Grilled chicken. Roasted asparagus. Mashed potatoes and gravy. This meal may be accompanied by a basket of fluffy bread and butter on the table, or by chocolate pudding for dessert. “Our main goal is for residents to be satisfied and fulfilled, while keeping them healthy,” says Sam Wright, a cook who’s worked for three Navion communities in Kentucky over the past 16 years. Assisted living menus are based on residents’ personal tastes and nutritional needs — but they also create a sense of community. When people spend time together enjoying a meal, they form bonds that reduce isolation and make residents feel at home.
The ability to choose daily meals offers assisted living residents autonomy, and it adds to the appeal of restaurant-style dining.
“Navion communities pass out menus at breakfast or lunch so that residents can choose what they want to eat the following day,” says Wright.
And, when residents enter the dining room, staff members are ready to serve their pre-chosen plates.
Menus typically include a variety of options that appeal to all tastes and dietary preferences. Generally, lunch will be the heaviest meal of the day, while dinner will have lighter options for residents who don’t want to eat something more substantial before bed.
The breakfast menu of an assisted living facility may offer these options:
A lunch menu may include the following:
A dinner menu may offer these choices:
Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.
Mealtimes in assisted living communities provide an opportunity for socialization and togetherness. That’s why meals are traditionally served in communal, restaurant-style dining rooms at specified times throughout the day.
However, some seniors may operate on a different schedule, or they may need their meals delivered to their individual rooms or apartments. If your loved one is a night owl who doesn’t wake up in time for breakfast, or if they’re an introvert who prefers alone time, ask communities about in-room and anytime dining when you tour.
These options are generally available, but they may come at a price. Meal delivery outside regular dining hours might incur a surcharge, or it might not offer the same number of options, since it’s crucial for communities to serve fresh, recently prepared dishes.
Community dining staff design meals to meet the unique nutritional needs of aging adults. In addition to flavor and presentation, chefs focus on including nutrients that seniors require in their diets. By incorporating a wide variety of fresh, natural ingredients, an assisted living menu can combat vitamin deficiencies, improve physical and cognitive health, and help residents maintain strength.
The MIND diet, designed to lower inflammation and bodily stress, can help reduce the likelihood of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and possibly even cognitive decline, according to the National Institute on Aging. A version of the Mediterranean diet, the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet was created specifically to promote senior health (DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). It includes the following ingredients:
An assisted living menu might feature these dishes:
Residents who have diabetes or are prediabetic can benefit from a diet with limited sugars and refined carbohydrates. A diabetic-friendly diet plan includes the following, according to the American Diabetes Association:
An assisted living menu sample might include some of the following:
A diet rich in protein and low in empty calories can help older adults maintain muscle mass and improve bone density, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This menu plan, designed to reduce obesity risks, may focus on the following:
An assisted living menu might offer options like these:
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Residents may prefer or require unique options that cater to their preferences or dietary needs. Assisted living communities should work hard to ensure that every senior’s needs are met.
Food is a vital part of our lives. It’s more than just sustenance and nutrition — it’s an opportunity to connect with others and nourish our spirits.
As you and your loved one search for the right assisted living fit, keep dining in mind. On tours, ask for a copy of the weekly menu, or, if you’re feeling social, see if you can sit down and enjoy a meal with current residents.
Talk with your loved one about their specific needs and interests when it comes to assisted living menus, whether that means vegetarian entrees, a focus on comfort foods, or diabetes management. A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors can work with you to search for which affordable assisted living communities will best fit those needs, all at no cost to you.
National Institute on Aging. (2019, November 27). What do we know about diet and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease?
American Diabetes Association. Eating right doesn’t have to be boring.
Weaver, A. A., Houston, D. K., Shapses, S. A., Lyles, M. F., Henderson, R. M., Beavers, D. P., Baker, A. C., & Beavers, K. M. (2019, February 1). Effect of a hypocaloric, nutritionally complete, higher-protein meal plan on bone density and quality in older adults with obesity: a randomized trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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