How can I improve the nutrition in my mother's meals at her living center?

1 answer | Last updated: Nov 15, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mom, who is very independent, lives in an independent living retirement facility that also has graduated care. Her rent includes two meals per day. The "specials", which are supposedly set up to meet state nutrition guidelines because they are served to the assisted residents also, do not seem to meet a highly nutritious balance. I take her shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables and skim milk because her dining room does not provide highly nutritious dark and brightly colored vegetables, fruit more than twice a week and no skim milk (this is just one example). Is there a senior food pyramid guide I can look at and how do I share this with the nutritionist and head chef at her one year old upscale senior living community?


Expert Answers

Beth Reardon, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., is Caring.com senior food and nutrition editor and the director of integrative nutrition at Duke Integrative Medicine. As a practitioner of integrative nutrition, Reardon takes a holistic approach to wellness, recognizing that the foundation for optimal health and healing begins with a health-promoting diet. As a practitioner of integrative nutrition, Reardon takes a holistic approach to wellness, recognizing that the foundation for optimal health and healing begins with a health-promoting diet.

First, let me applaud your efforts to improve not just your mother's diet, but that of the residents in the rest of the facility. There is in fact a new version of the USDA Food Guide Pyramid for Older Adults, developed by Tufts University which emphasizes the changing needs of an aging population including the need for fewer calories, increased fluids and special requirements that increase as we age such as B-12 and Vitamin D. Copies are available at this link[tufts.edu].

I love the idea of you taking your mother shopping to supplement what she may not be getting on a daily basis at the residence. I would also recommend stocking nutritious back ups for her to keep in her living area such as nuts, dried fruit, canned bean soups, Greek yogurt, precooked whole grains that she can microwave, hummus and whole grain crackers.

In terms of how to approach the nutritionist and head chef, I would consider a diplomatic approach possibly offering to make a display for the residents using information from the website.