Expand your palate with our top tips for cooking for older people
28th February 2018
This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.
All people need to eat a balanced diet that is full of different nutrients and this is especially important as people get older. But if an older person is frail or is not coping with the demands of daily life it is important that a relative or friend supports them in their cooking.
Many older people with mobility problems who need new stairlifts struggle to cope with cooking warm meals every day and need a helping hand. Therefore family members or friends may need to take responsibility for preparing some or all of their meals.
Some people have concerns about this due to their elderly relative or friend’s health issues or their own lack of experience in preparing nutritious meals. This guide provides tips on best practice for preparation and ingredients.
Home cooked meals are best
There are so many benefits to cooking a meal for an older relative or friend as research has shown that people who eat home-cooked meals on a regular basis are happier and healthier as they consume less sugar and processed food.
Helen Best-Shaw, the freelance food and travel writer and photographer from Fuss Free Flavours, says, “There is no substitute for home cooked food so make it easy with cheat ingredients. Frozen vegetables are ready prepared and will last far longer than their fresh counterparts, my favourite cheat ingredient to make meal prep easy is diced frozen onions – cook from frozen, no chopping required.
“Good nutrition will help boost immunity, strength and mood. A delicious meal is something to look forward to and a highlight of many people’s days.”
Consider taking a cooking class
People that haven’t got much of cooking for themselves or other people may benefit from attending a cooking class and there are lots of cookery schools located all over the UK.
Philleigh Way Cookery School, located in Cornwall, offers lots of different cookery courses that range from vegetarian and fish dishes to baking classes.
The Avenue Cookery School, who are located in London, also offer evening and weekend classes in specific cuisines such as Italian cooking, sushi and vegan.
Cookery schools such as this will help you to cook a variety of different dishes and there are even specific classes on offer for caregivers.
Replace unhealthy fats with good fats
If you have been advised that the older person you are cooking for needs to be on a healthier diet it doesn’t mean that no fats are can be included in meals.
Trans fats and saturated fats are the ones to avoid and should be replaced with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as they raise good cholesterol and protect against heart disease.
In an article by the Health website about trans fats it says, “Trans fats can make food taste good, last longer on grocery-store shelves, and are more hazardous for your heart. The good news is that many manufacturers and fast-food chains have removed or reduced this type of fat in their products.”
If possible it is best to try and avoid including any trans fats in meals that are being prepared.
Let your loved one choose the recipe
If you struggle to decide which meals to cook why not let your loved one choose the meal they would like to eat?
By purchasing a cookbook or a food magazine with pictures and recipes it allows your older relative or friend to pick something that looks appealing to them.
The cook can also adapt the recipes so it aligns more closely with any dietary requirements or nutritional needs. There is also food cooking kits that can be purchased such as Gousto, which allows people to choose their own recipes.
Keep meals interesting and easily digestible
Sometimes when a person is cooking for someone else it can become a bit monotonous and it is easy to cook meals that just take a few minutes to prepare, but it’s important to mix things up and cook interesting meals.
It is also important to consider cooking meals that are easily digestible as it can become harder to swallow and chew foods as we age.
Fuss Free Flavours’ Helen Best-Shaw, says, “Keep meals interesting, not too fussy and easily digestible. Be sensitive to the fact that eyes and teeth may not be as good as they used to be, so take care with fiddly food that might contain bones, or sticky chewy food that might dislodge false teeth. Appetite wanes with age, so keep portion size down so as not to overwhelm – you can always serve a second helping.”
Consider using naturally sweet foods instead of sugar
If the older person you’re cooking for has a sweet tooth, then instead of adding sugar it would be best to increase the sweetness of meals by using naturally sweet food such as fruit or peppers to name just a few.
Another great idea people can use is to supplement an older person’s meal with healthy snacks and smoothies to ensure they are eating their five-a-day.
Older people who struggle to swallow will really appreciate smoothies as they are easy to drink, making them perfect for seniors.
There are a number of easy and quick recipes people can make for older people and here are just some of the meals that you can cook.
Baked or grilled salmon steak
Fish and shellfish are full of nutrients and salmon is no different. The fish is high in protein, vitamins and minerals and its omega-3 fatty acids are responsible for oily fish’s reputation as a valuable brain food. Another big positive of salmon is that it’s not a bony fish and is therefore perfect for older adults.
To go alongside your fish steak people can use tomatoes, sweet onion, fresh basil and chopped garlic.
Find the method to cook salmon steak here.
According to BBC Good Food, Chicken fattoush is a “healthy Middle Eastern salad topped with sumac-sprinkled pitta bread”.
The dish is easy to make and is a great option to serve to an older person for lunch or supper as it takes just 15 minutes to prepare and can serve up to four people.
Find the method for making the chicken fattoush here.
White Bean Soup with toasted cheese and tomato
This white bean soup is not only really healthy, but is also really easy to make. By steeping the chicken broth with sprigs of rosemary and thyme it makes the soup even more flavoursome.
The cheese and tomato sandwich that goes alongside the soup is toasted and is served with juicy chopped tomatoes.
Check out the recipe for the soup here.
Image Credit: Caroline Attwood, Armando Ascorve Morales (Unsplash).