The Importance of Adequate Vitamin D Intake for Older Adults


Vitamin D plays an important role in keeping our bones healthy, ensuring our muscles work properly, and carrying messages throughout our body via the nervous system. As we grow older, our need for vitamin D increases. For people ages 1-70, the recommended daily amount (RDA) is 600 IU. For those 71 years and older, the RDA is 800 IU. As a reference, one cup of milk fortified with vitamin D contains 100 IU on average.

Sources of Vitamin D

Sun exposure is one source of vitamin D. When the UV rays from the sun hit our skin, it triggers a reaction that makes vitamin D. The recommended amount of sunlight is approximately 10-15 minutes per day (without sunscreen) multiple times throughout the week.

Food sources of vitamin D include fortified cereals, orange juice and milk, fatty fish, egg yolks and beef liver. If an adequate amount cannot be achieved through sun exposure or diet, supplements are also widely available.

Through a combination of these three sources, it is possible to reach the recommended amounts. However, we become less efficient at converting vitamin D through sun exposure as we age; therefore, it is necessary to ensure that those with higher vitamin D needs receive adequate amounts through food and supplementation.

Benefits of Vitamin D Intake for the Elderly

Vitamin D regulates calcium absorption in the body, and together they play an important role in bone health. It is important that older adults consume enough vitamin D to protect themselves against bone disorders such as osteoporosis and osteomalacia. Studies have shown that older adults consuming enough vitamin D and calcium are less likely to experience fractures, bone pain and muscle weakness as they age. There have also been studies that indicate there is a decreased risk for cancers and heart disease in those who have adequate vitamin D intakes.


Natural Sugars vs Added Sugars Part 1: What’s the Difference?


As a society, we are constantly bombarded with the idea that sugar is bad for us. The term ‘sugar’, however, can be broken down into two main categories that may change our perception and understanding of its existence.

Natural Sugar

Natural sugars are found in two main forms: fructose and lactose. Fructose is the type of sugar found in fruit whereas lactose is the type of sugar found in milk. Both are naturally occurring sugars that do not need to be actively avoided. The dairy and fruit products that contain these types of sugar contain so many other vitamins and nutrients that are important for our bodies. In addition, naturally occurring sugars tend to have a smaller effect on blood sugar as opposed to added sugars.

FOR EXAMPLE: A medium-sized apple contains 19 grams of sugar. All the sugar is naturally occurring, and apples are also good sources of fiber and vitamin C.

Added Sugar

Added sugars, simply put, are everything else. If a food contains sugar that is not naturally occurring, it has been added. Added sugars go by many names and are found in all sorts of foods. One of the most common and easily recognized added sugars is high fructose corn syrup. Added sugars are frequently found in candy, desserts, sauces, soda and other sweet foods and beverages. While added sugars are okay in moderation, they contain no essential nutrients and increase calorie intake. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for America recommend that no more than 10% of daily calorie intake should come from added sugars.

FOR EXAMPLE: 12 oz of a cola soft drink contains 39 grams of sugar. There are no other nutrients in the soda that are beneficial to the body.

Here are some additional information links about added sugars:

New Year’s Resolutions


For many individuals, the beginning of a new year can be a stressful time as they attempt to set food-related goals for the upcoming months. Many people acknowledge that they want to eat “healthier”, but they fail to create a realistic and attainable goal of what that means for them. As an older adult, it can be more difficult to choose a resolution due to health conditions and diet restrictions. However, this does not mean that you cannot set food-related goals. Here are some resolution ideas for you to try during 2019!

Resolution #1: Define “Healthy”

There are many connotations of the word “healthy”, and it is important to decide what that concept means to you. On one hand, eating healthy might mean following a strict diet to adhere to a doctor’s order or a specific health condition. On the other hand, eating healthy possibly means consuming a wide variety of foods when and where you choose. What is healthy for one is not necessarily the best option for another. Regardless of your situation, it is important to personally define the term “healthy” to have a strong relationship with food. Try writing your own definition!

Resolution #2: Try a New Food

If you cook for yourself, are you constantly preparing the same recipes? If you have your food prepared by your senior care facility, do you usually opt for the alternate hamburger? Why not try something new this year? Eating new foods can be intimidating, but you may find a new favorite dish. Do not be afraid to make suggestions to the kitchen staff and food service director at your facility. You can also ask family and friends for new recipes to try.

Resolution #3: Learn How to Cook

A new year is a great time to pick up a new hobby! For many people, cooking or baking is a great creative outlet. There may even be opportunities at your facility to learn how to cook! Talk to your activity coordinator to see if your facility offers cooking classes. If they don’t, ask if it would be a possibility in the future. You can also learn from family and friends or seek out classes offered in your community.

Resolution #4: Back to the Basics

For many people, a new year means a new diet. There are many different fad diets nowadays, and often they are tiring, restrictive and ineffective. If you find yourself caught in this cycle, it might be time to go back to the basics. A variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and protein foods is a great place to start. Eating a combination of these food groups in moderation is the way to ensure that you are consuming all the nutrients that your body needs!

Dining Practice Standards for Assisted Living Food Menus

  Assisted Living Menus

For assisted living food menus, therapeutic meal plans designed to improve senior health used to be the norm. However, research has revealed that few older adults – even those diagnosed with chronic medical conditions – actually benefit from restrictive diets.


Now, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recommends that long-term care providers follow more liberal dining practice standards that empower seniors to make their own food choices.

dining assisted living food menus


Giving Older Adults the Freedom of Food Choice


Therapeutic diets, including low-fat, low-salt and low-sugar meal plans, often lack appeal and favor. When seniors are limited to restrictive assisted living food menus, the pleasure of eating diminishes. Older adults who don’t enjoy their meals eat less, which often leads to weight loss and malnutrition.


In contrast, assisted living facilities that adhere to liberal dining standards find that residents are much happier at mealtime. Giving seniors the freedom to choose their own foods is associated with better appetite and increased food intake. For the majority of older adults residing in long-term care communities, the benefits of a liberalized assisted living food menus – based on food preferences rather than medical diagnosis – outweigh the risks.


Dealing with Risky Dining Decisions


In treating chronic medical conditions, health care professionals often advise patients to follow restrictive diets. Diabetics are told to limit their sugar and carbohydrate intake, for example, while people with heart disease should avoid saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and red meat.


Older adults don’t always make the wisest food choices – but, according to the latest dining practice standards, that’s ok. Long-term care providers need to inform seniors with chronic disorders about the benefits of sticking to a restrictive meal plan, but they shouldn’t veto risky dining decisions. Instead, assisted living food menus should honor resident mealtime preferences.


Making the Switch to Resident-Directed Dining


For long-term care communities, stepping away from restrictive diets and committing to resident-directed dining can be difficult.


Adopting liberal dining practice standards means providing a balanced diet and monitoring nutrient intake, while also allowing seniors greater freedom with their food choices – and assisted living facilities don’t always know how to balance these goals. Plus, though staff members discuss food preferences with residents, many long-term care communities don’t have the tools to implement a resident-directed dining plan.


Grove Menus offers a simple, cost-effective solution. Our innovative meal planning software system considers resident food preferences and medically-necessary dietary restrictions in developing menus for seniors residing at long-term care communities. As a result, the meals and snacks offered are both delicious and nutritious.


The Grove Menus system offers hundreds of easily-adaptable, dietitian-approved recipes along with a suite of user-friendly food service tools that save time, reduce waste and cut the costs of preparing and serving enjoyable meals and snacks. For more information, or to schedule a free, no-hassle demonstration of our assisted living food menu program, contact us today.

In Menus for Seniors, Are Fresh, Frozen or Canned Foods Best?

  Menu Planning

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 menus for seniors

Fresh Foods


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.


Frozen Foods


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 Foods


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.