Menus for seniors frequently incorporate fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables, as produce straight from the farm is both delicious and nutritious.
Are fresh foods always best? Frozen and canned foods are often cheaper and more readily available than freshly-picked produce. But are they also less healthy? Not necessarily – all three can be smart food choices in menus for seniors.
Fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables offer several advantages over frozen and canned foods.
Of the three options, just-picked produce packs the biggest nutrient punch. The food isn’t processed in any way, so it contains no additives or chemicals. Plus, seasonal produce delivers on taste – to many seniors, fresh, locally-sourced foods provide the best flavor.
When planning menus for seniors, keep in mind that not all fresh fruits and veggies are grown at local farms. Often, they come from far away – and the time between picking and eating can cause produce to lose some of its nutritional value and flavor.
When fruits and veggies are picked at the peak of ripeness and frozen quickly afterward, they can be just as tasty and healthy as the freshest, in-season produce.
The freezing process locks in the flavor as well as the vitamins and minerals in the produce. Since fresh foods begin losing nutrients immediately after harvest, frozen foods often offer greater dietary value in menus for seniors.
However, some frozen vegetables and fruits aren’t healthy picks. Read the product labels carefully, as many selections contain added ingredients that are high in salt, added sugars or saturated fat.
Canned fruits and veggies, like frozen foods, can be just as nutritious and delicious as fresh produce. Canned foods are picked at peak freshness, which preserves flavor quality. What’s more, the canning process retains most nutrients, with the exception of certain water-soluble vitamins, and canning can also increase the antioxidant content in some foods.
That said, canned foods aren’t always healthy. When using canned fruit in menus for seniors, choose varieties that are packed in water, their own juices or 100 percent juice – skip any that come in light or heavy syrup. As for canned vegetables, look for cans labeled as either “low sodium” or “no salt added.” And, never use cans with dents or other damage, as they may contain bacteria.
When chosen with care, fresh, frozen and canned foods can all be healthy options in menus for seniors at residential care facilities. Fruits and vegetables are a key part of a balanced diet — and the Grove Menus meal planning system is an easy source of tasty, produce-rich recipes designed to meet the nutritional needs of older adults.
The Grove Menus system also features an integrated suite of user-friendly meal planning tools that cut expenses, reduce waste and facilitate food service operations. With everything our cost-effective food menu program has to offer, Grove Menus makes developing healthy and appealing menus for seniors much faster and easier. For a free, no-obligation demonstration, contact us today.