As we age, getting the proper nutrition becomes harder for a number of reasons – going to the grocery store is more of a challenge, cooking nutritious meals can be more difficult, and making meals or eating alone just isn’t as enjoyable as it used to be. Regardless, eating healthy meals, is of course, extremely important.
Before we explore the menu options, there are a few meal preps tips that can make cooking easier.
- Make a meal plan and write it down. Schedule your meals out for the entire week – not only will this eliminate multiple trips to the store but knowing ahead of time what you are going to cook and eat makes the process less overwhelming. Another option to ease the burden is to subscribe to one of the various home delivery meal services that supply you with ingredients for several meals and detailed instructions.
- Make it a group event. Create your meal plan with input from friends and family using some of their favorite recipes or consider creating a shared meal plan with them. Everyone can try new recipes or shared recipes and report back on what they liked, didn’t like, or what they would change.
- Prep in bulk. If you know you need rice or chopped peppers and onions for several dishes consider prepping or making them in bulk-and freezing them for later use- to last several meals. This makes future meals much quicker and easier to make.
Easy Breakfast Meals
The daily serving recommendations for seniors according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, specifies that seniors need 65 grams of protein a day. Incorporating protein into breakfast is a great way to start the day with energy.
- Warm oatmeal and berries. Whether you choose to make your oatmeal on the stove, in the microwave, or overnight, eating it with fresh or previously frozen berries is a simple but delicious breakfast that will keep you full for hours.
- Hard-boiled eggs. These are easy to make in bulk and store in the fridge. Add a slice of whole wheat toast, cottage cheese, or some fresh fruit and you have a simple, well-balanced meal.
- Scrambled eggs (or egg whites if you’re watching your cholesterol) with diced onions, mushrooms, or chives.
- Yogurt parfait. It’s almost like dessert for breakfast! Layer your favorite low sugar yogurt with some fresh fruit and granola/nuts for a good combo of healthy fat, vitamin C, and carbohydrates.
- Nut butter toast. For healthy fat and some protein, spread peanut butter, almond butter, or your favorite nut butter on whole wheat toast. Enjoy fresh fruit on the side.
- Poached egg. A much healthier alternative to fried, place a poached egg on top of whole wheat toast and steamed asparagus. Garnish with your favorite topping.
Easy Lunch Meals
The USDA recommends that seniors get 2-2 1/2 cups of fresh vegetables daily and lunch is the ideal meal for loading up on those colorful vegetables. Feel free to add leafy greens to any of these meals for additional midday nutrients. Lunch should be the most substantial meal of your day. Steaming or sautéing vegetables also makes for easier chewing. The USDA recommends steaming or sautéing vegetables in olive oil instead of boiling, which drains the nutrients.
- Quinoa salad. Sauté pre-chopped stir-fry vegetables (onion, red pepper, mushrooms). Combine with pine nuts or pecans and cooked quinoa. Toss with Italian salad dressing. Eat fresh, warm, or cold. Keeps well refrigerated.
- Eggs and red potatoes. Melt a pat of butter in a skillet. Chop up potatoes and add to skillet over a medium heat. Cover skillet for two minutes. Then, pour scrambled eggs over potatoes, add pepper, and toss until eggs are hot. Rather than season with salt, which can lead to water retention and high blood pressure, use fresh herbs and spices.
- Homemade tuna salad. Try using canola mayo and adding pine nuts or chopped cashews for added texture. Add curry seasoning for extra flavor. Serve as an open-faced sandwich or as a salad.
- Green leafy salad with your favorite vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, olives, and avocado.
- Homemade soup. Start with vegetarian or chicken stock, then add your favorite vegetables and seasonings. Potatoes add a nice thickening texture, and squash or fresh corn add a sweetening factor. Best if made the day before, but a large batch can be frozen into individual portions for anytime use.
- Salmon or chicken wrap. Place canned Alaskan boneless skinless salmon or sliced baked/grilled chicken on a whole grain wrap. Add chopped avocado, tomatoes, greens, and plain yogurt. Wrap tightly, cut in half, and serve.
Easy Dinner Meals
Most dinner menus will call for sauteing vegetables or a protein in a healthy fat such as olive oil but stay away from canola oil which is linked to decreased cognitive function. In addition to extra virgin olive oil, you can integrate avocado oil into your cooking.
- Baked or grilled Alaskan salmon. Top each steak with tomatoes, sweet onion, dried or fresh basil, chopped garlic and one tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Wrap each piece of fish tightly in aluminum foil and place in the oven on a low heat (300 degrees). If the fish is thawed, cook for about 15 minutes. Dinner is ready when the fish is flaky but still moist.
- Lamb and potatoes. (If you can keep some parboiled red potatoes on hand, you can prepare fast and easy meals.) Form ground lamb into small meatballs. Tear fresh basil into slivers or use a pinch of dried basil. Slice pre-cooked red potatoes into small pieces. Slice a clove of garlic. Warm extra virgin olive oil in a skillet. Sauté garlic and basil on a medium heat for five minutes. Add lamb and brown. Add potatoes; cover for 10 minutes Toss ingredients; add a dash of ground pepper. Cook for an additional five minutes.
- Shrimp and pasta. Heat a pat of butter and one tablespoon olive oil in a saucepan. Add chopped fresh herbs, garlic, and a handful of shrimp. Toss and cook until shrimp is done. Place on a bed of pasta and top with chopped fresh tomatoes.
- Beans and rice. Heat up a can of black, pinto, or white beans. Serve with brown rice, oats, or barley. You can warm the meal in a crockpot and serve later.
- Shrimp and fresh greens. Sauté fresh vegetables in a saucepan (you can buy pre-cut veggies), with olive oil. Add cocktail shrimp, which can be bought peeled, cooked, and chilled. Serve with a berry vinaigrette salad dressing and lime slices.
- Southwest chicken salad. Cook boneless, skinless chicken breast on a medium heat in a skillet with extra virgin olive oil. Add salsa. Shred chicken and reserve in refrigerator to use for wraps, salad, or soup.
What you don’t eat is just as important as what you do. It’s a good idea to limit or avoid foods that don’t provide much nutrition but add a lot of calories. Snacks and dessert foods such as chips, soda, cookies, cake, and pie are a few of the main culprits. Try to avoid saturated and trans fats, use salt sparingly, and limit alcohol.
Additional meal and recipe ideas can be found at:
- Mayo Clinic: The recipes featured on Mayo Clinic’s website include appetizers, breads, beverages, main dishes, and desserts. Plus, they offer a free e-newsletter and other resources for healthy eating.
- Eating Well: Eating Well has quick and easy heart-healthy dinner recipes including chicken or turkey, meals, hearty soups and salads, and even deconstructed lasagna.
- Delish: Delish features 15 heart-healthy recipes that can be prepared in under 30 minutes. Plus, they have 5 grams or less of saturated fat per serving. Choose from soups, tacos, salmon, tilapia, and pasta dishes.