Revera chef urges creativity in the kitchen when cooking for seniorsGary McBlain, Corporate Chef at Revera Inc., knows first-hand the unique approach required to satisfy both the palates and health of seniors. McBlain and his team create menus and prepare meals every day for residents at the company’s 108 retirement homes.
“Like anyone else, we know that our residents love a great meal, but we always have to remember that they typically require small portions of foods that are easily eaten, highly nutritious and naturally flavorful,” said McBlain. “Whether cooking in a retirement residence or for a senior at home, the key is to meet these needs, but also to avoid preparing the same foods over and over and getting into a rut that can be boring and unhealthy. Creativity in the kitchen, following a few basic tips, will help make sure every meal is a success.”
McBlain offers these tips on cooking for seniors:
Add Flavor, Not Salt: As we age we start to lose our sense of smell and this affects the way we taste food. When cooking for seniors, bring out the flavor of foods without simply adding more salt. Add fresh herbs or herbs pastes, spices in moderation and other concentrated flavors like citrus juice or mustard.
Go Fresh: Try to purchase fresh foods that haven’t been processed. These always have less of the “the bad stuff” like sodium, corn sugars, fats and preservatives.
Make Food Easy to Eat: Seniors may have trouble chewing tough foods. Try slowly braising meats instead of grilling or baking. Pounding chicken or pork with a mallet before cooking can help tenderize meat, making it easier to chew.
Don’t forget your vegetables: Prepare vegetables that are familiar to the seniors in your life – they don’t have to be exotic to be tasty. “Many seniors prefer to have one or two separate types of vegetables on their plates instead of a mix or medley,” advises McBlain. Steam or boil vegetables in lightly salted water until they reach the desired doneness. Some seniors prefer their vegetables al dente (tender crispy) while others prefer them much softer. Talk to the seniors in your life about their preferences.
Be Conscious of Portion Sizes: Seniors need fewer calories and eat smaller meals. Serving them large portions can actually decrease their appetite. An ideal portion for seniors includes:
3-4 oz of chicken, fish or meat
2 spoonfuls of rice, pasta or mashed potatoes
1 cup of vegetables
Try this for a few weeks and you could help lower blood pressure and cholesterol and improve the way they feel.
Finish with Something Sweet: Always have dessert! A small piece of chocolate cake, stewed rhubarb or rice pudding is the ideal way to finish a meal.
Looking for a delicious dessert recipe for the senior in your life? McBlain recommends baked apple with caramel custard.
Baked Apple with Caramel and Custard
Makes 4 portions
4 peeled and cored apples – spy
125 ml brown sugar
125 ml raisins
1 tbsp cinnamon
150 ml custard sauce
75 ml caramel sauce
- Place apples in greased pan. Pour a little bit of water into the bottom of each pan.
- combine sugar, cinamon and raisins and pour into center of each apple.
- Bake at 375 F for 30 min (325 F convection for 20 min) or until apples are soft.
- Prepare custard according to package directions.
- Serve 1 apple with 30ml of custard and drizzle with caramel sauce. Serve warm.
Gary McBlain is National Director of Culinary Services, Canada & US Retirement at Revera Inc., a leading provider of seniors’ services, care and accommodation.