As the Food and Beverage Director at University Village Thousand Oaks, I lead our culinary staff that cooks for 500 residents every day, serving more than 2,500 meals a week at the continuing care retirement community. How do we do it? Here are some of my tried-and-true tips for keeping food exciting, tasty and healthy for the seniors in your life.
CHEF NICK’S TOP TIPS FOR COOKING FOR SENIORS
1. Variety is the key.
At University Village, we constantly change the menu to add a few choices that are new. Imagine how drab meals would be if you ate at the same restaurant every day! We are always coming up with new ideas. On any given day, we have approximately 45 choices on the menu.
2. Every senior has a different diet.
Some seniors prefer more salt, and some can have no salt at all for dietary reasons. We make sure we have as many options available as we can. One way to present a tasty, low-sodium meal is to use low-sodium spice blends that achieve the robust flavors seniors crave but are frequently off limits for health reasons. Our culinary team visits local ethnic eateries for new ideas about how to spice things up in the kitchen.
3. Follow the “farm to plate” philosophy whenever possible.
Most seniors grew up eating food sourced from local and seasonal ingredients. Here in Ventura County, we are blessed with numerous farmers’ markets. Shop the markets to obtain the freshest ingredients available, and then use those ingredients as soon as possible.
4. Talk to the senior you are cooking for to understand their likes and dislikes.
Seniors who enjoy the food prepared for them will eat more and receive the vital nutrition they need. At University Village, understanding the food preferences for more than 500 residents is the hardest part of my job. After all, every person has a favorite style of food or restaurant. Taking time every day just to listen to the residents is probably the most important thing I do.