Ensure Your Aging Parent Has A Balanced Diet
If your aging parent lives alone, there is a chance that he or she is not getting proper nutrition. As we get older, our appetite decreases. If your aging parent is also dealing with health or depression issues, they may not have the energy or interest to prepare and eat healthy meals.
You’d be surprised at some of the meals my clients ate. I had one client who didn’t know how to use her microwave so she would eat canned soup straight out of the can – gross! I had another client who bought fried chicken, a Subway sandwich or hot dogs and eat them for two days.
I can’t say I blame them for not having the desire to cook. I hate cooking and look forward to the point where I no longer have to cook regular meals for others. The problem is, a poor diet can lead to health challenges. It can also make it difficult for them to recover from illness or injury.
If you’re concerned about your aging parent’s diet, or just looking for ways to improve your own diet, there are ways to improve eating habits without spending hours in the kitchen.
Simple Healthy Eating Tips
Improving your aging parent’s diet doesn’t mean you or they have to spend hours in the kitchen. If your aging parent isn’t as hungry and isn’t interested in eating large meals, they can eat small meals throughout the day. The goal is to ensure your parent is getting enough protein and nutrients from vegetables and fruit.
Sometimes just knowing what your parent should eat is half the battle. I try to take time on Sunday to prepare meals for the week. You can do the same for your aging parent if they are struggling to eat nutritious meals or mini-meals. If you’re at a loss and don’t know what to prepare for your parents, here are some examples of snacks that can be turned into a healthy mini-meal.
Sample Healthy Mini Meals
- Hardboiled eggs, hummus and carrots or bell peppers
- Cottage cheese and fruit salad (variety of chopped fruit with a half cup of cottage cheese)
- Half peanut butter and jelly sandwich and side salad with nuts and cheese
- Almonds, dried fruit and cheese slices
- Yogurt with fresh fruit
- Frozen fruit smoothie (with yogurt and protein powder)
- Soup and salad or grilled cheese sandwich
- Scrambled eggs, avocado and tomatoes with toast
Healthy Food Shopping List
If you need help shopping for groceries (or ordering groceries online), here is a sample shopping list that will help you stock your parent’s refrigerator with healthy snacks that will keep them strong and energized.
- Vegetables that can be eaten raw (carrots, celery, bell peppers, snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower). Note – sometimes it is wiser to purchase pre-cut and pre-washed vegetables to ensure they actually get eaten. While it is cheaper to buy whole and prep yourself, if the vegetables aren’t getting eaten, you’ve wasted the money.
- Various fruits, particularly fruit that doesn’t require much preparation (bananas, grapes, berries). If your parent enjoys fruit that is typically too large for them to finish (cantaloupe, pineapple, watermelon), consider buying these fruits pre-cut in portion sizes that are reasonable for your parent to consume.
- Easy protein sources that don’t require much preparation. Your aging parent can boil eggs a few at a time and re-heat or eat cold. String cheese, cheese slices, yogurt and cottage cheese are a quick protein sources that don’t require cooking. If your parent likes fish, they can buy frozen fish and cook in the skillet. When I was single, I used to buy turkey cutlets and cook them in the skillet in less than ten minutes.
- Snacks such as nuts, dried fruit and hummus are wonderful healthy snacks.
Bonus Healthy Eating Tips
If your aging parent isn’t a snacker and prefers actual traditional meals, here are some tips to helping them get healthy meals on the table.
- Cook once, eat three times. Large batch cooking is your friend. Make a meatloaf, casserole or large pot of soup and freeze individual portions. Your parent can pull out what they want to eat when they are ready.
- Simplify meals. Your aging parent is probably still used to large meals that he or she prepared for a family. The problem is, they probably don’t have the same appetite or energy to prepare such robust meals so pare down the meals. A simple seasoned piece of fish sautéed on the skillet is a great, quick dinner. They can also grill a few chicken breasts and vegetables to be eaten during the week.
- Take shortcuts. If you or your aging parent has a busy week, take meal shortcuts. I bought a rotisserie chicken this week because I wasn’t able to get dinner on the table. That chicken will make two family dinners for my husband and kids – imagine how many meals your parents can get out of one! You can also buy a few frozen meals that don’t require much effort for those crazy weeks where no one is able to cook.
The goal is to help your aging parent maintain a healthy diet. No one needs to go crazy preparing gourmet meals. Simple, healthy meals that can be prepared quickly and provide the proper nutrients are more important than fancy meals. Do you have go-to quick meals? My favorite quick lunch is a scoop of cottage cheese with whatever fruit we have on hand.