Eating nutritiously in winter isn’t easy: People crave comfort food more, and fresh fruits and vegetables are not as readily available.
Older adults face challenges in eating nutritiously
The Esquiline’s Chef Todd Schrage says that ensuring older adults eat nutritiously during the winter months poses additional challenges.
“Most people are unaware that we lose our taste buds as we age. It is difficult to taste the true flavors of food, which can make eating less enjoyable and even become a chore for some seniors. As this happens, foods may begin to lose their appeal, which is why many people tend to lose their appetites,” he says.
The problem of serving nutritious food that appeals to the appetites of older adults becomes more difficult when dietary restrictions exist.
“For most seniors, there are dietary restrictions due to medical conditions, so it’s more difficult to satisfy their taste buds with foods they once loved and still be healthy,” adds Chef Todd, a former Southwestern Illinois College Culinary Arts instructor.
Avoid foods with salt, sugar and fat
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed guidelines for older adults based on the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet to lower hypertension.
The USDA encourages older adults to eat fresh foods high in fiber to reduce the risk of heart disease and promote regularity. They also advise against foods with added sugar, salt and saturated fat.
“One caution about buying packaged (canned, frozen, or dried) fruits and vegetables is they may contain added sugars, saturated fats, or sodium—ingredients you may need to limit,” notes the USDA on their website.
Chef Todd concurs: “There are many ways of making food very tasty without making a meal unhealthy with too much salt, sugar or fat. This is a new challenge for the cook to be more creative and healthy with their cooking.”
Add spices for flavor
Chef Todd says that adding spices and substituting healthier ingredients ensure mature adults can still taste the foods without ingesting too much sugar, saturated fats or sodium.
“Try using other spices, like vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon (and avoiding sugar). Add unsweetened applesauce and mashed bananas,” he advises.
There’s no reason anyone’s taste buds should complain while eating nutritiously, Chef Todd notes. “There are so many healthier options in making food taste really good and hopefully, recharge those taste buds to new adventure!”
Below are some recipes that meet USDA guidelines:
6 teaspoons chocolate chips (semi-sweet)
2 bananas (large, peeled and cut into quarters)
8 strawberries (large)
1/4 cup peanuts (chopped, unsalted)
- Place chocolate chips in a small microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high for 10 seconds and stir. Repeat until chocolate is melted, about 30 seconds.
- Place fruit on a small tray covered with a piece of waxed paper. Use a spoon to drizzle the melted chocolate on top of the fruit.
- Sprinkle the fruit with chopped nuts.
- Cover the fruit and place in the refrigerator for 10 minutes or until the chocolate hardens. Serve chilled.
Chicken and Spanish Rice
(makes 5 servings, serving size: 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup onions, chopped
1/4 cup green peppers, chopped
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 1/2 cups frozen peas
1 teaspoon parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced
5 cups cooked brown rice (in unsalted water)
3 1/2 cups chicken breast, cooked (skin removed), diced
- In a large skillet, sauté onions and green peppers in oil for 5 minutes on medium heat.
- Add tomato sauce, peas, and spices. Heat through.
- Add cooked rice and chicken. Heat through.
Tuna-Grape Salad Sandwich
2 ounces canned light tuna, packed in water
2 tablespoons celery
3/4 cup green or red grapes
1 tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise
2 slices whole-wheat bread
1 large leaf romaine lettuce
Recipes for some of Chef Todd’s healthy comfort foods are available here!