Cooking might not be the pleasure it once was, but you don’t want to shortchange yourself on nutrition and a healthy diet. Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy alternatives to spending long hours in the kitchen.
Nobody feels like cooking every night. Some people don’t even feel like cooking any night. But if you avoid cooking completely in your senior years and don’t look for alternatives to maintain a healthy diet, you may not get the nutrients you need.
A Healthy Diet Made Easier
Eating healthfully doesn’t have to involve hours in the kitchen. Consider these options for maintaining a nutritious diet in your senior years:
Get help in the kitchen. If you can’t or don’t like to cook any more, consider getting some help with your meals from friends and family, or by hiring a home health aide who can shop and prepare meals for you.
Buy prepared meals. Most grocery stores and supermarkets have expanded their prepared food sections. You can buy entire meals with all the preparation done for you. Some stores have prepared foods set up like a big salad bar, enabling you to put together your own healthy mix of protein, veggies, and other sides.
Consider home delivery services. If you can’t easily get out to shop, see if you can get fully-cooked meals delivered right to your home from the supermarket and local restaurants. You can have healthy, delicious food for dinner without the effort of shopping and cooking, just by making a phone call.
Partner with neighbors. If you have friends or neighbors who live alone or just don’t like all the chores surrounding cooking, consider forming your own cooking club. You can share in the bills, the cooking, the shopping, and the eating — a great way to stay socially connected, too.
Choose easy recipes and plan ahead. Stick to healthy yet simple recipes that don’t require a lot of ingredients or effort but pack a lot of nutrients. Plan your menu for the week ahead so that you don’t have to make many trips to the store.
To limit the preparation work, consider using frozen ingredients, like vegetables, in your recipes. A simple way to add flavor to your meals is with seasonings rather than complicated preparations; try different herbs and spices to make eating more enjoyable. When cooking is too difficult, choose frozen meals that are microwavable.
Investigate social services when money and mobility are problems. Programs like Meals on Wheels deliver nutritious meals twice a day to the homes of seniors who can’t cook or get out of the house to shop. Meals on Wheels isn’t free, but it is based on income level.
Practice Kitchen Safety
Staying safe in the kitchen is always important, and even more so if you aren’t as mobile or agile as you used to be. Always follow these kitchen safety tips when cooking at home:
To avoid kitchen fires, never leave food cooking on the stove or in the oven unattended.
Be careful to keep loose clothing (like shirt sleeves), dishtowels, and potholders away from all heat sources.
Have a fire extinguisher mounted in the kitchen and learn how to use it.
Switch to lighter pots and pans. Cast-iron and ceramic pots may be too heavy to lift safely. To avoid bending and extra lifting of any kind, keep cookware and heavier items at waist level when storing in cabinets.
Clear a space on the kitchen counter before taking hot pans out of the oven or off the stove.
Make sure there are no area rugs or clutter on the floor that can lead to slips and falls. Clean up any spills or water on the floor right away.
Completely cook food all the way through to prevent illness.
Toss out any old foods that could be contaminated with bacteria. Date any leftovers so you remember when to throw them out, usually within three days — freeze them if you won’t be eating them in time.
Whether you buy prepared or frozen foods, use services that deliver nourishing meals, divide cooking duties with friends, or a combination of all these options, continuing to follow a healthy diet is one of the most important steps to staying well throughout your senior years