How to eat for a healthy, long life
“How’s the food?”
Gary McBlain — a Red Seal chef — is accustomed to hearing questions about dining at Amica Mature Lifestyles’ communities. But the queries typically depend on who’s asking. Sons and daughters want to be reassured that their aging parents will be eating wholesome meals. Seniors want to know if the food is delicious, fresh and varied.
“Fortunately, it’s all of the above,” says McBlain, who as Amica’s national director of culinary services, oversees the kitchens at premium senior living communities across Canada. “We know that coming to the dining room is an enjoyable part of the day for our residents and we create menus to keep them happy.”
Here, McBlain serves up healthy (and delicious) eating tips for seniors:
Get those veggies: It turns out that moms have been right for centuries — we can all benefit from the essential vitamins and minerals packed in fruits and vegetables. Opt for whole grains at least half the time, including oatmeal, brown or wild rice. Get the protein your body needs from lean meats and fish, and try going meatless by choosing beans, legumes, tofu and eggs. Amica’s menus flag dishes containing under 400 calories, 500 mg or less of sodium and less than 65 per cent of calories from carbohydrates.
Eat with the seasons: Anyone who’s ever eaten an apple off the tree or freshly picked corn on the cob knows that in-season produce is food at its best.
Shake up routines: Everyone has their personal favourites, but don’t be afraid to try new foods. You might find something you like, and you’ll give your body a different infusion of essential nutrients. “Imagine eating at the same restaurant every day,” says McBlain. “We go to great lengths to offer variety because we recognize that our residents don’t always want to eat the same things.”
Choose tender meats and fish: If you have trouble chewing due to weakened jaws or dental issues, choose your protein and cooking style wisely. Chefs at Amica braise ribs, beef stew or a leg of lamb to keep them moist. “We’d serve a pork tenderloin instead of other cuts of pork so the meat stays tender,” says McBlain. Most salads avoid the use of seeds and nuts so they’re easier for seniors to chew.
Keep your tummy content: The digestive system slows down as we age, so seniors need to pay special attention to fibre and hydration. Fresh vegetables, fruit and whole grains will help, along with staying active and drinking water. Hydration could include a glass of herb or citrus-flavoured water.
Right-size your meal: Most seniors lack the appetite to plough through a platesized steak or a mountain of pasta. Smaller portions are ideal to get a variety of delicious and healthy foods throughout the day.
Dine with a friend: Make meals an enjoyable experience. “If you live alone, have coffee with a friend or invite your neighbour for tuna sandwiches — it doesn’t have to be fancy,” says McBlain.