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Prepared Meals Are Getting Better & Offer More Options like Gluten-Free

Reprinted with permission from MagicKitchen. Learn more about MagicKitchen as a solution for prepared meals.
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Studies show that seniors lose taste buds as they get older. But in the past, that may have been a blessing when it came to eating meals that were prepared for them in advance. While some pre-packaged meals were great; some others were, well, not so much. Fortunately, that has started to change.

In Canada, the topic has been a raging controversy. In Alberta, Calgary, Alberta Health Services had been serving pre-packaged meals to seniors in each of their 73 long-term care communities. The meals, precooked and flash-frozen off-premises were not getting rave reviews from residents, their families or even the staff. In fact, the words mush, sawdust, disgusting and inedible were often heard in the descriptions given by those who ate the prepackaged dinners. Kitchen staff was embarrassed to serve them. Amidst all the complaints, Canadian Health Minister Fred Horne ordered the long-term care facilities to start serving home-cooked meals.

In the United States, most senior communities already cook and serve meals that are prepared onsite. And home-delivered meals are getting better, too.

Let’s face it – food is a huge part of most of our lives. And for seniors, who might be housebound or living in a senior community and unable to go out to eat, it’s all the more important. Mealtime is king. The tastes and smells associated with certain foods can take us back to our younger days and even childhood. Those memories are often among the last to go, even for those with dementia.

And of course, breakfast, lunch and dinner are very social affairs in a senior community. It’s a chance to get together with your fellow residents and share conversation over a – hopefully – good meal. And if the food is bad, well, the conversation can take a turn for the worse, as well!

For those living at home, services such as Meals on Wheels (MOW) and prepackaged meal providers are also taking note that the meals need to be better than they used to be – in terms of taste, texture and nutrition.

Meals on Wheels and other similar local senior meal providers, generally prepare meals in a commercial kitchen and they are then delivered – usually hot – to the seniors’ door. While there is usually a weekly or monthly menu planned in advance, seniors can choose to cancel a meal or choose a sandwich instead. MOW and the like are generally provided to seniors at a very low or occasionally no cost. But even so, many providers solicit feedback from their clients concerning what meals are the most popular – and which ones should be eliminated.

The same is becoming true of prepackaged meals. Here, subscribers are usually able to choose what meals they prefer from a large menu, so they get exactly what they want. But unlike MOW, these meals are not discounted for the elderly, so the quality must meet expectations or the seniors would drop the program in a minute. These types of meals are especially appealing to people with heart disease or diabetes that have specific dietary requirements.

Fewer taste buds or not, growing old doesn’t mean seniors can’t still enjoy a good meal. Fortunately, those preparing the meals are starting to agree.

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Posted October 2013 on