Nutrition and hydration – hints & tips

Good nutrition and hydration go hand in hand, both are essential for wellbeing at any age. If you are caring for an elderly relative or work in care, you’ll know it’s important to encourage those with a diminished appetite to continue to enjoy food and feel their best. Within our care homes we cater to a wide variety of elderly diets and individual needs, our tips and ideas taken from best practice in our residential care homes are great if you are caring for an elderly person at home.

Nutrition made easy
A loss of appetite is a common problem for older people, this can be down to a reduced sense of taste, lack of motivation to cook or medical conditions. But encouraging good eating habits will improve their sleep, help them retain weight and support wellbeing and improved energy levels. Try to tailor meals to individual preferences and regional tastes as well as trying something new.

Snacks that pack a punch
Break a day’s food into smaller meals and snacks. Eating nutritious food is more important than the time of day it is consumed. Older people especially those living with dementia may not have the energy or inclination to consume a whole plate of food. But finger foods, including warm savoury’s can replace a warm plated meal at any time of the year. Jacket potatoes, omelettes, a cheese or bacon toasted sandwich are small meals that you can prepare in under ten minutes. Add a salad garnish for a pop of colour.

Tip: Try fish goujons, sausage rolls, tempura chicken with delicious dipping sauces for a substantial snack.

Eat well, sleep well
Main meals in the evening should consist of slow-releasing carbohydrates, low glycemic loads, and slow-releasing sugars to help retain weight. Your body digests these foods slowly leaving you feeling full for longer. Low GI foods examples:

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Brown rice
  • Breakfast cereals and cereal bars that contain oats
  • Cakes, cookies, and sweet treats
  • Rice crackers
  • Fruits such as watermelon and pineapple
  • Sweetened dairy products such as fruit yogurts

Winter comfort foods
During the winter offer a warm dessert for comfort. This promotes good sleep due to the slow release of sugar and starches. Always speak to a clinician if you are providing a low-sugar diet.

Tip: Add berries to a traditional, warm apple crumble to boost the nutrition and flavour, try a sprinkle of oats in your crumble mixture – serve with homemade custard or Greek yogurt for creamy goodness.

Seasonal selections
Seasonal vegetables offer a variety of nutrients and balance – this includes micronutrients and a wealth of flavours. Compliment popular everyday vegetables with seasonal leeks, butternut squash, celeriac, cabbages (red and green) beetroot and pumpkin.

Tip: make a smooth vegetable homemade soup that is bursting with flavour and colour – serve with small slices of whole meal, granary, brown and seeded bread for a healthy carbohydrate portion.

Spuds are good!
The humble spud holds a whole host of Nutritional benefits. Carbohydrate aids sleep and the skin of the potato is highly nutritious. More than a side-dish, the fibre is essential for digestion and fullness. Vary the preparation for interesting and tasty potatoes:

  • Hasselback potatoes
  • New potatoes with fresh mint or lemon butter
  • Roast potatoes with rosemary and garlic
  • Dauphinoise
  • Roasted sweet potatoes
  • More than mash! (horseradish, herb, mustard, cheese mash, sweet potato mash, parsnip and apple mash)

Mix it up
Carbohydrates create a feeling of fullness and aid good sleep patterns. Include a variety of carbohydrates as an alternative to potato dishes and don’t forget to include wholegrain versions too!

  • Pasta or Orzo
  • Couscous
  • Rice
  • Whole grain bread or muffins
  • Pulses (beans, lentils, chickpeas)
  • Noodles – such as egg noodles

Vary your cooking methods
The way the food is cooked will also have an impact on the structure of food in terms of textures, consistency, contexts, flavors, and tenderness. Try different cooking methods to retain nutrients, vitamins and flavor.

  • Roasting
  • Shallow frying
  • Grilling
  • Braising & stewing
  • Steaming
  • Poaching
  • Baking
  • Slow cooking
  • Stir-frying – this also keeps the texture and retention of nutrients

Tip: When boiling or blanching vegetables, use the cooking water for gravy, soups or stocks because this will contain water soluble vitamins like Vitamin B and Vitamin C.

Take it slow
Low temperature and slow cooking that includes casseroles and stews allow you to retain all the nutrients and vitamins within the dish. Searing meat prior to a casserole will also add flavour and texture. This is also a wonderful way to try different cuts of meat that improve and soften through the slow cooking method. You’ll get a great result and save time for other tasks while it cooks!

Keep talking
When dining with your loved ones discussing the food and drink can stimulate appetite and enjoyment of meals. It will naturally encourage them to taste the food or sip that drink.

Variety is the spice of life!
As you age your tastes will change, so try offering a new recipe as an alternative to the everyday dishes. Indian or Thai curry, mild chili con carne or Mexican inspired fajitas could soon become a favorite for the whole family.

Dehydration is a common issue for elderly, but there are simple ways you can encourage optimum levels of hydration. For elderly care the NHS Eatwell guide suggests two litres of water per person per day for hydration. In our homes we have set up hydration stations around the home with fresh chilled drinks for the residents and teams support hydration requirements. (include visual of hydration station).

Be social
Sit together with your loved one to enjoy their favourite drink together. This can promote relaxation and increase fluid intake, especially during breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as morning coffee or afternoon tea. If we feel relaxed, we will naturally enjoy our refreshments and drink more.

Spoilt for choice
You can encourage water and healthy drink consumption by offering choice. Water is the best option, but fortified drinks give a chance to boost nutrition and hydration. We encourage this through our drinks stations in our care homes that are easy to see and access and attractive to the residents – you can try this at home by showing a range of beverages and juices in clear fridge friendly containers.

Fruit that packs a punch
Adding slices of fresh fruit doesn’t just add visual appeal, its soluble fibre and vitamins, turn water into a powerful health-boosting hydration solution. This is a great alternative to concentrated juices that have a large amount of sugar in them. Try using fresh fruits like berries, lemons, limes and oranges or vegetables and herbs like cucumber and mint, plus ice cubes.

Chill out
You can make your own ice lollies and ice creams to encourage another form of hydration The flavour combinations are endless, and you can use most pureed fruit and yogurt or cream.

Afternoon occasion, any day of the week
Make an occasion of afternoon tea. A simple tea or coffee and cake will lift the spirits and create a reason to chat. Tea can be cooling in the summer and warming in winter, that’s why us brits can’t live without our daily cuppa. Try herbal or low caffeine varieties. Don’t forget your loved one may have a favorite cup and appreciate the familiarity of home – so if they do move into residential care you can continue to use this.

If you would like some advice our Home Managers and Wellbeing Coordinators are happy to explain how we approach nutrition and hydration in our homes. We offer short stays or visits that include meals within our homes. Please contact your nearest home: Find a home – Aria Care

What we do at our homes
Each of our home’s team and chef teams meet with the residents upon arrival to discuss the dietary requirements and likes and preferences. This is the resident centred approach to welcoming our residents.

Our chefs attend resident meetings to discuss the menus and upcoming ideas for new menus. We hold special celebration meals and events for occasions such as Christmas, Easter, Mothering Sunday, Diwali, Chinese New Year, Holi and Eid.

The homes plan themed days throughout the year to have a whole home approach to make each day special; recent events include Fish & Chip Day and National Pie Week. Also, complimentary dining is offered so you can eat with your loved one (advanced booking required), and a private dining room is available in some homes.

For more information about our approach to hospitality, please click here