This page provides food safety advice for elderly people who receive meals on wheels or buy frozen meals. It also gives ideas about how to gain weight, which is a common dilemma for older people.
This information was produced in conjunction with the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation.
- always use clean utensils
- use separate chopping boards and utensils when preparing raw foods (especially meat and poultry) and cooked or ready-to-eat foods
- personal hygiene is vital to maintain food safety - always wash and dry your hands before handling food
- cook food thoroughly to ensure any pathogens (disease-causing organisms) are killed
- cook minced meat and sausages thoroughly (meat should not be pink) and cook poultry until the juices run clear.
- keep food covered at all times unless it’s being prepared or eaten - especially in the fridge (this stops other foods dripping onto it).
- keep raw and cooked foods separate in the fridge
- defrost food in the fridge, not on the bench; room temperatures are ideal for pathogen growth
- if you receive a warm meal (e.g. meals-on- wheels) and don’t intend to eat it straight away, keep it in the fridge not on the bench.
- stir your food often to ensure it heats through evenly, especially when using the microwave
- always leave microwaved food for the recommended stand time after heating so it finishes cooking
- ensure the food is reheated thoroughly; it should be steaming hot right through to the middle
- reheat leftovers only once, then throw any remainders out.
Also remember: buy food in small quantities so you can eat it all before it goes off. Buying lots when it’s on sale doesn’t pay off if you can’t eat it before it spoils and makes you sick.
As we get older we may (intentionally or unintentionally) eat less so it is important that the food that we eat is very nutritious. Older people who lose weight are more likely to suffer falls and broken bones. Unintentional weight loss can lead to increasing frailty and a loss of independence.
Here is some practical advice to help you eat well and gain weight:
- Try to have regular meals and small snacks throughout the day; eat every 2 to 3 hours; this will stimulate your appetite
- Snacks are helpful - three small snacks a day are equal to one meal
- Enjoy a pudding or dessert every day
- Using full cream milk (with the dark blue or silver label or cap)
- Try frozen meals from your supermarket or order them home-delivered
- Meals-on-wheels, frozen or chilled meals are a good way to get a nutritious meal but you will need to use additional foods at other meals
- Try having your main meal in the middle of the day as you’ll have more energy to prepare and eat your meals
- Avoid the low fat varieties when you buy ready-made soups and desserts
- Try milk shakes or protein/milk-based supplements available from your supermarket or pharmacy, and remember it’s important to make them up according to the directions on the packet to get the correct concentration
- If you live alone, try to eat with friends and family sometimes - it’s more enjoyable and you will find that you eat more
- Try to spend some time out in the sun each day; we are all at risk of Vitamin D deficiency but if we get enough sunlight, our body makes its own Vitamin D which helps keep bones and muscles strong
- Being in the sunshine, or getting fresh air can also help improve your appetite - get dressed and sit outside with a drink and snack
- If you have been following a low fat diet check with your doctor whether that is still the best diet for you - it may be time to review your diet
- If you continue to lose weight after changing your eating pattern, discuss this with you doctor.
- Aim to have 6-8 drinks such as water, milk or juice a day.
- Try to eat at least three meals and two snacks every day.
Porridge with full cream milk
Cereal and fruit with milk or yoghurt
Bread or toast with toppings
Tea, coffee, juice or a milky drink
Morning, afternoon and evening snacks
Fruit or fruit juice
Crackers with cheese toppings
Sandwiches with a filling of fish, egg, meat or peanut butter
Biscuits or cake
Dairy dessert, yoghurt, tinned creamy rice
Tea, coffee, a milky drink, or soup
Middle of the day
Home-made, frozen or chilled meals
Dessert e.g. tinned fruit and ice-cream, custard, individual steamed puddings
Juice or a milky drink
Frozen snack meals, or an egg dish or soup and toast
Dessert eg, tinned fruit and ice-cream, custard, or individual steamed puddings
Juice or a milky drink