Assisted Living: Menus, Nutritional Guidelines, and Examples

“What are we having for dinner?”

We’ve heard this phrase from our kids, we ask our spouses, our spouses ask us; it’s an age old question that can start wars. Food is what brings us together, it’s what creates memories, and it might just be the best time of day.

This is why dining options, menus, and what’s for dinner are so important when considering a senior care community for you or your loved one. It’s important that there will not only be access to fresh, healthy foods, but also foods that can be universally enjoyed, especially for older adults with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Having comfort foods available can work wonders for their mental health, and mealtime can continue to be one of the highlights of their day.

Learn more about the unique nutritional needs of older adults, the benefits of healthier eating in older age, and what sort of considerations a quality senior care home will put into their menus.

Nutritional Guidelines for Senior Citizens

The assisted living community you are considering should offer meals catered to the nutritional needs of senior citizens. Special considerations to keep in mind are the fact that older adults are more prone to certain nutrient deficiencies, such as:

  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin B12
  • Fiber
  • Potassium

Older adults also have a much easier time gaining weight and a much harder time losing it. As such, they should eat nutrient-dense foods light in calories, like fruits and vegetables, to get the most nutritional bang for their buck.

Diet and Alzheimer’s Disease

It’s no secret that eating well has many health benefits; now, researchers are exploring whether the benefits of healthy eating include delayed onset of dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease. At this point in time, no reliable evidence proves that there is a definite, reduced dementia risk from eating a healthy diet.

Current research, however, is still promising: evidence suggests that there might be a link between certain diets, like the Mediterranean diet, and a boost in cognition. Experts are not entirely sure how such diets would reduce Alzheimer’s risk (if they actually reduce risk at all), but they speculate that the diet’s cardiovascular benefits could result in a lower risk of dementia.

Again, current evidence does not conclusively prove (only suggests) that eating a healthy diet reduces risk of dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

Even if healthier eating habits don’t delay dementia onset or reduce Alzheimer’s risk, there are still plenty of other benefits to eating better. Perhaps most importantly, the Mediterranean diet and other similar diets are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, the number one cause of death in the United States.

Other Mealtime Considerations for Assisted Living Communities

For those who live in some form of senior living care community, mealtime can be the highlight of residents’ days, especially if food is served in a restaurant-style dining room where socialization with other residents is possible. If your loved ones’ senior community offers various meal plans, you can further personalize their dining experience to their unique tastes.

Nutrition & Healthy Eating Resources for Older Adults

For more information, you can review the following resources:

Sample Menus for Assisted Living Communities

Below are some assisted living menu examples that strike a nice balance between nutrition and taste.

What’s great about these sample menus is that they offer a variety of healthy food choices, so that your family members won’t become bored with their menu options, nor will their nutrition suffer because of it.

What does this mean when choosing a place for your loved one?

Look for a facility that offers a comprehensive dining service with alternating menus, like Sunrise Senior Living does. Their Sunrise Signature Dining program offers over 56 different hot entrees and at least 55 alternate entrĂ©e choices every month. That means residents could have a different lunch and dinner every day of the month! It’s also important that menus are approved by dietitians, as is the case with Atria Senior Living communities.

Please note that dietary needs will vary by individual, so it is important to consult with your loved one’s physician or dietitian about whether their current diet is meeting their nutritional requirements.

Final Thoughts

A well-designed assisted living menu can elevate the dining experiences of folks living in a variety of senior communities. Not only can it be beneficial for their physical health, but having access to a variety of menu choices means residents will look forward to mealtime. In fact, it may just become the highlight of their day!