Many older people are not used to cooking for one, or even used to cooking at all.
Sometimes then can’t be bothered, or say they are not hungry. They are a lot less likely to order takeaways, and UberEats is a foreign concept.
They often have a reduced appetite just at the time when they need food more than ever – a recipe for malnutrition.
Social isolation or the inability to prepare nutritional meals, is leading to a worrying number of older Australians suffering from malnutrition. To help manage this, the Whittlesea Men’s Shed, a Victorian men’s support group, has created a recipe book for the mature man called “A Beginner’s Kitchen: A manual for shopping and cooking healthy meals on a budget”.
It contains nutritional guidelines but more importantly it gives advice and healthy recipes for cooking for one. From standards such as pumpkin soup and spaghetti bolognese, to something a little more exotic like Jambalaya or Hungarian Goulash, this recipe book has something for all tastes and basic cooking abilities. Most of the recipes are also quick to prepare.
While the Men’s Shed publication is aimed at men, much of the advice is general and could be useful for older women. Women might need to make some adjustments (such as portion sizes or cooking more of the calcium and protein rich recipes).
Here is an extract from the manual:
“As people tend to eat less as they age, it is often harder to get all the necessary nutrients for good health. Some nutrients are actually required more with ageing so it is important that you eat lots of nutritious foods. The body’s ability to absorb nutrients becomes less efficient with age. Taking medications, smoking and alcohol consumption can also influence nutrient intake and increase the need for certain nutrients.
Ageing often reduces the senses of taste and smell. To maintain your interest in food and obtain all necessary nutrients it is really important that you make your meals colourful and vary the food on your plate. Try not to repeat the same easy meals all the time.
Guidelines – eating well means staying healthy
Besides eating a wide variety of nutritious food and drinking plenty of water, older men (and women) should take care to:
- Limit saturated fat and moderate total fat intake
- Choose foods low in salt
- Limit alcohol intake if you choose to drink and ensure that the majority of your week is alcohol-free days.
- Consume only moderate amounts of sugars and foods containing added sugars.Care for your food: prepare and store it safely.
For healthy, independent Australians aged over 65, the dietary guidelines are:
- Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods
- Keep active to maintain muscle strength and a healthy body weight
- Eat at least three meals every day
- Care for your food and store it correctly
- Eat plenty of vegetables (including legumes and fruit)
- Eat plenty of cereals, breads and pastas
- Have a diet low in saturated fat
- Drink adequate amounts of water/and or other fluids
- If you drink alcohol limit your intake
- Choose foods low in salt and use salt sparingly
- Include foods high in calcium
- Use added sugars in moderation.
What if your parent isn’t able to cook?
If you find your ageing parent is up for cooking for one, you can arrange meals through a private company or charitable food delivery services such as Meals on Wheels.
Some additional useful resources:
https://mensshed.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Beginners_kitchen.pdf – A Beginner’s Kitchen: A manual for shopping and cooking healthy meals on a budget”
https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/eating-well/healthy-eating-throughout-all-life/healthy-eating-when-you%E2%80%99re-older – Eat for health.gov.au. This is an Australian Government website that contains nutritional guidelines for older Australians, healthy recipes and tips on food safety.
https://mealsonwheels.org.au/find-us/ – Meals on wheels contact page where you can find details for the Meals on Wheels organisation in your state.
* The information contained in this article is reproduced with permission from the Whittlesea Men’s Shed.
Photo credit: Soup by gulizars (cropped)