By Judy Ruland, as told to Grace R. Freedman
Today we present an informal chat about seniors and family meals. Our B4FD co-founder Grace R. Freedman talked with her mom, Judy Ruland, to get the perspective of why family meals are important to seniors.
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It is just the two of you at the table, yet I know you make an effort to have meals together 2 or 3 times a day. Why are family meals important at this stage of your life?
Cooking is a creative outlet for me, but it can be a challenge for me, at 72, to prepare healthy meals – every day, 3 times a day. Tom, my husband, is 86 and must follow a diabetic diet. We eat the same meals though, so that we can support each other and enjoy each other’s company while also eating well. We look forward to our meals because we want to stay healthy and fit and keep our family dinner a joy.
Do you have any words of advice? Any special tips or recipe ideas for seniors?
- Simple works for seniors: small plates, small portions, and ease of preparation.
- Planning helps; our Florida heat makes morning cooking a must. Or use a grill to minimize the heat and the clean-up.
- “Big batch” cooking can work for seniors : vegetables, pasta, homemade soups and chili; use your imagination! When I prepare oven meals, such as meat loaf, I will cook in the morning and reheat a portion for dinner. I freeze and label additional portions for another meal.
- Fresh herbs add color, taste and added nutrition to meals; it’s important that our meals look attractive and taste delicious, too.
- Variety is important; we include fruits, veggies, nuts and grains in our eating plan.
Where do you go for cooking inspiration?
I watch the “Today” show in the morning and, from the show, I get many great recipes from international chefs, accompanied by demonstrations of cooking techniques. Mark Bittman, Martha Stewart, Bobby Flay, Giada DeLaurentis are a few of my favorite presenters. There are also many cookbooks and magazines available for free at the library.
What is your advice to seniors who can no longer live independently?
Many seniors in Melbourne, Florida, where I live, decide at some point to move to an assisted living community; there are many to choose from – everyone’s advice is to choose the one with the best chef! If the food is good, more residents come out for lunch or dinner and then really enjoy the meals and the companionship at the communal meals.
Thank you for sharing your ideas about family meals from a senior’s prespective. Any final thoughts?
We’re looking forward to sharing many more meals together, whether it’s just the two of us or with our extended family!
Judy Ruland is a senior who lives in Melbourne, Florida with her husband. She enjoys daily exercise (biking, yoga and Zumba!), making healthy meals, walks on the beach, and visits from her grandchildren. She also enjoys taking trips to the library to read and check in on her favorite blogs, EatDinner.org and Blog For Family Dinner!