By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published May 23, 2023 at 1:07 PM

May is Older Americans Month (OAM), an annual celebration championed by the Administration for Community Living that acts as a keen reminder that we all benefit when older adults remain engaged, independent, and included. 

In an effort to champion the well-being of older adults, we decided to seek out tips that highlight how older adults (and their care-givers) can save time and money while eating healthfully.

To do so, we spoke with Emilie Williamson, a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) and certified dietitian (CD) who works as a division corporate affairs manager for Pick ‘n Save and Metro Market. 

“Fiber, fluid and movement are all keys to maintaining better health as we age,” notes Williamson, who recommends a variety of ways to leverage convenience items to create easy-to-prepare, nutrient-dense meals for older adults. “It’s all about making it easier for older adults to cook for themselves affordably and with less waste.”

1. Buy those pre-made salads 

Well-balanced salads make great meals, especially during the summer when rising temperatures make cooking seem like a chore. But making a salad at home often requires the purchase of numerous ingredients, many in larger quantities than needed. 

Premade saladsX

Williamson recommends avoiding buying “all the stuff” by looking at pre-made salads, which contain a full complement of vegetables and proteins, along with individual servings of salad dressing.  Not only do these salads keep well in the refrigerator for a few days, but they also save time and energy and reduce waste from extra produce that might go bad before it can be used.  

If individuals would prefer to have more control over the ingredients in their salads, she recommends taking advantage of grocery store salad bars to pick up smaller amounts of ingredients or custom-made salads.

2. Purchase petite veggies, proteins

As we age, we tend to eat smaller portions of food. We also increasingly value meals that can be prepared easily and efficiently.  

“Look in the meat or freezer case to find items like breakfast sausage, pre-cooked shrimp, and individually packaged fish in smaller quantities,” Williamson says, noting that they can be paired up with side salads or even microwaveable rice or noodle kits.

individual portions of salmonX

Williamson also notes that taking advantage of petite-sized vegetables, including baby and fingerling potatoes, baby carrots, baby broccoli, baby cucumbers or cherry tomatoes is a great solution. These items cook faster than their larger counterparts and require less preparation.

3. Add fruit

Adding fruit to the weekly grocery list becomes more and more important as we age. 

“Older adults tend to not drink as much liquid,” Williamson says. “But they can maintain better hydration by eating more fruit.”

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That can include fresh, easy-to-eat fruits like grapes or cherries along with pre-cut fruits like watermelon, pineapple and cantaloupe, which can be found on grocery shelves.

4. Seek out prepared proteins

While some prepared grocery meals are high in salt and fat, Williamson says it’s a great idea to look for pre-packaged proteins like heat-and-eat salmon and chicken breasts. These items don’t require precise cooking, so they are much faster to prepare and the risk of undercooking them is eliminated. 

Pre-cooked meatsX

“Pre-cooked meatballs also make a great option as they can be split into multiple servings to enjoy throughout the week,” she says. “Pair them with a steamed vegetable and whole grain to make a complete meal.”

5. Consider purchasing potted herbs

Williamson also suggests purchasing a pot or two of potted herbs, which can often be found in the floral or produce departments. The herbs are often more affordable than packaged herbs and you can cut as much (or little) off of the plant as you’d like. So there is less waste.

Herb potsX

“Having fresh herbs on hand is a great way to brighten up a windowsill,” she says, “And they can be used to add fresh flavor to just about any dish.”

Herbs are easy to care for indoors and they can liven up even the simplest of dishes. For instance, mint pairs beautifully with fruit. Basil is delicious with Italian meals; but it also adds a nice pop of flavor to fresh, cubed watermelon. Rosemary is delicious with potatoes, meats and beans.

6. Boost flavor with condiments

“As we age, our taste buds begin to dull,” says Williamson. “In addition to herbs, condiments can be a great way to boost flavor in our meals.”

BBQ saucesX

The catch? Be sure to read the labels. Condiments like BBQ sauce are often loaded with sugar and sodium, and sugar-free versions usually contain artificial sweeteners. You can see part of the picture in the nutritional information, where sugar and sodium content is listed. But Williamson says that looking through the ingredients is an easy way to tell how much they contain.

“Read down the ingredient list on the bottle,” says Williams. “Since the ingredients are listed according to the amount in the bottle, you want things like sugar to be as far down on the list as possible.”

7. Choose soft foods for dental issues

If dental issues are a problem, Williamson suggests looking for foods that are naturally easy to chew. That includes items like individually portioned fruit cups (be sure to purchase those packed in natural juice, rather than sugary syrup). Frozen or canned vegetables and soups are also good items to look for.

Fruit cupsX

“Canned or frozen vegetables also blend well into traditional comfort foods like mashed potatoes,” Williamson says, emphasizing that this is an easy way to bulk up the nutrients in a meal.

8. Opt for frozen and canned items

Speaking of canned and frozen vegetables, Williamson says that they can be extremely useful to keep on hand.

“We often demonize frozen and canned foods,” she says. “But they are easier to prepare and if that means you’ll eat a larger variety, that’s a very good thing.” 

Canned vegetablesX

She recommends keeping frozen fruit on hand as well. It’s easy to thaw and can make a good addition to any meal. She says she loves the idea of eating fruit alongside breakfast items or using them as a low-sugar alternative to syrup on pancakes or waffles.

9. Add nuts and nut butters 

When you shop, Williamson recommends adding items like nuts and nut butters to your shopping list. Rockstar nuts like walnuts have antioxidants, omega 3s, plus copper, manganese and biotin, making them good for the heart, brain, hair and skin.

Packages of nutsX

“They are high in both fiber and protein,” she says, noting that nuts can be added to salads and peanut or almond butter can be eaten with whole grain bread, spread on waffles for breakfast or eaten with apples or celery.

10. Focus on whole grains

You've likely heard it before, but it's true. Whole grains are vital to a balanced diet, especially as we age. When picking out items like rice, pasta and bread, Williamson says it’s important to read the label. “Ideally whole grains are listed first on the ingredients list,” she says.

Microwaveable grainsX

She also suggests purchasing half-loaves of whole grain bread and storing it in the freezer where it will keep longer. Single slices defrost quickly.

In addition to bread, Williamson recommends purchasing whole grain items like oatmeal and microwaveable brown rice and grains. They’re easy to prepare and can form the backbone of a meal when paired with vegetables and protein.

11. Consider grocery delivery

Sometimes shopping can become a chore. But the growth of online grocery delivery has made shopping for weekly items easier than ever.

Kroger Delivery is available online through Pick ‘n Save and Metro Market. It offers older residents, or those who shop for them, the convenience of having their items delivered right to their doorstep.  Even better, deliveries can be scheduled up to a week in advance. [Read more about the Kroger Delivery experience here]

Kroger Delivery truckX

12. Reduce trips to the pharmacy

If getting to the grocery store is difficult, the same can be said for the pharmacy. Williamson suggests asking the pharmacist at your local Pick ‘n Save or Metro Market store about a service called MedSync, which minimizes the number of trips you need to make to the pharmacy. You can also ask about home delivery for your prescriptions, which is available for a fee.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.