Cooking healthy, tasty meals for selective eaters might be challenging, but you can please the older palate.
As we age, our dining needs change. Food doesn't taste the same as it used to. Our evolving health needs restrict or even banish certain foods. But this doesn't mean meals must be bland and tastless. It might seem challenging, but with a few tweaks and techniques you can create healthy, delicious food that is also pleasing to the older adult palate.
In fact, older adults are enjoying seared skirt steak with chipotle and garlic; rice noodles stir-fried with fresh chili, garlic and basil; banana blossom salad garnished with peanuts; and a tantalizing array of other zesty menu items. And you can prepare these menu items with health in mind.
American menus are being fundamentally reshaped by world culinary traditions. There are bolder, assertive flavors that span a broad range of cultures, from Latin America to Asia, from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean. At the same time, nutrition research experts continue to refine our understanding of what constitutes a healthy diet and healthy menu choices.
New guidelines encourage a diet based on whole grain foods and plant oils, which are abundant in many ethnic cuisines. Can all this be combined to create something that is both nutritious AND tastes great? The answer is absolutely!
Fresh food, fresh flavor
People lose portions of their taste buds as they get older, which makes it difficult to appreciate foods as they once did. In addition, people burn fewer calories as they age, and have a more difficult time absorbing nutrients and enjoying tastes.
The key to overcoming this is to use fresh ingredients, such as fruits and vegetables, as well as herbs -- use all natural ingredients as often as possible. The result is more intense flavor and density of nutrients because the foods haven't been processed.
An added bonus with this is that you will use less salt and sugar because the natural flavor of foods will come through. Sure, it may take a little longer to prepare certain dishes, but it is well worth the time when you savor the results.
Olive oil: "Liquid gold" from the Mediterranean
Most restaurants use butter and salt when preparing and cooking. Although this may enhance the taste, it is far from healthy. When cooking, it is better to use light cooking spray or olive oil.
You should also rely on a food's natural juices to seal in flavor as much as possible -- just be careful not to overcook! In fact, cooks should always try to bake or broil their dishes, rather than fry. This seals in juices and makes food more tender.
Fish or Red Meat?
It's fairly commonly known that fish is better for you than red meat. Here's why.
People who eat diets rich with red meat (more than two times a week) increase their risk of heart disease and some cancers because of its higher fat content. Diabetics must be especially cautious about eating red meat, due to their already higher risk for heart disease.
Those who eat more white meat, including fish are in a lower risk group and along with other factors, such as body weight and activity level are generally healthier.
Fish has less of the unhealthy fats (did you know there are healthy fats?) and more of the protein your body needs. Many kinds of seafood also provide vitamins and minerals, and nutrients called omega-3 fatty acids, which can prevent heart disease and could even assist with healthy brain development.
See the recipes at the end of this article and convert a red meat lover in your house!
Whole grains are good for you and delicious, too
Did you know that wheat flour and whole grain wheat flour are completely different? Not only does whole grain taste better and fill you up more, it is a much healthier way to get your daily carbohydrate fix. The processing wheat flour goes through before it gets into your "wheat" bread removes nutrients and fiber that are really good for you.
Don't be fooled by even some products that claim they are "whole grain." Check the ingredients label and make sure the whole grain you're supposed to be getting (such as amaranth, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, or whole wheat) is listed first on the list or is at least in the first few ingredients.
Healthful cooking for the whole family
It's important to recognize that food you prepare for older adults is healthy, tasty and good for the entire family. Older adults should never need to ask for a low-sugar, low-sodium or other "special" meal during family dining. Everyone at the table can benefit from better food, and it promotes healthy eating habits.
Use these basic tips to prepare everything from appetizers and desserts to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can prepare most meals with reduced fat and calories that are high in taste. You'll be amazed at how much more natural flavor comes through in the food, and how many overall health benefits this brings.
HEALTHY, TASTY RECIPES
Broiled Sea Bass with Olive Relish
4 Fresh sea bass fillets, 6 oz each
1 small Achyote squash, peeled, no pit
1 small Roma tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup ripe olive slices
2 Tbl lime juice
2 Tbl chopped cilantro
1 Tbl chopped red onion
1/2 cup broth (fish or vegetable)
Method of Preparation:
1. Chop vegetables (dice), keep squash and onions separate.
2. Sear fish in hot sauté pan with a little olive oil. remove fish and place aside to broil.
3. In same pan, while still hot, sauté the squash and onions till squash is a little soft.
4. Add broth and reduce till almost dry.
5. Remove from heat and transfer to bowl, add other ingredients and toss gently.
6. Broil seared sea bass fillets for 5 to 7 minutes 6 to 8 inches from heat.
7. Serve relish warm over sea bass fillets.
Complement this entree with a serving of steamed, fresh vegetables, such as asparagus, broccoli, or green beans. If your diet allows, add a whole grain roll to complete the meal.
Seared Salmon with Daikon Slaw
See it in the photo at the top of this article.
4 Salmon fillets, 6 oz each
1/2 cup shredded Daikon root
1/4 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cucumber, julienne, peeled & seeded
1/8 cup red pepper, thin julienne, peeled & seeded
2 Tbl rice wine vinegar
Pinch of ground Star Anise
2 tsp honey
1 Tbl fresh parsley, chopped
Fresh lemon juice 1/2 Ea
Method of Preparation:
1. Sauté the fillets in a little olive oil or broil them.
2. Peel, see, and chop vegetables (julienne or shredded).
3. Add herbs, vinegar, lemon juice, and honey to vegetables.
4. Mix the slaw ingredients together, toss gently and serve on top of the cooked salmon.