Making the Most of Mealtime, From Grocery Shopping to Cooking at Home

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Home Instead Senior Care shares tips to establish smart eating habits

Many health experts consider good nutrition the first line of defense for older adults who are striving to maintain their independence as they age, helping to protect them from illness and disease. But, a variety of obstacles, from medications and illnesses to memory and physical constraints, can make shopping, cooking and dining a challenge for seniors – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While many recognize the challenges seniors face at mealtime, social isolation and lack of companionship can often be overlooked as barriers to proper nutrition for older adults. And, the impact of senior loneliness is not to be understated. According to new data from Home Instead Senior Care, lonely U.S. seniors get 15% fewer servings of fruits and vegetables each year, when compared with seniors who don’t report feeling lonely.

“We are what we eat, and for seniors, a wholesome diet is absolutely critical to the aging process,” said Lakelyn Hogan, gerontologist and caregiver advocate at Home Instead Senior Care. “While poor diet can be detrimental to an individual’s health, COVID-19 has reminded us of something else we often taken for granted at mealtime – companionship. Whether it's with a family member, friend or a professional caregiver, a shared meal can contribute to an older adult’s health and well-being in a big way.”

Whether you see suppertime as stressful or comforting, there are always opportunities to make it more enjoyable regardless of the challenges. Hogan recommends the following ideas to make breakfast, lunch and dinner a time you’ll look forward to.

  • Make mealtime an event. It’s natural to experience a loss of appetite as you age, especially when you’re taking certain medications or dealing with specific illnesses. To help spark your appetite, fill your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables, pull out an age-old recipe or decorate the table with real or artificial flowers. If you have trouble remembering to eat, consider establishing a regular mealtime routine that’s aligned with prescribed medication times.
  • Plan nutritious meals. Keep things simple and stock up on the staples. Oatmeal, eggs, blueberries and fish hold nutritional value and are extremely versatile. To combat “convenience eating,” keep quick snacks in your cabinet that are just as healthy as they are handy. Easy-to-eat items such as yogurt, fruit and nuts can also curb between-meal cravings.
  • Dine with friends. For most of us, eating isn’t just a matter of getting the food and nutrition we need – it is a social gathering we share with others. During a time when physically eating together may not be possible, consider other options, such as video chatting with a loved one while you are preparing or eating your food. Or, enjoy a socially distant meal with your neighbors while sitting in your backyard or driveway. Even an activity as simple as meal planning with a loved one can bring new meaning to your dining experience.
  • Keep experimenting! While nutritionists often focus on fresh ingredients, canned and frozen foods can be hearty options as well. If you’re unable to shop often, or fresh fruits and veggies aren’t readily accessible, consider stashing away non-perishable options such as canned tuna, pumpkin or pinto beans. Caught in a rut? Mix up your food choices by enhancing their flavor with herbs and spices.
  • Seek additional support. Difficulty when shopping or cooking can pose major challenges to eating healthy, especially for older adults who have recently been discharged from the hospital. Whether keeping a kitchen of tasty choices is a struggle or merely an inconvenience, home-delivered meals can make all the difference. Free apps such as InstaCart or Hello Fresh can deliver all the necessary ingredients to your doorstep. Or, if you’re still feeling stuck, consider enlisting professional in-home care services, such as Home Instead Senior Care for assistance with grocery shopping and meal preparation.

With the right resources and support, every senior can maintain a nutrient-rich diet that sustains a thriving lifestyle. Adjusting to new eating habits takes time and energy, so make sure to check-in with yourself on a frequent basis and focus on implementing one small change at a time. And, most importantly, don’t forget the ingredient no senior should ever live without – companionship.

For more tips to help plan and prepare for nutritious meals, visit

Founded in 1994 in Omaha, Nebraska, the Home Instead Senior Care® franchise network provides personalized care, support and education to enhance the lives of aging adults and their families. Today, the network is the world's leading provider of in-home care services for seniors, with more than 1,200 independently owned and operated franchises that provide more than 80 million hours of care annually throughout the United States and 13 other countries. Local Home Instead Senior Care offices employ approximately 90,000 CAREGivers℠ worldwide who provide basic support services that enable seniors to live safely and comfortably in their own homes for as long as possible. Home Instead Senior Care franchise owners partner with clients and their family members to help meet varied individual needs. Services span the care continuum – from providing personal care to specialized Alzheimer’s care and hospice support. Also available are family caregiver education and support resources. Visit Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Dan Wieberg
Home Instead Senior Care
+1 (402) 575-5970
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