Creating A Happy Meal For Senior Loved Ones

25 Feb 2022
Preparing nutritious meals for seniors can be tricky because we need to take into consideration the flavour and texture, on top of the nutritional value.

We speak with Craig Oon, Senior Food & Service Quality Manager from St Joseph's Home, to get tips on preparing wholesome and nutritious meals for your loved ones. 

Read on for tips on meal planning, shopping and storing food, and get a complete five-cycle menu designed by Craig to inspire your meal planning at home. 

Mr Craig Oon
Mr Craig Oon

Senior Food & Service Quality Manager, St Joseph's Home Catholic Welfare Services Singapore

 "1. What are the three things you try to achieve when preparing food for seniors?"

Craig Oon  Answer: 

Seniors should have the opportunity to enjoy appealing yet nutritious food to make dining a positive experience. We can't see flavours, but we can balance colours, shapes and garnishing when presenting a meal.

These are my three top priorities to achieve when planning menus for seniors:

  • Food prepared for seniors should be easy for them to chew. 
  • Never compromise on taste. 
  • The meals should provide comfort and memorable experiences. 

"2. What are some ways to make a meal interesting for seniors?"

 Craig Oon  Answer: 

Seniors tend to be more welcoming of texture-modified food when presented to them attractively. Improving the presentation and texture of meals can help seniors enjoy their meals better. 

For example, most protein elements will turn brown after being blended. So we blend the meat separately from vegetables and serve them separately with colourful sauces. We focus on healthy seasoning and add a touch of fragrant oils such as Sesame Oil.

"3. When seniors crave unhealthy foods, should caregivers allow them to have small portions?"

 Craig Oon  Answer: 

As long as the senior enjoys eating and desires to eat, they should always be respected. We should help seniors preserve their quality of life and empower the caregivers involved in this process. 

Our strategy is simple; to allow seniors to eat what they like in small amounts. This is important as enjoying comfort food can trigger good memories. 

"4. How can caregivers plan suitable meal portion sizes for their senior loved ones?"

 Craig Oon  Answer: 

Seniors' appetites tend to reduce as eating takes a lot of effort. So, our aim is to make every mouthful satisfying for our seniors and not waste stomach space. 

Seniors who are malnourished need foods higher in calories and protein. A good approach is to choose foods naturally high in protein (like wholegrain rice, tofu, fish) to increase their nutrition levels. 

As seniors tend to have reduced appetites, small and frequent meals can also be helpful. Having five small meals can result in a greater overall intake of nutrients across the day, rather than three big meals.

"5. Are there some ingredients or food you can recommend caregivers to avoid or use less for seniors on certain medications?"

 Craig Oon  Answer: 

Seniors should ensure that they maintain optimum potassium levels in their bodies to stay healthy and prevent any risks. Potassium levels that are too low may lead to muscle weakness, while levels that are too high may lead to heart attacks. 

All foods contain potassium in different amounts. Ensure that their diet is balanced when consuming foods naturally high in potassium. Some examples of foods to monitor are avocado, banana, broccoli, mushrooms, etc.

"6. How can caregivers get seniors to try new foods?"

 Craig Oon  Answer: 

This is an important point! Eat with your loved ones since no one likes to eat alone. Often a lack of interest in eating is because a person is bored and lonely. 

"7. Some families cook large portions of a meal and refrigerate the leftovers. Can you share any methods of keeping the leftovers safe for consumption?"

 Craig Oon  Answer: 

I don't encourage eating leftover food. However, if needed, the principle is to prepare your meals ahead of time and preserve them by freezing. When you are going to serve, defrost them in the chiller before heating them up. 

Never defrost them at room temperature as harmful bacteria can be present on frozen foods and multiply to high levels. Do not compromise on food safety for convenience.

"8. We understand that you previously worked with professional dieticians to create the five-cycle menu. Can you share more about this menu with us, and how can families incorporate the same concept/principles into planning their meals at home?"

 Craig Oon  Answer: 

Providing nutritious, well-balanced meals and snacks that taste good and meet specific dietary needs. This is not an easy task coming from years of background in commercial kitchens.

The first thing that came into my mind was to set a five-cycle menu so we would not be serving repeated dishes over a short period. 

When we repeat ingredients, it is only to prepare comfort food that holds good food memories for our elderly. Our menu is based on the chart below; it can be easily adapted for any family.

  Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Breakfast Tim Sum & Porridge Noodles & Porridge Kueh & Porridge Tim Sum & Porridge Noodles & Porridge Kueh & Porridge Noodles & Porridge
AM Tea Chrysanthemum Tea Barley Drink Chrysanthemum Tea Barley Drink Chrysanthemum Tea Barley Drink Chrysanthemum Tea
Lunch Soup & Pork/Chicken Dish Soup & One Dish Meal Soup & Chicken Dish Soup & One Dish Meal Soup & Fish Soup & ToFu Soup & Pork/Chicken Dish
PM Tea Tong Sui Cake Tong Sui Kueh Tong Sui Cake Kueh
Dinner Chicken Tofu Pork/Chicken Chicken Egg Fish Chicken


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