But I Don’t Cook Much Anymore

As some people age, they don’t cook as much anymore.  Sometimes people stop cooking all together.  This is can be due to a variety of reasons such as:

“I don’t want to cook anymore. I cooked for 80 years; that is plenty!”

“I don’t trust my memory with the stove and oven.  I am afraid to cook on my own.” 

“I get tired more easily and preparing and cooking meals takes too much out of me.” 

“Food doesn’t taste the same to me anymore, so when I take the time to cook, it is often disappointing.” 

As a result, this can impact the quality and quantity of what someone is eating.  Here are some suggestions for keeping you/your loved one’s diet healthy so that you/they won’t lose weight or become malnourished. 

  1. If your loved one lives in a place that provides meals or some type of meal plan (assisted living, nursing home, senior apartment complex), see if it can be added to the monthly rent if they are not already participating in the program. Even if 1 meal a day is provided, that is 1 less meal your loved one needs to prepare.  If they are already participating in it, but are having difficulties with the food for one reason or another, have a conversation with the manager, director, social worker, or kitchen staff about making accommodations that work for your relative.  They may be able to make changes that are helpful. 
  2. Look into companies such as Meals on Wheels.  They have a long standing reputation for delivering meals to elderly and disabled people.  Some people love the food, others don’t care for it much at all.  They also say on their website that they do ‘health and safety checks’ for the elderly and disabled.  They not only come to your home, but they provide meals within some social settings such as local senior centers.   
  3. See if a home delivery company fits in your budget. This is a little different than Meals on Wheels – this type of company only provides ready-made meals either fresh or frozen and require little to no cooking to enjoy.  For example, one company that offer this service is MagicKitchen.com. Some other companies that I have heard about more recently are Freshology.com and Freshly.com
  4. You can purchase frozen meals (like TV Dinners) from the grocery store that only require a little microwave cooking. BE AWARE that sodium levels are often VERY high on these types of processed foods! Remember, you should be getting 400-500 mg. or less of sodium per meal, especially if you’re on a low salt diet (Low salt diets should be 1500 mg or lower each day).  I suggested to my grandmother (who no longer cooks unless it goes in the microwave) a few weeks ago that she only buys lower sodium frozen meals (check the sodium content to see if it is less than 500 mg for the whole meal). Then I told her to split the food up into 2 parts – have half of that eggplant parmesan with a side salad and then have the other half tomorrow with some rice and steamed green beans. This cuts down on the salt in your meals, allows you to stretch your meals further, and keeps cooking to a bare minimum. 
  5. Go for frozen or canned vegetables and fruits. Always get the ones that are SALT FREE or NO ADDED SALT. They are usually available in the same section as the regular, salty products. Just read the labels carefully to find the ones you’re looking for at the store. Frozen veggies heat up easily in the microwave and canned vegetables just need to be rinsed and warmed up. Fruits are easy – just open and eat! By the way, canned veggies and steamed frozen veggies are usually softer to eat and are easier to manage if your chewing skills are not what they used to be. 
  6. Buy frozen meatballs that can be heated in the microwave. Add your own sauce and serve with whole grain or other fiber rich pasta (if you’re okay cooking the pasta). There are lentil pastas, black bean pastas, soy noodle pastas, wheat pastas, quinoa pastas, corn pastas, and more! Choose the ones with the most fiber and protein. I love the bean pastas because they cook very quickly and are very nutrient dense! 
  7. If you or your loved one cannot get out to go shopping, there are services available to do your shopping for you. Many grocery chains such as Stop & Shop offer door to door delivery service for you; just place your order, pay, and they deliver to your home. 
  8. Canned fish is another great option. Tuna (try to find low sodium tuna), salmon, sardines, mackerel…they are easy to find at most grocery stores and require no cooking. You can make tuna salad, you can make a tuna sandwich, you can make a salmon wrap, or just have some sardines!  My grandfather used to love jars of whitefish and herring – if you can have the salt, have these old school indulgences. You can also buy lox and use it to make a bagel and cream cheese, toast, or just add it to a salad for some protein. 
  9. You can buy microwavable rice packets (white or brown rice).  They add nice starch to your meals.  STEAMFRESH makes a variety of them – only buy the plain ones because they are extremely low sodium.  Mix it with chicken and vegetables.