Seniors menus that feature a variety of foods rich in fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients provide a powerful health boost for your residents. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet helps older adults stay active and independent as they age.
This is National Dairy Month, so what better time to celebrate the benefits of the healthy foods? And the best way to celebrate is by including plenty of dairy foods in senior menus at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Here’s Why Your Seniors Menus Should Include Dairy Foods
According to the National Institute on Aging, most senior menus don’t include enough dairy products. Each day, seniors should consume a total of 3 cups of foods from this food group.
Dairy foods are important for senior health because they contain nine essential nutrients: calcium, protein, potassium, phosphorous, riboflavin, niacin and vitamins A, D and B12.
Regularly consuming dairy foods can help seniors improve bone density and maintain a healthy weight. And, a dairy-rich diet helps reduce the risk for osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.
Incorporating Dairy Products in Senior Menus
For older adults, low-fat and fat-free dairy foods are recommended because they are packed with nutrition but not saturated fat.
At many senior care centers, a glass of milk is offered with every meal, to comply with state dietary requirements. However, serving milk isn’t the only way to incorporate dairy products into nursing home menus for older adults.
Low-fat and fat-free cheese or yogurt are healthy and tasty snacks, and both ingredients can be used in a wide range of dietitian-approved recipes. For seniors with a sweet tooth, low-fat or fat-free frozen yogurt and ice cream or pudding made with milk are all good options for boosting dairy product intake.
What About Seniors Who Have Lactose Intolerance?
Lactose intolerance is a problem for many seniors, causing uncomfortable digestive symptoms after eating or drinking dairy foods.
Avoiding the dairy group completely isn’t the answer for lactose intolerance. In fact, doing so could put seniors at nutritional risk. Instead, many nursing homes and senior care centers use dietitian-approved menus that are planned specifically around the medical condition.
Some lactose intolerant seniors can comfortably consume small portions of dairy products without adverse symptoms. Others may require lactose-reduced or lactose-free milk, yogurt and cheese instead of the traditional versions. Or the patient’s doctor can prescribe digestive enzyme supplements.
In most cases, you can substitute lactose-friendly milk, yogurt and cheese for the traditional products in dietitian-approved senior recipes. Calcium-fortified soy milk, almond milk and rice milk can also provide nutrient-rich options, if patients are cleared to consume these products.
With the Grove Menus advanced meal planning program, offering healthy, well-balanced senior menus is easy. Our healthy and delicious dietitian-approved recipes can be adjusted to meet the nutritional needs of all older adults, including those with dietary restrictions. For a complimentary demonstration of our senior menu planning program, contact us today.