Preparing nutritious, delicious food for the seniors in your charge doesn’t have to be a difficult task. Even for those with allergies or specific dietary restrictions, follow a few simple steps to make sure the food you’re preparing is both safe and healthy:
1. Avoid allergens: What to look for
Symptoms of food allergies can range depending on the severity, but you could look for rashes around the mouth, swelling of the lips and tongue, or intestinal issues. More severe reactions can include anaphylactic shock, which is life-threatening and will need medical intervention.
Some of the most common food allergies include dairy, eggs, peanuts, shellfish, and soy, among others. To ensure you are providing the safest experience for your seniors, first, ask them if they have any known allergies. Even if they respond in the negative, it’s best to proceed with caution. Some allergies have been known to manifest in adulthood, perhaps as the result of a delayed sensitization period or a reaction with some other allergen, like pollen.
For seniors with food allergies, it’s important to take extra care in food preparation and storage. Instead of taking a chance on any of these serious side effects, follow a few quick tips. For one, always wash your hands between handling different kinds of foods. In addition, always cook allergen-free meals first (so potential allergens won’t be on your cooking surface), and use multiple cutting boards if possible. You should also strive to avoid cross-contamination and store ingredients properly — store allergenic ingredients in the same place in the kitchen, for example.
2. Try some healthy (allergen-free!) snack ideas
So what do you cook to ensure your seniors are getting the nutrients they need while at the same time avoiding illness or adverse reactions? Healthy snacks with few or no allergens are a great choice. Try to avoid foods that are high in sugar — instead, go for whole grains and whole vegetables.
Some delicious examples of healthy, allergen-free snacks can be high-protein energy balls, roasted chickpeas, avocado, or popcorn. These provide protein, good fats, and healthy carbs — not to mention, popcorn, at least, is a pretty low-calorie food.
Even seniors with a serious sweet tooth can have that desire sated with sweet treats like fruit salad, trail mix, and home-made popsicles. Get creative with these nutritious snack ideas, while keeping in mind that your senior may have dietary restrictions, and it’s easy to keep them healthy.
3. Watch how you cook!
Allergens aren’t the only trouble. As we get older, our immune systems decline. In addition, the liver and kidneys may not effectively get rid of bacteria as we get older, and the gastrointestinal tract holds on to food for a longer period of time, leading to more bacteria.
All of this means that it’s doubly important to take stock of how you’re cooking the meals provided to seniors. Food poisoning from undercooked meat, for example, can be much more severe for older citizens, so take care to fully cook chicken, beef, turkey, or whichever meat you are preparing to the minimum recommended internal temperature.
While you’re cooking, as we mentioned previously, make sure to wash your hands often after handling ingredients and before mixing. You should also sanitize every surface thoroughly and, when you’re done, store cooked food at the proper temperature (41 degrees Fahrenheit).
Bonus: Get certified!
By following these simple tips, you can keep your senior charges happy and healthy. But here’s an extra tip: Become a certified food manager. This certification and requisite training courses will prepare you for a job in the restaurant industry or in senior care. Contact Always Food Safe to become a certified food manager today.