The days of bland menus and food presentations in the senior living industry are fast becoming a thing of the past. Seniors have become more adventurous in selecting menu options that are creative, healthy and most importantly, just taste great! For the millions of seniors living with diabetes, today’s menu options not only have to meet dietary and doctor recommendations, but also must engage seniors to enjoy making the right choices. One effective approach is taking traditional favorite meals and putting a new twist on ingredients, preparations and presentations to bring new life to meals that are healthy, delicious and memorable. A focus on fresh ingredients is replacing the use of convenience and processed foods. Presentations are moving from the bland protein, starch, vegetable, ho-hum meal to creations that take in not only nutritional considerations, but complementary flavor profiles, textures, eye appeal and creativity – an approach not traditionally found in the senior living industry. And that’s great news for anyone concerned about diabetes!
The American Diabetes Association estimates that 50% of all diabetes cases in the U.S. occur in people that are 55 and older. 10.9 million people in the 65 and over age group are affected by this disease. That’s nearly 27% of all folks in this age group. For many seniors, controlling diabetes means working with their healthcare provider to control glucose, blood pressure and blood lipids, and also requires preventive care for their eyes, kidney and feet. Many of these preventative measures, along with medication, are effective over time. However, daily menu choices can have an immediate impact in controlling dangerous blood sugar spikes.
For the senior diner, minimal effort is often all that’s needed in making healthy menu choices to prevent and even reverse the effects of diabetes. Choosing foods that are high in nutrition, low in fat and moderate in calorie quantity is essential. Effectively understanding the Glycemic Index (GI) is a great starting point. The GI index tells you how quickly a food turns to sugar in your system. Foods that are high on the GI include processed foods, “white foods” like white bread, white potatoes and white rice, and most baked goods. Foods that are low in the GI scale are a better choice for those affected with diabetes. Nuts, seeds, vegetables, lean meats and seafood are core foods you can build your choices around. Additionally, high-in-fiber, slow-release carbohydrate foods are recommended. These include whole-wheat pastas and cereals, bran muffins, brown rice, sweet potatoes and mashed cauliflower instead of traditional mashed potatoes.
For dining teams in the senior living industry, this means taking these ingredients and producing healthy, creative dishes with flavor and presentation in mind. A focus on limiting or even deleting processed foods, and introducing a “made from scratch” approach with fresh ingredients is the foundation to improving diabetic choices. Senior diabetics often are delivered a “healthy choice” item that is poorly executed, leaving them with an urge to push it aside and choose processed items that the food industry calls “hard to mess up”: fried catfish, chicken fingers and commercially processed desserts.
Senior living communities can find assistance with creative recipes and menus from companies like Strategic Dining Services. Strategic promotes creative menu writing and a fresh approach to producing great choices for diabetics. For instance, grated cauliflower prepared as “fried rice” can replace the white rice traditionally used in a stir-fry, thus reducing the GI significantly. Or preparing an apple spice cake with whole grains, nutrient-dense dried fruits and nuts, a signature take on a traditional dessert preparation that offers a delicious, creative and healthier option. Strategic Dining Services incorporates low GI items in the normal mix of the meals offered, rather than a traditional menu with a “diabetic” choice. After all, for those of us over 50, it’s the way many of us should be eating anyway.
Those living with diabetes must take a varied approach with medication, healthy lifestyle, weight control and preventative care steps to help control or reverse the effects of diabetes. But little changes in making the right dining choices can have immediate impact in controlling the side effects of diabetes. For industry chefs and dining teams, a healthy, “from-scratch” approach offers seniors the opportunity to make better choices, enjoy tastier meals, and continue to live a vibrant lifestyle.
Article submitted by: David C. Koelling/President, Strategic Dining Services. For more information on managing a dining program with an innovative approach for Diabetic menu options, call 888.406.1902 or visit the website: http://www.StrategicDining.com