Meal Planning for Seniors: Healthy Eating without the Hassle

Meal planning

A balanced diet is essential for seniors aging in place, but having healthy options ready-to-eat is sometimes challenging if you do not plan ahead. You are more likely to grab a snack like chips or candy since they are convenient compared to a healthier option like carrot sticks which take more time to prepare. Meal planning is a great solution to the problem of wanting to eat well but also wanting healthy eating to be convenient. 

When planning meals or helping a senior loved one prepare healthy food ready to enjoy, you can follow easy tips to make it less of a hassle.

Why Meal Planning Is Important for Seniors

Often, people use meal planning so that mealtimes are more convenient, but meal planning has more important functions for seniors. Caregivers and family members should consider meal planning for their senior loved one to help older adults maintain a healthy diet and weight, keep nutritious ingredients and snacks in the house, adhere to dietary restrictions, and avoid kitchen accidents. 

·        Balanced Diet and Healthy Weight- Losing weight and maintaining your weight gets harder as you age. The combined effects of a slower metabolism, a less active lifestyle, and genetics mean that seniors can more easily put on weight despite eating the same amount[1]. Meal planning helps greatly with portion control and eating the right proportions of nutrients in a meal. A consistent diet and regular exercise make it easier for seniors to maintain a healthy weight even with a slower metabolism. Some seniors also face a lack of appetite and have the opposite problem of eating too few calories in a day[2]. Meal planning can help seniors space their meals throughout the times of day they are most hungry to ensure they eat well. 

·        Nutritious Ingredients- Meal planning keeps nutritious food at the ready. Seniors should aim to eat lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. Sometimes seniors can find it hard to remember what food options are good for them. Meal prepping makes sure that when they get hungry, seniors can find a healthy snack or meal option in their kitchen. This way, seniors will not automatically reach for unhealthy snacks packed with sugar and saturated fats. 

·        Avoid Kitchen Accidents- Meal planning with a family member or caregiver is a safer option for seniors when preparing food in the kitchen. For some older adults, the kitchen poses risks to their safety. Seniors can grow tired of being on their feet, lose their balance, drop things, or accidentally injure themselves, and slips can easily occur if the floor gets wet. Meal prepping can decrease time spent in the kitchen and reduce the risk of all these potential accidents. You also may want to consider an Alert1 personal emergency alarm device to have help nearby. 

What is Meal Planning?

Meal planning consists of picking out your meals for the week, shopping for all the ingredients in one grocery shopping trip, preparing all your meals for the week on one day, and eating your prepared meals throughout the week. These steps can be overwhelming for some seniors to accomplish on their own, so working with a caregiver or family member makes meal planning easier. Here is a breakdown of the steps of meal planning: 

1.     Choosing Meals: You can search for recipes online, in your recipe book, or through cookbooks. Creating a list of healthy, simple to prepare recipes can help make life easier and less taxing over time[3]

2.     Buying Ingredients: Once you have your meals planned, you need to shop for the right ingredients. Shopping with a grocery list is a good way to avoid buying too many sweets and other impulse buys. Some treats throughout the week are perfectly fine in moderation. Look for a mix of fresh and frozen foods to make sure your food lasts for the entire week.  

3.     Preparing Food: As mentioned earlier, preparing the food might be difficult for some seniors who may have stamina issues. The help of a caregiver or family member will make preparing the food easier, and you can enjoy cooking the food together. The goal of meal planning is to have ready-to-go meal options available for meal and snack times. Preparing all of the food ahead of when you will eat it makes meal times a lot more convenient and consistent. 

4.     Enjoying Prepped Meals: All of the planning pays off when you can reach inside your refrigerator or pantry and have fresh, prepared meals to choose from. Meal planning eliminates stress and enhances time management around eating. Plus, seniors are less likely to miss meals if they are already prepared. Meal planning also allows you to manage your diet and ensure proper nutrition

Tips for Meal Planning for Seniors 

The following tips are for seniors who want to plan their meals out. Older adults need to keep in mind their dietary goals and how meal planning contributes to those goals.        

·        Stocking up on cereal- Cereal is a pantry staple for seniors since many cereals come fortified with key vitamins and minerals[4]. Instead of having separate supplement tablets for minerals like zinc or calcium, you can pour yourself a bowl of your favorite cereal with low-fat milk for an occasional snack. When you grocery shop, be sure to add a couple of boxes of cereal to your cart to stock up.      

·        Making soup and smoothies in large batches- Soups and smoothies are a great way to pack in nutrients and fiber. You can easily customize what you add, and you can make both in large batches. Soup and smoothies also help seniors stay hydrated since adequate hydration is essential for all areas of health. Often, grocery stores sell pre-made soups and smoothies, but be sure to read the label to avoid products that are high in sugar or saturated fats.     

·        Prioritizing protein- There are many foods beyond meat that are high in protein. Older adults should eat at least 20 grams of protein with each meal. Sometimes older adults lose a taste for meat or find meat hard to chew. However, cheese, nut butters, eggs, and tuna are all great protein alternatives. Meal planning makes incorporating the right amount of protein in each meal manageable since you prepare what goes on the plate ahead of time.      

·        Finding meals you enjoy that you can freeze- Be sure to browse the frozen section to find meals and sides that are appealing to you to keep in your freezer. Many frozen options require only a short time in the microwave to be ready to enjoy. Having a well-stocked freezer of meal options you like can fill in any gaps in your meal plan for the week.

Meal Planning Is Just One Part of Senior Health        

Meal planning can be a simple way for seniors to get the type of food they need to lead healthy, happy lives. Planning and preparing meals in advance eliminates the stress of preparing food each time you are hungry. Meal planning is a great tool for helping seniors establish a consistent and healthful diet.

It is important to remember that health extends well beyond diet for older adults. Health also consists of regular exercise, mental sharpness, and emotional stability. Seniors also need to have the right medicines and medical supplies in their house to make sure they have access to the right resources in the event of an accident. One such resource is a medical alert device. Alert1 offers medical alert devices for independent seniors who desire the peace of mind of knowing that help is just a button push away if needed.      

Alert1 in-home and on-the-go devices give those aging in place the peace of mind that comes from around-the-clock protection and immediate access to help. Accidents can happen at any moment, so seniors should equip themselves with a medical alert device, which connects them with a trained agent the instant an emergency occurs and every second counts.     

Alert1 offers flexible pricing models that do not lock customers into lengthy contracts, unlike other alert device companies. Additionally, all Alert1 agents receive thorough training, allowing them to respond to your emergency accurately and swiftly. Alert1 provides a higher level of service and more affordable prices compared to other alert device companies. A quality medical alert device keeps you or your loved one connected and protected so that they can enjoy their days without feeling unsafe in their surroundings. Seniors can improve their health in many ways, such as meal planning and healthy eating. A medical alert device is also part of a healthy lifestyle and a great way to keep help close by. 





[1] Raman, Ryan. 2017, Sept. 24. Why Your Metabolism Slows Down with Age. Why Your Metabolism Slows Down with Age.

[2] Klemm, Sarah. 2020, June 18. Nutrition for Older Men. Nutrition for Older Men.

[3] Ward, Kate. 2021, June 30. 18 quick, easy and healthy meals for seniors. 18 quick, easy and healthy meals for seniors.

[4] Sobel, Ashley. 2019, Sept. 6. What is Fortified Cereal, and Is It Healthy? What is Fortified Cereal, and Is It Healthy?