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Cooking with Care: Recipes for Caregivers

Cooking with Care: Recipes for Caregivers

Growing older sneaks up on all of us — especially when it hits our parents. All of our lives, we look at our folks as OUR initial caregivers, the people we go to when we’re in trouble or sick. They’re our “super people.” But, they do age, and many ordinary tasks start to become difficult. Healthy aging is a goal we all should all share and a good, well-balanced diet including a day’s recommended nutrients is very important.

Good nutrition is the first line of defense for older adults or seniors who are trying to stay healthy and maintain their independence as they age. It helps to protect all of us from illness and disease, but it is VERY important as we grow older. When you aren’t able to do your own shopping or cooking, achieving a well-balanced diet is not easy. It can be too easy to depend on processed, prepared foods that are high in sodium and saturated fat, and low in nutrients. This is a challenge that can be made easier when older children of aging parents step in as caregivers.

There are several things to think about when preparing food for older adults. Do they have their teeth? If they have false teeth or no teeth, it may be hard to feed them healthy foods they once loved. Even something as innocuous as vegetables can be hard to chew if not cooked right, or in some cases mashed. Do they have other health issues, such as diabetes, kidney issues, and/or heart disease? You need to watch ingredients such as sugar, potassium, and salt. Little to no sugar should be included in their food. Salt is very bad for heart disease because of water retention. Potassium, while an important nutrient that can help to combat the effects of sodium, is not good for people with kidney issues. There are fruits and vegetables that need to be eliminated or used in extreme moderation when you are cooking for someone with kidney issues, such as bananas, oranges, cantaloupes, potatoes, tomatoes, and spinach. Remember — moderation or elimination is the key.

Here are some traditional recipes made a bit healthier:

Vegetable Beef Soup
Beef bones
5 quarts of water
3 large carrots
2 celery stalks
1 medium sized onion
1 small can tomato sauce
1 lb. bag of frozen vegetables
1 medium sized sweet potato, cubed
Salt & pepper to taste

1/2 pound ground meat (85-90% lean – you can use either ground beef, a ground beef mixture or ground turkey)
1 egg beaten
1-2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup minced onions
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 cup grated Italian cheese
2 Tablespoons minced parsley
Dash of salt – optional
Dash of Pepper

Add beef bones and water to a large soup/sauce pot with 5 quarts of water. Cook over medium heat until a foamy substance starts to form on top (around 30-45 minutes or so). Remove foamy substance as the soup continues to cook. When the foaming stops, add the carrots, celery, onion and some salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the vegetables and beef are tender (around another 30-45 minutes or so). While the soup is cooking, make small (1/2 inch size) meatballs out of the ground meat and other meatball ingredients.

When the vegetables and meat are tender, remove the celery, carrots, and onion. You can cut up the carrots and add back to the soup and either discard the onion and celery, or puree them and add back to the soup. This will thicken the soup a bit and add more flavor. Add the meatballs, sweet potatoes, sauce, and frozen vegetables, and cook until the meatballs and sweet potatoes are cooked and the frozen vegetables are tender. Hints — if you are making this soup for a senior citizen, try to find frozen vegetables without lima beans, since they seem to be tougher to chew than the other vegetables. Watch the salt content if they have heart issues.

2 lbs. ground beef (85-90% lean) or turkey
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small to medium sized onion, chopped
3 — 4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium sized can of diced tomatoes or 1-2 cups of fresh diced tomatoes
1 can of small red beans, drained and rinsed
Chili powder
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Spicy mustard
Salt & pepper to taste
Optional — frozen vegetables

In a medium sized high-sided frying pan, brown the ground meat meat until almost cooked. Move the meat to the sides of the pan to form a circle in the middle where you can add a small amount of the olive oil, just enough to coat the onions and garlic. Add onions to the frying pan and cook for about a minute, until translucent, then add the garlic. Cook for about another minute, then mix the meat together with the onions and garlic. Add the tomatoes, beans, a squirt of mustard, and the seasonings to taste. There are purposely no measurements for the seasonings because the amounts should be based on the health conditions of the people you are making this for. Hint — if you are making this for a senior citizen you can also add frozen vegetables to this chili to make it more nutritious for them.

1 comment

1 Robert Ferrante { 07.23.12 at 11:40 am }

I am a caregiver for my wife, who has Alzheimer’s, and do all the cooking. We eat healthy and appreciate your approach. My Question: Caregiving day in and day out is stressful. Do you have receipes for people like me — not my wife who readily eats and enjoys what I cook — that can help me keep my own health in better shape? Thanks.

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