Healthy eating with Meals on WheelsTop
Healthy eating is important for healthy living. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating represents the foundation of healthy eating for older Australians. It encourages you to enjoy a variety of foods every day and shows the proportions of food from the different food groups that are needed to ensure you include all the nutrients necessary for good health.
Food for the Day
Your Meals on Wheels delivered meal is prepared according to nutrition guidelines that require the meal to provide one third of your nutritional needs for the day. Your Meals on Wheels meal provides a good start to healthy eating but you need to eat other foods as well. As well as eating all of the meal usually provided by the Meals on Wheels meal, you need to eat additional foods every day to ensure you are eating enough.
Breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles
Include at least an extra three to four serves of bread, cereals or other grain foods. This could be a couple of thick slices of bread in a sandwich plus a bowl of cereal/porridge/pasta/rice and a couple of plain biscuits or a few crackers.
Include at least an extra one or two serves of vegetables. This could be salad vegetables in a sandwich or a plate of salad, or half a cup of cooked fresh, frozen or canned vegetables, or baked beans or tomatoes on your toast.
Include at least an extra serve of fruit. This could be a banana, a slice of melon, small bowl of fruit salad, tinned or stewed fruit or a handful of dried fruit.
Milk, yoghurt, cheese
Include at least two extra serves of dairy foods. This could be a cup of milk on your cereal and a slice of cheese with your crackers/salad/sandwich, or a tub of yoghurt and a cup of flavoured milk/hot milk for supper, or two cups of soy milk over the day.
Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, legumes
Include an extra small serve of these high protein foods. This could be egg/sardines/baked beans with toast or in a salad or sandwich, or a handful of nuts, some peanut butter or some hummus/chickpea dip.
Including these foods sometimes or in small amount can add to enjoyment and variety of meals. It’s OK to sometimes add ice-cream to the Meals on Wheels dessert or occasionally nibble on a small piece of chocolate with your cup of tea. Just remember these foods don’t contribute many vitamins or minerals, so don’t overindulge.
Drink Plenty of Water
Water is the best drink but other drinks like milk drinks, tea, coffee, fruit juice and plain mineral water can also keep you hydrated. Try to drink some water every day and include a drink of fluid with every meal.
Sample Meal Plan
The following meal plan is an example of how to include additional food from each food group over a day.
Bowl of cereal/porridge with milk or yoghurt. Fresh, stewed or canned fruit. Toast with vegemite, peanut butter or marmalade. Glass of Water and/or Tea of Coffee.
Crackers with cheese and tomato. Glass of Water and/or Tea or Coffee.
Soup, main meal, dessert and fruit juice. Glass of Water and/or Tea or Coffee.
Plain biscuits. Milk drink.
Sandwich with chicken and salad. Glass of Water and/or Tea or Coffee.
Fresh, stewed or canned fruit with custard, ice-cream or yoghurt. Milk drink.
Enjoy a variety of foods
Including a variety of foods is important for good nutrition. It makes eating more interesting and helps ensure that you obtain all the nutrients needed for good health. Most Meals on Wheels Services offer the service 5 days a week and many will supply you with frozen meals for the weekends.
Make sure to eat three meals per day and three snacks every day. The most important thing is not to miss meals.
Why not try some of these quick meal and snack ideas
- Barbeque chicken on bread rolls with takeaway coleslaw
- Hamburger and a milkshake
- Club or pub meal
- Toasted sandwiches with protein filling (Ham, cheese & Tomato, Ham, cheese & pineapple, Chicken, tomato & avocado, Salmon & mayonnaise)
- Baked beans on toast with grated cheese
- Cheese and crackers with fruit
- Canned soup made on milk with bread roll
- Canned soup with added frozen vegetables & noodles and some grated cheese
- Scrambled egg on toast
- Omelette with cheese & tomato
- Sardines on toast
- Chicken & vegetable stir fry with rice
- Muffin pizzas (English muffins with tomato paste and topped with pineapple, ham, tomato, onion, mushrooms & grated cheese)
- Creamed corn on toast
- Jaffles made with assorted fillings (ham, cheese & tomato, creamed corn, tomato and onion)
- Savoury mince and toast
- Fruit smoothie and a sandwich
- Creamed rice with tinned fruit
Poor appetite or just not hungry
Eating too little is usually the biggest nutritional problem for older people. Small meals eaten every two to three hours often helps to improve appetite and increase your interest in eating. Soft foods that do not require much chewing often are easier to eat. Poor appetite can become a major problem if you begin to lose weight.
Are you Underweight?
If you are losing weight or can’t gain weight, go to your doctor for a check up. A Dietitian visit is also recommended. You can try eating more high protein and high energy foods to prevent further weight loss. These foods include those from the Milk, yoghurt, cheese and the Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, legumes groups.
Milk drinks, fruit smoothies and coffee made on milk are good when you need to gain weight. They are more nutritious than cordial, soft drinks, tea or coffee and can help you to regain some of the lost weight. You could try making yourself some High Protein Milk to use instead of ordinary milk. Supplement drinks may also help to improve your nutrition and gain weight. Examples include Ensure, Sustagen, Nutridrink, Resource available from Nutrition Australia or a pharmacy. Often, they are only needed for a short time.
High Protein Milk
Add 2 tablespoons of full cream milk powder to 1 cup of full cream milk. Use instead of other milks in tea, coffee, milk drinks, soups or on breakfast cereal.
Make Meals Times Pleasant
Set the table, put on your favourite music and serve the meal on a plate. Share meal times with your neighbour, family or friends at least once a week. If you are out during the week, have a meal out in different surroundings. Try and be a bit active before meal times – if you can, enjoy some fresh air and the outdoors to help improve your appetite.
What about Diabetes?
Research has shown that sugar does not cause diabetes. It is important to know that people with diabetes can have some sugar in their diet. This means that people with diabetes may have sugar in coffee or tea; they may have honey or jam on toast; they may have a piece of cake and they may have dessert.
A person with diabetes does not have to be on a sugar free diet. There is no need for a diet that has no sweet food, no sugar and no cake. Special low calorie and diabetic foods are not necessary. It is important that a variety of foods is being enjoyed and that people don’t go hungry.
Restricting food intake in order to control blood glucose levels is not recommended for frail older people. Restrictive diets could mean that not enough food is being eaten thus leading to poor nutrition and weight loss. If blood glucose levels are high, a review of medication may be a better alternative than restricting food intake.
Frail older people with diabetes should be encouraged to eat regular meals and snacks. Carbohydrate foods contain starch or sugar that affect blood glucose. Spreading carbohydrate foods throughout the day by including them at each main meal or snack time will help with blood glucose control.
Carbohydrate foods with a low Glycaemic index (GI) are good choices as they take longer to break down to glucose during digestion. This makes them better for blood glucose control. The GI of a carbohydrate food is not determined by its sweetness.
It is important to realise that it would be difficult to have only low GI carbohydrates in a well balanced diet. Having at least one low GI food at each meal and snack time would be a good start.
Source: Eating Well, A Nutrition Resource for Frail Older people and their Carers. (2010) North Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service.
Your Meals on Wheels meal will provide approximately three serves of carbohydrate foods.
If you have diabetes, the most important step for helping control your blood glucose level is to make sure that you eat three meals and three snacks every day.
Special Dietary Requirements?
You may have been told to follow a special diet for high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes. Your doctor should regularly re-assess the need for you to follow such a diet and advise if the diet is still required or if it needs to be modified. This is especially important if you are experiencing unplanned weight loss.
The more common special diets are catered for by Meals on Wheels. A range of meals is also available for people with chewing or swallowing problems, lactose intolerance and coeliac disease. If you have a special dietary requirement, please advise the Meals on Wheels Coordinator. Cultural requirements will be met where possible.
Are you taking medications?
Some medications can sometimes affect the body’s ability to use certain nutrients. Some nutrients may alter the activity of the medication in the body or affect the rate at which medications are broken down. It is recommended to speak to your doctor or pharmacist about the effects your medication may have on your body’s nutrient balance.
Are you drinking enough fluid?
Dehydration can become a problem in both summer and winter as a result of over-heating and illness such as colds and flu. Having enough fluid helps keeps kidneys working, decreases the likelihood of urinary tract infections and helps prevent constipation. Have a large glass of water with medications.
Are you having chewing or swallowing problems?
You may find that soft foods like scrambled eggs, stews, sandwiches, tinned or stewed fruit, pasta dishes, fish mornay are easier to swallow. Meals on Wheels can provide soft or cut up meals if you are having any problems chewing or swallowing. If chewing or swallowing difficulties are causing you to lose weight or exclude certain groups of food from your diet, this could become a serious problem. It is recommended that you discuss any chewing or swallowing problems with your doctor and ask for a referral to a Speech Pathologist and Dietitian.
Weekends, Holidays, Special Days
Most services offer a five day a week service, however many will supply you with frozen meals for the weekend or days you are unable to be home for meal delivery.
How to store you meal
1. Meals can not be left in eskies if you are not home.
2. Storing food correctly is very important for food enjoyment and nutrition. Bugs are normally present in all foods and if they grow to large numbers they can make you feel sick. This is called food poisoning. Perishable foods should not be left out of the refrigerator longer than necessary. The cold temperature slows the growth of food poisoning bugs. The dangerous part is that you often cannot taste or smell that the food is spoiled. The longer food is left out, the more likely it is to be spoiled.
3. Your Meals on Wheels meal may be delivered Hot, Cold or Frozen.
Cold Meals must be stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to reheat the meal. Follow the reheating instructions given to you by the Meals on Wheels Service. If you do not eat all the meal you must throw away the remainder.
Hot Meals must be eaten immediately. If this does not happen for some reason, it must be refrigerated straight away.
Frozen Meals should be stored in the freezer until you are ready to eat them. Reheat according to the directions so that they are heated all the way through.
Never refreeze a frozen meal once it has been thawed out.
4. If you are not going to be home when the Meals on Wheels volunteer delivers your meal, it is your responsibility to advise the Co-ordinator the previous day, so alternative arrangements can be made.
For further enquiries please contact us on 1300 90 97 90 or your local Meals on Wheels service.