As we get older our activity levels may change, appetite & motivation to cook can wane. There can be many transitions such as retirement or less connection with family, who are managing their own daily commitments. As well as possibly a tighter budget to manage utilities and shopping. However, during this time of COVID 19, it has been particularly difficult for seniors who are expected to stay home and rely on others for their necessities.
In this article, we provide some tips with regards to economical, practical and nourishing food ideas as well as highlighting the importance of social connection and keeping active for health and longevity.
Older people tend to eat less, they need fewer calories and usually have a smaller appetite. This is where more frequent, smaller meals may suit. It is important to remember that at each meal we have an opportunity to nourish ourselves. If it is only a small meal, then it is vital it is rich in nutrients. Here are some nutrient-rich foods to include daily at meal and snack times:
Soups and Stews
Not only are they easier to digest but it is a great way to include extra veggies and fibre. Ensure to include a protein source such as lentils, beans or chicken. Make extra and freeze into portions. See our delicious recipe for Roasted Vine Tomato and Mozzarella Soup.
Whether it is fried with some onion and mushroom, enjoyed as a pate with toasted wholemeal pitta bread, or added to a bolognaise, liver packs a punch in terms of nutrients. It contains iron for supporting oxygenation and energy levels, as well as fat-soluble vitamins and antioxidants. Antioxidants are the key to ageing well and supporting longevity.
A wonderful healthful fat to include as part of a salad, into a smoothie or mashed on to toast with sardines or eggs. They are rich in antioxidants and fats to support cardiovascular health.
Yes, eggs are OK! Many older people will have grown up with the information that too many eggs will raise cholesterol, but this myth has been debunked. In fact, eggs are a wonderful source of fat, protein and even the yolk has a small amount of vitamin D. Aim for organic or free-range.
Hummus, pesto, tapenade or guacamole are another easy way to include lots of healthful oils and protein into the diet, they help to fortify any meal or snack. See our recipe for Creamy Hummus here!
Nourishing Convenience Foods
For those living alone, there can be little motivation to prepare a proper meal. There is a lot involved in shopping, chopping and preparing. However, most of the supermarkets have healthier convenience foods as an alternative such as
These can be found fresh or frozen. You can buy carrots chopped into batons, stir fry mixes and not only frozen peas but frozen broccoli or cauliflower and even diced and frozen onions. This can minimise the need to shop and allow someone to have the makings of a stir fry, soup or casserole in the freezer when the mood takes them. Add bagged salads to the shopping list for ease of making a light meal, always rinse before eating.
Milled or ground seeds
These are a wonderful addition to morning porridge, in yoghurt or sprinkled over a salad. They fortify any dish with protein and the essential fats omega 3 and 6. They also blend well into smoothies see here for our Anti-Aging Smoothie!
Tinned beans or fish
Cheap and cheerful yet highly nourishing. Another convenient addition to the growing list of store cupboard essentials. Beans or fish can be kept for a long time, will fit the smallest of budgets and can be opened easily to make a highly nourishing meal or snack.
Wholemeal pitta bread
Very economical and once opened can be frozen to avoid waste. They have very few ingredients and are preferable to the usual sliced pan. Once toasted you can add tinned fish, a handful of salad & sliced tomato or simply hummus & cheese.
Oily fish 2-3 times per week
Salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines and anchovies contain the essential fat omega 3. The specific essential fats in oily fish are called EPA and DHA. These are protective of the cardiovascular system, joints and brain so a wonderful addition to everyone’s weekly meal planner!
Tinned mackerel or sardines are lovely on wholemeal toast, smoked salmon is lovely with scrambled egg and mushrooms, trout can be baked in the oven for 15 mins and enjoyed with frozen green beans that have been fried in some olive oil or butter.
Social Connection and Keeping Active
When living alone or with a partner, for some there can be times where it feels isolating. Maintaining a connection and sense of purpose in day to day routine is very important. Everyone needs a reason to get up in the morning!
Finding a walking buddy or group to meet regularly, joining an active retirement group, going for a swim, looking after a grandchild, taking groceries to someone less mobile, all help to stay connected and stay active.
If you are less mobile, join an arts & crafts group, or the local bridge team. Not only are you keeping social connections but also keeping the brain active and firing.
Check out Active Retirement Ireland for local groups.
During COVID times much of the above are not options, therefore making a phone call each day to catch up with a friend or family member is important. If you can facetime or have a group family meeting each week that is also a great way to stay connected and something to look forward to until restrictions are lifted. In the meantime read our blog ‘Self-Care During Uncertain Times’ to support mental health and well being while social isolating.
Find Your Daily Mindful Moment!
What routine or moment in the day makes you feel happy? For me, it is my morning coffee! For others, it might be a glass of something special in the evening or a sweet treat! The key is to enjoy it mindfully, I often take a deep breath in and long sigh out when I smell and sip my daily morning cuppa. It is a moment of mindfulness where you can feel grateful for the small things, where stress can melt away. It might change each day, one day it might be sitting in a cosy corner looking out at the rain with a hot cup of tea, another day it might be sitting in a sunny spot enjoying the spring blooms!
One thing this COVID experience has taught us all is to be grateful for the simpler things in life. Such as the health of close friends & family, and sharing hugs & cups of tea with loved ones. We can look forward to these moments again in the not too distant future.