That old adage, you are what you eat, isn’t a meaningless motto. It has proven itself to be an accurate mantra for everyday living. These days, “fine dining” could be more accurately defined as “healthy eating” and the benefits are many. They range from increased mental capabilities and a boosted immune system to higher energy and better management of chronic health problems such as diabetes.

With mountains of research describing the near-endless benefits of healthy eating, senior living communities across the country are committed to offering the most attractive and nutritious meals possible. They work hard to provide a full menu of dining options and environments. They also integrate the latest nutritional science into meal planning to assure residents enjoy a longer, stronger and smarter life.

Evaluating the Dining Experience at Senior Living Facilities

Yes, handsome surroundings and a polite, well-trained wait staff add immeasurably to the dining experience. Yet Joy Lasseter, Ph.D. of Nutrition of Vancouver, Washington, suggests that if she were evaluating senior living facilities for her mother, she would look for a meal plan that serves low fat, low sugar items.

Senior nutrition columnist and author of “Absolutely Healthy Fun, Fast Foods,” Lasseter wants to see a wide variety of fresh vegetables and fruit. She would also look for low-fat proteins like:

  • chicken
  • beans
  • turkey
  • soy products
  • pork

Noting that even lean cuts of beef and lamb are very high in fat, she recommends menus that keep quantities and frequency of these foods to a minimum.

Promoting Healthy Eating for Healthy Living

Older adults often gain weight due to their sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits, notes Lasseter. To counter those trends, residents at senior living communities need to reduce their caloric intake to match their reduced activity level. She observes that too often chefs try to please with desserts at lunch and dinner when simple fruit dishes would cut down on the high caloric starches and remove temptation.

“Seniors need higher fiber foods such as vegetables, fruit and beans, and fewer high glycemic foods like bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, desserts, crackers, cookies, chips, etc.,” explains Lasseter, when discussing meal planning at senior living facilities. “Chefs could add more vegetables and beans to soups, stews, salads and stir-fry dishes.”

Trends in “Fine” Dining at Senior Living Communities

Senior living communities, such as those operated by Merrill Gardens, work hard to make dining a highlight of every day. Geoff Davies, vice president of dining services for
Senior Living CommunitiesMerrill Gardens, says the company tries to create a professional approach to dining, from correctly attired team members to table top menus and great food and beverage.

Davies describes Merrill Gardens’ “anytime dining” plan is all about freshness and batch cooking. This means residents can eat freshly cooked meals from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Says Davies, “This allows residents to dine on their own schedule, choosing from three daily entrees, appetizers and desserts.”

Senior Living Communities Indulge Cravings

One of the biggest challenges is to continually serve nutritious, inviting meals. When evaluating senior living facilities such as Merrill Gardens, Davies suggests residents ask about meal planning, specially created menus and theme evenings. These are all strategies for adding variety and fun to the dining experience.

Davies adds that in the future, residents at senior living facilities will want more flexibility with dining hours and menus will be more a la carte driven. Not only will they insist on great meals served in everything from restaurant, bistro and even lounge-style settings, they will expect to access meals well past the traditional 7 p.m. dinner curfew.