Food for thought: How to cater to aging taste buds

Eating well is key to living life to the fullest, no matter what your age. But dietary requirements can change as we get older. Not only do our taste buds start to lose their sensitivity, but how much we eat, and how we prepare it can have a significant impact on our health.

“Statistics tell us that seniors are expected to outnumber children in Canada as soon as 2015,” says Jeff Lozon, president and CEO of Revera, a company with 50 years of experience in seniors’ accommodation, care and services. “As a society we’ve learned a lot about helping kids eat better. Now we need to focus on our seniors. After all, they love food too.”

Revera’s corporate chef, Gary McBlain, believes one important tip is to avoid getting into the rut of cooking the same meals over and over again.

“Like anyone else, seniors like variety, says Mr. McBlain. “It really is the spice of life at any age, and choosing nutritious options helps keep meals healthy too.”

When cooking for yourself or for the seniors in your life, Chef McBlain has a few tips:

Add flavour, not salt: As we age, we start to lose some sense of smell. This loss affects the way we taste food. Rather than simply using more salt, liven up your meals by adding fresh herbs or herb pastes, spices in moderation, and other concentrated flavours like citrus juice or mustard.

Freshen up and eat your veggies: Try to purchase more fresh foods rather than processed or prepackaged meals. Fresh ingredients always have less of the “the bad stuff,” says Gary, like sodium, corn sugars, fats and preservatives. Vegetable are a smart choice at any age; aim to eat variety and try to include dark green and orange veggies.

Consider texture: Some seniors may have trouble chewing tough foods. Try slowly braising meats instead of grilling or baking. Pounding chicken or pork with a mallet before cooking can help tenderize meat, making it easier to chew.

Watch portion sizes: Seniors need fewer calories and tend to eat smaller meals. Serving seniors large portions can actually decrease their appetite. An example of an ideal portion for seniors: 3-4 oz. of chicken, fish or meat; 2 spoonfuls of rice, pasta or mashed potatoes; and 1 cup of vegetables.

More tips on healthy eating can be found on Revera’s website at