Menus for Seniors: “My Plate” Guidelines for Nutrition

  Menu Planning

When planning menus for seniors, nutritious foods and beverages form the basis of any facility’s program. Healthy eating plans can help improve symptoms or decrease the risk of chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

menus for seniors

Older adults often have specific nutritional needs but the healthy eating plan recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans published by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provide a sound foundation for senior menus.

Fruit and Vegetable Recommendations for Senior Menus

Adults age 50 or older need to consume sufficient produce every day, according to the My Plate guidelines. At mealtime, about half the plate should be filled with a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.

Across an entire day, seniors should eat between 1 ½ to 2 ½ cups of fruit and 2 to 3 ½ cups of vegetables.

Fresh, seasonal produce is delicious, but fruits and veggies in all forms offer demonstrated health benefits. Frozen, dried and canned varieties are nutritious (albeit less so than fresh) and can be used in countless recipes for snacks and meals for seniors.


Whole Grains Guidelines for Senior Menus

The HHS recommends that older adults eat 5 to 10 ounces of whole grains per day. Grains should fill about one-fourth of the plate at mealtime.

Whole grains such as oats, brown rice, barley and couscous are rich with dietary fiber and offer a host of benefits, including smoother digestion and a reduced risk of many serious health problems.

Refined grains are stripped of many of their valuable nutrients. So, whenever possible, senior menus should incorporate whole grains instead of refined varieties.

Dairy and Protein-Rich Foods and Dairy Menus for Seniors

The remaining space on mealtime plates for seniors should be filled with protein-packed foods – poultry, lean meats, fish, beans, eggs, tofu, seeds or nuts – and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. Yogurt and cheese are popular dairy options for senior menus.

Over the course of the day, senior menus should also include 5 to 7 ounces of protein. As for dairy foods, the HHS says seniors should consume a total of 3 cups.

What about healthy beverages? The best options are water, tea and coffee. Milk is a good choice as well, and it counts toward the dairy requirement for the day.

Avoid empty calories whenever possible, as well as foods and beverages that are high in calorie count but low in nutrients. Chips, cookies, crackers, soda and other processed foods should be saved for the occasional treat.

Planning for proper nutrition is easy with the Grove Menus program. Our efficient, user-friendly meal planning software system helps adult care facilities meet the health needs of senior residents. To learn more or to schedule a free demonstration, contact us today.

3 Ways Menu Planning Programs Cut Adult Care Facility Food Costs

  Menu Planning

With a comprehensive menu planning program, creating delicious, dietitian-approved meals for adult care facility residents is much quicker and easier.

menu planning programs

Beyond simplifying meal development, however, an automated menu system also brings down facility food service costs. Here are three ways assisted living centers and senior care facilities can save money with meal planning software.

No. 1: Menu Planning Programs Reduce Labor Costs

Developing menus for an adult care facility is no easy task. Nutrition is of key importance, and meeting everyone’s individual dietary needs can be challenging. Budget is also a factor, of course, and meals must be designed to appeal to the tastes of senior residents.

At many assisted living and senior care facilities, menu planning is a full-time job for at least one staff member. Others employ a full-time dietitian to ensure that meals and snacks meet the nutritional needs of the residents.

Meal planning software cuts the time needed for menu development, reducing labor costs. And, as the recipes are already dietitian-approved, facilities don’t need to hire an outside dietitian to design or review the menus.

No. 2: Menu Planning Software Controls Food Costs

Food waste is a pressing problem for adult care facilities. Tracking and rotating the inventory and making sure stored ingredients are used before they go bad is difficult, particularly for larger senior care and assisted living centers.

A meal planning program maintains an up-to-date, organized list of all food products in the inventory, automatically deducting ingredients as they are used in facility menus.

As a result, food waste is kept to a minimum. And less waste means lower overall facility food costs.

No. 3: Menu Planning Programs Build In Flexibility

Food distributors sometimes offer sales or bulk discounts on certain ingredients. The savings can be tempting, but facilities often have difficulty adapting their current menus to incorporate a last-minute, low-cost ingredient.

With meal planning software, this is no longer a problem. Senior care centers and assisted living facilities can easily take advantage of spur-of-the-moment sales and discounts to maximize the food budget. Facility menus are planned in advance, but changing meal ingredients in the software requires just a few clicks of the mouse.

This flexibility also allows for the use of seasonal fruits and vegetables in facility menus. Ingredients harvested from local farms are typically more nutritious than those grown elsewhere and seniors appreciate their fresher taste. Plus, buying local, seasonal foods is often less expensive.

The Grove Menus software system can help lower the food service operations costs at any assisted living facility or senior care center. To learn more about how your adult care facility can save money with our menu planning program, or to schedule a complimentary demonstration, contact us today.

Dietitian-Approved Menus Improve Senior Nutrition

  Menu Planning

Dietitian-approved menus make it easier for older adults to get the nutrition they need to feel good and maintain optimal health.

As we age, problems with eating become common. Food becomes less desirable and medications can lead to a lack of appetite. Many older adults have physical challenges that cause difficulties in eating a balanced diet. And, when presented with options, seniors often have trouble making nutritional food choices.

dietitian approved menus

Fortunately, menu programs that are based on dietitian-approved recipes can help overcome the many barriers to senior nutrition.

Dietitian-Approved Menus Maximize Flavor

Older adults often complain that their favorite foods no longer taste the same. Because our taste buds diminish as we age, they are correct in their observation. The sense of smell declines as well, and, as flavor is a combination of taste and smell, food ceases to be appetizing.

In addition, certain medications can negatively influence flavors and reduce appetite.

To combat these challenges, dietitians use flavor boosters when designing recipes for seniors. Herbs and spices make foods tastier without the negative health consequences associated with salt. A splash of lemon juice or a flavored vinegar can also help amplify the flavor of food.

Dietitian-approved meal plans also offer a wider variety of foods. This helps present seniors with healthy choices that make meals more enticing.

Dietitian-Approved Menus Minimize Physical Barriers to Eating

Many aging adults experience dental and oral health challenges. Broken or missing teeth make chewing difficult. Seniors who wear dentures often struggle to chew healthy foods, including nuts, vegetables and fruit.

Stroke victims can experience problems with tongue movement, which presents a challenge for eating as well as speech. Swallowing problems are also common for seniors.

Dietitians tackle these challenges to healthy senior eating by creating appetizing soft and liquid diet meal plan options. When presented with a variety of pureed foods, soups, hot cereals, smoothies, and tender baked goods, seniors can derive get the nutrition they need from their menu program.

Dietitian-Approved Menus Address Senior Digestive Issues

As we grow older, digestive issues become commonplace. Seniors frequently suffer from indigestion, constipation and similar digestive ailments. The ability to absorb nutrients in the digestive tract may also become compromised, especially for those who have trouble with mastication.

Many older adults can no longer tolerate spicy or acidic foods, as eating them creates heartburn and gas. While these aren’t usually serious health challenges, they can impact nutrition. Seniors may avoid eating if they fear digestive issues may follow.

Dietitians design low-fat, high-fiber meal plans for seniors, as these foods can improve digestion and elimination.

Unfortunately, having a dietitian on staff can be cost-prohibitive for many assisted living facilities and nursing homes. To address this challenge, Grove Menus offers a comprehensive meal planning program that is based on dietitian-approved recipes. All of our recipes have been extensively tested to maximize flavor and dietary appeal.

If you would like to learn more, contact Grove Menus today to request a complimentary demonstration.

The Evolution of Assisted Living Center Menus​

  Menu Planning

Assisted living center menus have changed significantly over the years. Once senior living facilities began to shift from institutional, hospital-like settings to a consumer-centered care model, meal planning evolved accordingly.

Today’s senior care facility menus are nothing like the food menu programs of the past. And, based on emerging research and senior care trends, meal planning will continue to evolve in the future.

evolution of assisted living center menus

Menu Plans in the Early Years of Assisted Living Facilities

Up until the late 1970s, senior care facilities were operated based on the nursing home model, which emphasized custodial care and health-centered operations. As a result, meal planning programs were designed for nutrition and cost control, with little thought about flavor or visual appeal.

Today we know that healthy eating is of critical importance for seniors – but so is flavor. The one-size-fits-all nutritional approach used in early facility menus rarely consider this important aspect of food service.

In the early 1980s, many senior centers began using the assisted living approach to care. This involved treating residents with dignity and respect rather than focusing on custodial care. That’s when the institutional menu planning approach began to change. Nutrition remained the primary goal but senior residents were able to enjoy meals prepared for taste and appeal as well as nutrition.

This shift represented a significant departure from an institutionalized approach to menu planning and food service.

The Next Evolution of Assisted Living Food Service

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, senior care centers continued to expand their menu planning paradigm. Facilities began to provide individual meal choices, rather than preparing institutionalized, facility-wide menus.

Since then, assisted living recipes, menus and food service programs have continued to evolve. Today, meal plans reflect the preferences of the residents and incorporate local, familiar flavors. At the same time, recipes are dietitian-approved and designed to meet the specific nutritional needs of each resident.

Today’s senior care facility menus also focus on locally sourced ingredients and seasonal recipes. Meal planning programs offer the flexibility to use what’s in season. Using the freshest local ingredients results in delicious food that is more health for – and appetizing to – facility residents.

Trends to Watch in Facility Menu Planning Programs

As senior care facilities continue to evolve, even more diverse meal options will become available.

Modern meal planning programs focus on the types of foods that residents crave. With more Baby Boomers and Gen Xers entering residential care, assisted living menus must be adapted to meet their taste preferences and nutritional needs.

Many of these aging adults have traveled and developed a taste for cultural and ethnic foods. As a result, facility menus will begin to incorporate more of these diverse flavors.

Finally, expect senior care centers to replicate a restaurant-style experience in their dining rooms. Buffet meals may be cost-effective but they don’t provide the feeling of dining out or eating at home. Because assisted living facilities are home to their residents, tomorrow’s menu programs will be designed for friendly service and more comfortable dining.

Adapting to the changing food preferences and dietary needs of senior residents isn’t always easy, but Grove Menus can help. Our exclusive meal planning platform automates tasks and provides you with crave-worthy, dietitian-approved recipes that reflect the tastes of your residents.

Contact us today for a hassle-free demonstration of our assisted living center menu program.

Healthy Recipe Ideas for Sweet Seniors Snacks

  Menu Planning

Healthy recipes for seniors don’t have to sacrifice flavor for nutrition. But finding delicious, healthy ways to satisfy a senior sweet tooth can be challenging.

Aging adults often have an increased desire for sugary foods. Developing recipes that indulge these cravings while offering some nutritional benefit can pose a challenge for nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Healthy recipes for seniors

Fruit Recipes to Indulge the Senior Sweet Tooth

Fresh fruit is filled with natural sugars. Ripe, seasonal stone fruits, berries and melons can provide the basis for a healthy, sweet treat. For many seniors, a piece of fresh fruit or a mixed seasonal fruit salad is enough to satisfy a sugar craving.

Fruit can also be used in a variety of healthy recipes for your senior residents. Top baked or pan-fried apples, peaches or pears with a brown sugar and oatmeal crumble. Add sweetener to sliced berries for topping pancakes, waffles or non-fat yogurt.

Fruit smoothie recipes can be easily adapted to satisfy your residents’ cravings for sweets, allowing you to create milkshake-like drinks that are as nutritious as they are delicious. These health-conscious recipes can also be frozen into individual portions and served as a cool, sweet summertime snack.

Protein-Rich Sweet Recipe Ideas for Seniors

Seniors often have difficulty eating meat, nuts and other protein-rich foods. Adapting sweet snack recipes to provide a protein boost can help meet this dietary need.

Cereal and milk is typically only offered at breakfast but it can provide a nutritional boost at snack time as well. Enriched cereal provides a variety of nutrients, including protein. A variety of slightly sweet whole grain cereal is available, many of which are also high in dietary fiber.

Graham crackers with peanut butter are a classic sweet and crunchy protein-packed snack combo, as is the much-loved peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole grain bread.

Greek yogurt is another high-protein ingredient option you can use in your facility’s healthy recipes. Add toppings like granola, nuts, fruit, crumbled graham crackers or shaved dark chocolate to create healthy and sweet senior snacks.

Sweet Recipe Tips for Healthy Baked Treats

Sometimes, nothing but a baked treat will do to satisfy a sweet tooth. Fortunately, making cookies, brownies, muffins and quick breads healthier requires only a few simple recipe modifications.

Replace all or part of the oil in baked goods recipes with an equivalent amount of applesauce, mashed banana, sweet potato or pumpkin.

To boost nutritional value, add finely shredded zucchini or carrot. Or substitute some of the recipe’s all-purpose flour with whole wheat, buckwheat, soy, almond or oatmeal flour. Reduce the sugar content by substituting all or part of the sugar with a sweetener designed for baking.

Low-fat and low-sugar sweets can be just as delicious as their traditional counterparts. Many seniors won’t be able to detect the healthy changes to their favorite baked treats.

Grove Menus’ menu planning solutions make the process of planning sweet and healthy snacks easy and cost-effective. Our program is designed for use in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and group homes of all sizes. To schedule your complimentary demonstration, including dozens of dietitian-approved recipe ideas for seniors, contact us today.