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HOW TO COOK FOR ONE - Meal Planning Strategies for Seniors Living Independently


Meal Planning Strategies for Seniors Living Independently

Many of us find joy in cooking for others. Whether you recently lost your partner or you have noticed that your loved one is losing agility and becoming more forgetful, you may consider putting a meal service in place to prevent possible dangers in the kitchen such as leaving the stove or other appliances on and causing a fire.

Learn more….

You may be tempted to rely on fast food, takeout, or single-serve frozen meals, but there are significant health benefits to cooking at home. In December 2019, the University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging asked a sample of adults ages 50-80 about their cooking and grocery shopping habits. Consider these key takeaways:

  • Older adults who cooked dinner at home 6-7 days per week were more likely to describe their diet as excellent or very good (42 percent) compared to those who cooked two or fewer days per week (23 percent).

  • 71 percent of adults aged 50-80 said they enjoyed cooking, and enjoyment of cooking was more common among adults who reported being in excellent or very good physical health. So, simply by learning how to be more comfortable cooking for yourself, you are taking a positive step toward a healthier lifestyle! While it may take some getting used to, we have some tips: Understand the nutrients you need. Remind yourself of the recommended servings and portion sizes for seniors. Adults aged 50 or older should choose from the following every day:

  • Vegetables: 2 to 3 cups Dairy: 3 cups (fat-free or low-fat)

  • Fruits: 1½ to 2 cups Protein: 5 to 6.5 ounces

  • Grains: 5 to 8 ounces Oils: 5 to 7 teaspoons Plan your meals in advance. Refer to any cookbooks or magazines you may have or search recipes online. Write down the recipes that you want to make for the week before you make a grocery list or place a grocery pick-up order. Don’t forget to include healthy snack ideas, like raw vegetables and hummus, unsalted nuts, whole grain crackers, or homemade trail mix. Divide your recipes—or use your freezer. Many recipes are written to serve 4 or more people. Divide the recipe in half before you plan your ingredient list so that you aren’t left with more food than you need. Or consider making a batch of soup, casserole, or chili and freezing the leftovers in pre-portioned containers. Then you can pull an easy meal from the freezer on days when you need a quick dinner idea and don’t feel like cooking. Put your safety first. As we get older, moving with ease around the kitchen becomes more difficult. It is so important to prioritize your safety while cooking. Here are some tips that will help you learn to enjoy cooking for yourself:

  • Keep your kitchen clean and free of clutter to reduce the risk of falling, implementing non-slip mats and wearing non-slip shoes/slippers.

  • Avoid using out-of-reach cabinets, and store your most-used utensils, kitchen tools, and spices where they can be accessed more easily. Heavy items should be moved out of the way or be at easy reach.

  • Use dinnerware that cannot break such as plastic to avoid injuries from broken ceramic or glass.

  • Remove sharp objects if your loved one is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. All appliances should regularly be checked for leaks to prevent falls.

  • Never leave food on the stove unattended while it is cooking. According to the National Fire Protection Association:, 61% reported house fires involve ranges and cooktops

  • Do a thorough check of all outlets, wiring, and smoke detectors.

  • Make sure that your loved one wears short sleeves or rolls up their sleeves when cooking to prevent them from getting caught and possibly burning.

  • Store a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and make sure to review how to use it with them.

  • Use timers as there is less chance of forgetting something on the stove.

  • Automatic shut-off devices such as stoves and other appliances are a must.

It is important that your loved one is safe in their home and especially in their kitchen. Therefore, it is crucial to make sure that they are aware and comfortable with the changes you are making and know how to use new utensils or appliances you put in their kitchen. This will help avoid hazards, falls, and injuries. You should always make sure you are doing these changes with your senior loved one, as after all, it is their home and their environment that they will be using. Make sure you explain why the changes are being made and how it will help keep them safe and prevent slips, falls, and fires in their home. Should you decide to utilize a meal service, Modern Day Home Health Care can provide grocery shopping and meal preparation services.

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