in fat, it does provide some important nutrients. Besides, you don’t need much cheese to make an omelet taste amazing.
Some recipes pack even more flavor in. For example, a southwest omelet might include pepperjack cheese, chili, and even salsa. Using a potent combination like that is ideal for seniors who are losing their ability to taste.
The benefits of yogurt are well-established. For one thing, the treat is rich in calcium. This mineral can help with bone health – an effect that is especially relevant for seniors.
Some companies add beneficial bacteria back into their yogurt, making yogurt an excellent source of probiotics. These probiotics help promote gut health, which may lead to improved health overall and even decreased disease risk.
However, you need to pay close attention to the type of yogurt that you choose.
Many brands heavily rely on sugar, along with coloring and flavoring ingredients. The yogurt ends up tasting delicious, but it’s not very healthy.
To get around this, look for products that have a short ingredients label and little added sugar. Unflavored Greek yogurt is the best choice. This is a type of strained yogurt that is higher in protein than regular yogurt.
The unflavored version of the yogurt might seem a bit much, as Greek yogurt has a distinct tartness. To get around this, you can simply flavor the yogurt yourself. Focus on healthy additions, like fresh berries and cacao powder.
Seniors might be less active than when they were younger, but they still need to get enough protein. Chicken is one of the best choices for this protein, as it is a lean type of meat. If the senior needs to watch their fat or calorie intake, then chicken breast will be the best cut to focus on.
You’ll need to pay attention to how you cook the chicken. The leanness of chicken breast means that it will easily dry out, which then makes it harder to eat.
Focus on cooking techniques that keep the chicken breast moist and flavorful, like slow cooking or marinating the meat.
Fish is another attractive source of protein. All types of fish offer a decent amount of protein, along with omega-3 fatty acids and important nutrients.
Fish is easy to eat too, as it will often almost fall apart once cooked. This feature makes fish perfect for seniors. Just make sure you get all the bones out before serving it.
The exact benefits will depend on the type of fish that you choose. For example, flaky white fish tends to be fairly low in fat. This makes it a lean source of protein like chicken. However, the low fat content does mean that white fish is relatively low in omega-3 fatty acids.
To get more of these heart-healthy fats, you’ll need to focus on fatty fish instead, like salmon. Doing so is important even for seniors who need to watch their fat intake.
While fish is healthy, it’s important to pay attention to the type of fish and the serving size. Fish tends to accumulate mercury. Humans can consume some mercury without causing any serious problems, but we need to avoid having too much.
This means that you need to be careful with high mercury fish, like tuna, and avoid eating excessive amounts of fish each week.
Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens are often high in vitamin K. This might make the recommendation sound odd, as many seniors are taking medication like warfarin, which is affected by the amount of vitamin K in the body.
However, people on warfarin don’t need to keep their vitamin K levels low. The goal is to keep the levels consistent instead. This way, the doctor can adjust the levels of the drug to account for the amount of vitamin K.
Bearing that in mind, it’s easy to see why leafy greens make sense for seniors. They’re packed with nutrients and have been linked to many health benefits. The greens might even help to improve cognition in seniors. That’s enough of a reason for eating them regularly.
Besides, leafy greens are versatile. They can be prepared in a variety of ways and included in countless recipes. Even if the senior is a picky eater, you should be able to find some ways to serve the greens that they enjoy.
Fruit and Vegetables
For that matter, seniors should try to get many different fresh fruits and vegetables into their diets. Fruits and vegetables are nutrient powerhouses. They also offer critical plant-based compounds that you don’t find elsewhere.
Eat the rainbow is a common suggestion here. This means that you focus on many different colors of fruit and vegetable. This is a useful approach, as the pigment molecules in fruit and vegetables are where many benefits come from.
Don’t rule out frozen fruits and vegetables either.
These last much longer than fresh options. This is perfect for seniors who aren’t getting through their fresh produce before it goes off.
Frozen vegetables are particularly helpful, as you can often heat these in the microwave or even cook them from frozen. And, despite common assumptions, the vegetables aren’t necessarily less healthy than fresh ones. After all, fresh vegetables deteriorate in the time between when they are picked and when you eat them, while frozen vegetables are snap frozen soon after picking.
It’s important to talk to the senior’s doctor about any fruit and vegetable restrictions. For example, a compound in grapefruit interacts with some medications, so seniors might need to avoid grapefruit. Similarly, some foods are high in oxalates. These can be a problem for anyone susceptible to kidney stones.
Shrimp and Pasta
While shrimp and pasta can both be served independently, combining the two in a single meal is an even more powerful idea. This works well because the shrimp provide a healthy source of protein and sustained energy, while the pasta is a faster source of energy.
Pasta is also easy to eat. Most of the time you’ll be cooking the pasta al dente, where it is slightly firm to the bite. This is considered the best way to serve pasta and is essential if you plan to reheat the meal.
For seniors with serious chewing challenges, you might want to overcook the pasta instead. This way there are no problems with eating it.
Watermelon can be the perfect food for seniors who don’t drink enough water. The fruit is an easy way to stay hydrated. It’s delicious too. You can even freeze it and serve frozen watermelon just like a popsicle.
Watermelon might even be better than a glass of water in some cases, as it’s often best if seniors have small amounts of water at a time. This way there’s no need to rush to the bathroom.
While quinoa has a long history, many seniors mightn’t be familiar with it. The pseudograin has only recently started trending after all. Still, quinoa is popular for many important reasons. It is nutritionally dense, giving you more nutrients per serving than alternatives like rice and pasta.
Quinoa has an interesting nutty flavor to it, along with a slight crunch. These features make the pseudograin a fantastic way to add texture and interest to meals.
The flavor is subtle, so you’ll often need to flavor quinoa in some way. Spices are your best friend here. There are plenty of amazing recipes that use herbs and spices to kick quinoa up a notch.
If you’re serving the pseudograin as part of a salad, then you could turn to salad dressing instead. This would add flavor too, along with some moisture.
The unfamiliarity of quinoa could make some seniors resistant to it. Thankfully, many seniors enjoy trying new foods and flavors. For those seniors, quinoa could be perfect.
Salads offer an easy source of nutrients that isn’t too heavy. They’re easy to customize too, so you can focus on the ingredients and flavors that the senior enjoys the most.
Think about the amount of protein too. You can easily include some protein with a salad, like shredded chicken or perhaps a sliced egg, but you don’t want the meal to be too heavy, so don’t overdo it with the protein.
Pasta and Rice
Pasta and rice might both be high in carbs, but they can still be valuable parts of a senior’s diet. For one thing, they’re both soft, especially if you slightly overcook them.
They’re also both versatile. There’s no shortage of different recipes out there, including every flavor combination that you can imagine. You can even turn to varying colors of rice, unusual pasta shapes, and stuffed pasta. These all make meals more interesting.
Choosing whole grain pasta and brown rice could be even better nutritionally. These versions contain more fiber than the white versions, making them better for the senior’s digestion.
If seniors are going to eat bread, then wholegrain bread is generally recommended. Once again, this contains more fiber than the white stuff, so it can be a healthier choice.
Looking for sprouted bread can be even better. The sprouting process may make some of the nutrients in the grains more accessible. This could lead to more health benefits.
Sandwiches and toast are the classic uses of bread. Both options allow you to use bread as a vehicle for a variety of healthy ingredients. Try making sandwiches with fresh ingredients like tomatoes, cucumber, and lettuce, along with some type of cold cut meat.
If the senior struggles with chewing, you can always cut the crusts off the bread. This is a simple way to make the sandwich easier to eat.
Herbs and Spices
While no one eats herbs or spices on their own as food, they’re too important to leave off this list. Seniors often need to be very careful with their sodium intake. Too much sodium can lead to fluid retention and could be bad for heart health.
Because of this, you need to focus on salt-free seasonings options – and herbs and spices top that list. These natural ingredients are powerful ways to add flavor to your meals. They’ve been used in that way by countless cultures throughout history.
If you’re new to herbs and spices, traditional recipes from other cultures can be the ideal way to learn about the power of spices and how they can change your meals. Don’t be afraid to experiment either. Some of the best meals will come straight from your imagination.
Dark chocolate can be a superfood for seniors, just like it is for other age groups. The treat is packed with antioxidants and polyphenols. It could even help to decrease blood pressure and lower the risk of heart attacks.
Portion sizes are important, as even dark chocolate can be high in calories. Keep the portions small and the senior will get plenty of benefits from the chocolate without any problems.
Pay attention to the specific product that you buy too. Some dark chocolate brands will be much healthier than others. Look for one that contains few added ingredients and keeps the sugar content low.
As a general rule, the higher the cocoa percentage, the healthier the chocolate will be. Try to focus on chocolate with at least 70%. Percentages of 80% or higher are even better.
Of course, the cocoa percentage will partly depend on the senior’s flavor preferences. Dark chocolate has a strong flavor that doesn’t appeal to everyone. This gets more intense as you go up through the cocoa percentages.
Berries are well-known for their antioxidant benefits, partly because they contain many potent pigment molecules. Antioxidants could even lower the risk of some diseases and help protect health in various ways.
Blueberries are the most important option here, as they contain more antioxidants than most other fruits. However, you don’t need to just stick with blueberries. Other berries have their own advantages.
In most cases, the best approach is to include a wide variety of berries and other fruit in the senior’s diet. This way they get a full range of nutrients.
Now, the small seeds in berries shouldn’t be a problem most of the time. These seeds have nutrients anyway, so they’re worth eating. If the senior does have problems with the seeds, you could focus on other types of darkly colored fruit, like cherries and seedless red grapes.
Many of the benefits come from pigment molecules, so choosing a similarly colored fruit should provide roughly the same advantages.
Nuts often sound unhealthy, as they’re fairly high in fat and calories. But, if you keep to a sensible serving size, then they have many more advantages than disadvantages.
For one thing, nuts are filling. Their combination of fat and protein makes them an easy way to stave off hunger between meals. This feature comes into its own for seniors, as nuts can help fight malnutrition for seniors who struggle with their appetite.
After all, it’s easy to grab a handful of nuts and nibble at them.
Nuts have also been linked to various health benefits. Walnuts can be the most powerful for seniors, as they have more omega-3 fatty acids than other types. Almonds are popular too. They’re sometimes thought to be the most nutritious nut.
Flavored nuts could be perfect for seniors who are losing their sense of taste. However, you may need to roast and flavor the nuts yourself, as most commercial products will use salt as part of their flavoring.
Shellfish offers many of the same benefits that you find with fish, including omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and plenty of other nutrients. The nutrient profile can be quite different from one type of seafood to the next. This is another reason to focus on variety.
Oysters, scallops, and shrimp are all popular choices. They’re delicious, easy to find, and can be cooked in many ways.
Just be sure to serve these fully cooked. While raw seafood can be a delicacy, there’s always some risk of food poisoning. Seniors tend to be more vulnerable than younger people and face more health challenges, so putting them at risk for food poisoning is not a good plan.
Fish, shellfish, and chicken are all sources of lean protein, but meat won’t always be the best answer. Sometimes you’ll be looking for a vegan source of protein instead. Beans are one of the best choices here. After all, they can be used in many meals, are inexpensive, and keep for a long time.
It’s crucial to pay attention to the products that you use here.
Canned beans and chickpeas often come in a salt-based brine. Draining and rinsing the beans before using them can dramatically reduce their sodium content by anywhere from 20% to 40%, but you’re still getting a decent amount of sodium.
To get around this, look for no-salt added beans. These will contain much less salt.
You can also rely on dry beans. Be sure to soak the beans for at least four hours before using them. Soaking them overnight is often the easiest approach.
While it’s possible to skip the soaking step and work with dry beans directly, doing so isn’t recommended. Soaking reduces the cooking time for your beans and helps you to absorb more nutrients from them.
Soup is an excellent meal for seniors. It has the distinct advantage of being easy to eat. Many soups can even be drunk out of a cup, which is perfect for anyone who struggles with utensils.
You can also pack nutrients into soup, including lean protein and plenty of vegetables.
With so many types of soup to choose from, there really is something for everyone. Some seniors might prefer creamy soups, like cream of chicken soup or cream of mushroom. Others might focus on something chunkier instead.
Soups aren’t just well-suited to seniors. They’re also perfect for caregivers, as you can let a slow cooker do most of the work for you. What about preparing a large batch of soup and freezing small containers of the soup for later?
Canned soup makes things even easier still. This provides a nutritious meal that just needs to be heated up. However, you need to be careful with canned soup, as this is often very high in sodium. Even low sodium versions might have more than the senior should be eating, so be sure to closely check the ingredients label first.
If low sodium intake is a must for your diet, you can even make smoothies with low-sodium protein powder for a delicious, sweet, and easy to eat meal.
Stews and Casseroles
Stews have many of the same advantages as soups. They’re delicious, nutritious, and easy-to-eat.
The main difference is that stews tend to have larger chunks of meat and vegetables. This makes them heartier.
If a stew is cooked slowly and well, then all the ingredients should be soft and easy to eat. In fact, stews are one of the best ways for seniors to still enjoy red meat.
You can also turn to casseroles. These are similar to stews, except that casseroles tend to be cooked in the oven, often in a casserole dish. Casseroles aren’t just a dinner food either. There are plenty of other styles, including breakfast casseroles, which often rely on eggs, potatoes, and cheese.
Whether you’re making the meal or purchasing it, you’ll need to pay attention to the ingredients. Some recipes will be better for seniors than others. For example, a casserole that’s high in saturated fat or sodium might not fit the senior’s dietary needs.