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As seniors, we all want optimal nutrition, but sometimes food choices can become confusing. There's a lot of contradictory evidence out there. We all remember the days when eggs were considered the enemy, now they are thought of as a nutrient rich power snack. We read the latest articles on superfoods and diets, but most of us aren't sure what might be a great addition to our meal time or what may be just a fad. And even if I want to try a healthy food such as tofu, how the heck am I going to prepare it?

Meet the Nutritional Needs of Seniors

Video is a audio/visual representation of the content on this page about the importance of nutrition for seniors. 

A Balanced Diet Is Essential to Good Health.

As seniors, a healthy and balanced diet is an essential part of taking care of ourselves. Our nutritional needs and food habits are different in several ways from people younger than us. As we get older, our metabolism slows down, so we need fewer calories. Therefore, it’s essential to get as much nutrition out of those fewer calories as possible. We also know that while some of us could stand to shed a few pounds, others of us are striving to keep it on. 


A handful of other reasons older adults may have trouble getting the right nutrients: 

  • Medication can sometimes decrease our appetites.


Eating the right foods also helps prevent certain diseases. A healthy diet helps your body function properly and gives you energy.


3 seniors enjoying a meal and each others company

There are entirely psychological factors that affect our relationship with food and dining as well. It can be easy to lose interest in cooking dinners for yourself. “As we age, especially when aging in an independent setting, it can be harder to get around in terms of getting to the grocery store, and preparing food,” says Chef Sean Danahy, Culinary Director for Holiday Retirement. “A lot of the things that we do day to day just become a little bit more burdensome, a little bit more labor intensive as we age.”

Eating alone can feel like a bore! Food may not interest you and may not taste as good. Shopping and hauling bags into the kitchen can feel like a chore. Sometimes it just seems easier to eat a bag of pretzels than to make a gorgeous nutritious dinner.

“The amount of food that seniors intake can actually not be enough. So malnutrition is very common, especially with an independent aging senior living alone,” says Danahy. “You might be hungry, but you might reach for crackers for the convenience versus going into the kitchen to create a balanced meal.” 

And how many times have you been distracted by chores then suddenly thought, ‘Ooops… I forgot to eat breakfast!’

chicken, nut and strawberry salad entrée

Nutritious AND Delicious Meals

What we are all sure of is that we want dishes that are tasty and that are as fresh as possible and as close to nature as the farm. This means eating real food and avoiding processed food that usually comes in boxes and cans. That is why the Holiday Retirement is so proud of their innovative meal approach “Liberalized Dining”, seasonal menus that take advantage of in-season foods, and dedication to made-from-scratch meals.

More than 400 Executive Chefs and Sous Chefs at Holiday Communities nationwide work closely with Chef Sean to create the menus. Chef Sean, in concert with these chefs, uses an ‘80/20 Rule’ where Chef Sean plans 80% of the menu, allowing the other 20% of the menu to come from the local Holiday Chefs.  

“Holiday Retirement is such a large company, that when we get into different regions, certain places have flavor profiles that they lean into,” says Danahy. “So the 80/20 Rule gives the community chef the ability to say, ‘you know, the menu calls for a certain fish, but catfish works better here in this area,’ or they swap out rice for potatoes, so they make the change to fit the local flavors. This allows a lot of flexibility for each community to really lend itself towards the resident preferences.”

Additionally, residents actively engage with the Executive Chefs to put Resident's Choice selections on every meal each week. Think of it as the "Daily Special" chosen by a committee of residents.

This flexibility of menus nationwide is at the core of Executive Chef and dietician Sean Danahy’s ‘liberalized’ dining approach.

vegetables being sautéed in pan in flammable sauce

What is Liberalized Dining?

A liberalized diet is essentially a non-restrictive diet that allows residents to actively make more decisions about what and when they eat.

The goal of liberalized diets is to meet the nutritional needs of the person while keeping meals interesting yet healthy. When people actually like the diet that they are going to eat, they can look forward to meals. Seniors can continue to maintain their health while having the freedom to choose their food.  

The liberalized diet isn’t just tasty -- it’s backed by science. Here are some further benefits: 

  • Liberalized diets have been linked with increased food intake and reduced risk of malnutrition.

  • Improved quality of life due to the pleasure of eating non-restrictive foods and the social aspect of dining with others.

  • One way to combat dehydration is through diet liberalization, particularly for those who have swallowing problems.

  • Because of the nutrient dense nature of the diet, you spend less on supplements.

Chef talking with 2 senior residents and a guest during a meal

Having a more cooperative relationship with your chefs at Holiday, allows you to maintain your independence and keep a hands-on approach to caring for your diet and health.

Food often helps people make memories and socialize with others. When someone feels restricted from certain food types, it may decrease their quality of life. They cannot enjoy the same foods they associate with happy memories. However, finding similar substitutes or menu options that work within their limits can help seniors follow their diet easily.

Because, as Executive Chef Sean says, “Simply put, it doesn’t matter how healthy something is if people don’t want to eat it.” For a peek at some healthy, yet delicious meals, look at this Menu Preview. 

At Holiday, the benefits of healthy eating outweigh the challenges. Great protein choices, a bonanza of vegetables and fruits, healthy legumes and fresh-baked breads. Calcium-rich foods for stronger bones, and elegantly seasoned food that will make you forget about that salt! Simple and impressive restaurant quality mealtime choices, along with the feeling that you're dining with your friends at your favorite café.

You never have to eat alone again at Holiday. You can enjoy 3 meals a day, 7 days a week, in a restaurant style setting with multiple options at every meal. Meals are served at the same times daily, which dieticians say is a healthy pattern to maintain. And you never have to worry about missing a meal again, or cleaning the dishes.

Join Us For Lunch! Reserve Your Table Here.

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