According to the National Institutes of Health, seniors are at an increased risk of malnutrition, in part because they are not consuming nutrient-rich foods. In fact, an estimated 16% of seniors in retirement homes or other community-based living facilities are considered malnourished.
When you’re running an assisted living or retirement community, you have a lot on your plate. You must ensure that your residents are safe and receiving proper medical care. You must focus on their mental health and physical abilities.
On top of all of that, it is crucial that you come up with a healthy, balanced assisted living menu. There are a number of different ways to promote healthy eating, starting with providing more nutrient-dense options and fewer empty calories.
Read on to learn more about retirement home menu planning and how to increase the nutritional value of your residents’ meals.
Lower Salt Intake But Increase Flavor
Consuming too much sodium can cause a myriad of health problems, from high blood pressure to an increased risk of stroke or heart failure. When you’re making healthy choices for senior living, it is important to stay away from high-sodium foods or recipes that call for a ton of salt.
However, seniors over the age of 70 are prone to a loss of taste and smell. This may be caused by the loss of nerve endings in the nasal lining or decreased mucus production in the nose, although other conditions such as smoking can exacerbate the loss of these senses. As a result, many seniors do not taste their food as easily, which means that you need to increase the flavor while keeping the salt to a minimum.
One way to create more flavorful dishes is to include an abundance of fresh herbs. Cilantro can bring life to Mexican-inspired dishes, Thai-inspired dishes, and more. Herbs like basil, oregano, and thyme are perfect for Mediterranean, Italian, and even French cooking.
Dried spices will also come in handy. Chili powder, paprika, red pepper flakes, and cumin can all add a nice kick to any recipe. Other spices such as onion powder, garlic powder, ginger, and turmeric are all highly aromatic and are sure to make any dish exciting, even for those with a diminished sense of smell.
Choose Proteins Carefully
In the United States, we tend to consume more fatty red meats than we should. These high-cholesterol foods can prove especially risky when we’re aging and our metabolism is slowing down. The good news is that there are plenty of delicious, healthy protein alternatives that can replace pork and beef.
Lean Meats and Seafood
White meats and seafood are high in protein as well as potassium and calcium, two minerals seniors are often lacking. Plus, they contain amino acids that are more easily digested, which is a much better option for seniors with sensitive stomachs.
Vegetarian Protein Options
Did you know that there are plenty of non-meat options that are high in protein, too? A cup of beans or legumes, including black beans, split peas, and lima beans, contains about 60% of your necessary daily value. Soy products such as tofu and tempeh are also high in protein and can add body to stir-fries, soups, and even sandwiches.
Include Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables on Your Assisted Living Menu
What’s the most important aspect of dietary menus for assisted living? An abundance of fruits and vegetables available with every meal. Indeed, whole food plant-based senior living is a trend growing in popularity, as high plant-based food consumption has been linked to effects like higher energy levels and lower risk of death from heart disease.
For breakfast, pair eggs with hearty green vegetables like spinach or kale. Include mixed berries and other fruits with any yogurt or cereal options you provide.
For lunch and dinner, go beyond the salad bar. Find ways to incorporate vegetables into all of your recipes, even in ways that are somewhat undetectable for your pickier eaters. Blend greens into your tomato sauces or switch out white rice for cauliflower rice.
Replacing dessert altogether may not be an option, but increasing the health benefits of dessert food is! Swap out sugary toppings for your ice cream bar with cut strawberries, bananas, and other whole fruits. Encourage your residents to ward off sugar cravings with mangos, blueberries, watermelon, and other sources of natural, unrefined sugar.
Ultimately, you want each senior to cover about half of their plate with fruits and vegetables. The best way to make this happen is to provide a variety of options they can choose from every night in addition to any subtle vegetable dishes you may serve. The more colorful their plate is, the more vitamins and nutrients they’re consuming.
Grow Your Own
Babylon Micro-Farms is working hard to make self-sustainable gardening methods available to all businesses and institutions. Why purchase what you can grow right on assisted living grounds?
When you sign up for our guided growing service, you receive all the tools you need to start growing heirloom greens, herbs, and more. You tell us what you want to grow, we send your curated seed bank, and we manage your growing conditions remotely. You’re guaranteed a quality harvest throughout the year!
Cultivate Health Through Dietary Menus for Assisted Living
Creating healthy eating habits can take time and you may be met with some resistance. The best way to approach it is to steadily increase healthy options such as lean meats, vegetarian proteins, and more fruits and vegetables while slowly decreasing unhealthy options. Show your residents that healthy eating is fun and flavorful by coming up with a diverse and exciting assisted living menu.
Everyone here at Babylon Micro-Farms is here to make that transition easier. To find out more about our guided growing service and how it will benefit you and your residents, contact us today.