In line with the importance of nutrition within a care home, Nutritionist Resource member, Cressida Elias, outlines five important aspects to bear in mind when creating a weekly meal plan within your home. 

Whole foods

Whole foods is the top priority. Pre-packaged foods are often full of sugar and table salt, which can both  cause issues for elderly people because as we age, generally the kidneys start to weaken and struggle after many years of coping with toxins and regulating salt, sugar, potassium etc. Looking after your kidneys and liver, the 2 organs that are largely responsible for filtering out toxins, becomes even more important in old age and could extend the person’s life. Including whole foods in a meal doesn’t mean it needs to be complicated with hours of preparation. Simple cuts of meat, eggs, vegetables, low-sugar fruit and some grains or pseudo grains can be cooked very simply in the oven, steamed, slow cooker, pressure cooker etc.  Spring water is also a wholefood and should not be overlooked as an essential part of the meal plan. Spring water contains minerals, some of which can be absorbed, and waters should be rotated as they contain different ratios of minerals helping the residents to be fully hydrated.

Protein and good fats 

Protein is needed each meal, but not always animal protein. Animal protein can be offered twice per day. Protein helps to rebuild tissue and animal fat helps the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins from foods and is good for the skin – other good fats include flaxseed oil, coconut oil and avocado oil. Avoid using seed oils like sunflower or rapeseed, which are often overused and overheated in kitchens or packaged foods. Seed oils get damaged when cooked and can cause more free radical damage in the body, so it is better to use them unheated in salads etc. Instead, when cooking protein, an oven, slow cooker or pressure cooker is preferable to frying although this is okay if the heat is kept fairly low.

Cooked vegetables 

Although a little raw food is good every day, each meal should have a few cups of cooked veggies to aid in mineralising the body, adding fibre to help with feeding the good bacteria in the gut and transporting out waste efficiently. Veggies will leave a person more satisfied and satiated, and less likely to snack too much between meals. Cooking them until soft releases all the nutrients that are bound up in the fibrous tissue.

Snacks

Healthy snacks in between meals, if needed, are important to provide. Nutrient dense snacks rather than white flour products, like cake and biscuits, except on special days or occasions are advised. Snacks can include vegetable or salad sticks with hummus, tahini, roasted almond butter etc. Nut and seed butters are easier to digest and are recommended in preference to the nuts and seeds. Blue corn chips are an antioxidant-rich, healthy snack that can be dipped in any of the above as well.

Salad for digestion

Eating some bitter foods like radishes and rocket salad just before their meal will help residents produce more bile to aid digestion. Always have a bowl handy for residents to help themselves.

https://www.nutritionist-resource.org.uk/nutritionists/cressida-elias