Many seniors lose interest in cooking as they get older, but proper nutrition and staying hydrated are vital for healthy aging. Medication side effects, changing taste buds, physical difficulty, and eating alone are all reasons older adults may not cook foods they used to enjoy. Another common reason seniors avoid the kitchen is burnout from decades of the same family recipes. For something new, try adding these heart-healthy, nutrient-dense recipes for seniors to your routine.
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We’ve compiled 20 delicious and easy meals for seniors that combine fresh produce with pantry staples for fulfilling dinners, side dishes, and drinks. The best part? Each easy recipe requires minimal prep, has seven or fewer steps, and is on the table in under an hour.
Meal planning can be even easier now, as many grocery stores make cooking more accessible by offering fresh, pre-cut fresh fruits and vegetables. This reduces prep time as well as physical strain for older adults with arthritis or another health condition that makes chopping difficult. But frozen fruits and veggies are also great to keep on hand — you don’t have to worry about upcoming expiration dates, and they can help pull a nutritious meal together quickly.
A rainbow of fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables add vitamins and minerals to your diet. If you have a farmers market near you, stock up on locally grown favorites. If you don’t, your grocery store should offer delicious produce all year. Adults should aim to eat at least 14 ounces (or 1 1/2 cups) of fruits and veggies each day, according to WHO.
One-pan salmon and vegetables
This recipe is so easy, it’s almost not even a recipe. It showcases flaky and rich pink salmon, a low-calorie protein source full of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and energy-boosting B vitamins.
This non-recipe is versatile! Replace salmon with another flaky fish like tilapia or trout. Swap out the veggies for whatever’s in your fridge, or add potatoes for a heartier meal.
1 squash or zucchini, sliced into rounds
½ onion, cut into wedges
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
1 bell pepper, sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning or your favorite fish-seasoning blend
2-3 salmon fillets, about 4 ounces each
1 lemon, optional
Preheat oven to 450 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil (not wax paper). If you don’t have these, you can thoroughly grease the pan with vegetable oil.
In a large bowl, toss all veggies with 2 tablespoons of oil and seasoning, then spread them into a single layer on the baking sheet.
Nestle your salmon fillets, skin side down, between the vegetables. Brush with remaining olive oil, and top with 2 thin lemon slices each.
Roast for 12-15 minutes until salmon is flaky and mostly opaque.
Add 1 salmon fillet and a heaping serving of roasted veggies to each plate for a healthy and satisfying meal. Enjoy!
Tasty tomato tart
This easy weeknight dinner is packed with lycopene and vitamin C to boost vision health and add to senior nutrition. It’s similar enough to pizza that even picky eaters will try it — but it’s a total showstopper with fresh, colorful ingredients.
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon olive oil
2-3 large tomatoes (multiple colors make a beautiful tart, but red works just as well)
1 cup of your favorite cheese (such as blue cheese, mozzarella, feta, or Parmesan)
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, or chopped fresh herbs like basil and oregano
Preheat the oven to 425 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick aluminum foil.
Stretch out the puff pastry on the lined baking sheet. With a fork, poke small holes along the bottom.
Add onions and olive oil to a skillet over medium heat. Sauté, stirring frequently, until soft — about 5 minutes.
Sprinkle cooked onions over the pastry dough, then top with tomato slices so they don’t overlap. Sprinkle with cheese and half of your seasoning or herbs. Season with salt (or salt replacement, if you’re avoiding sodium) and pepper to your tastes.
Bake for 25 minutes until the crust is golden. Sprinkle with the remaining herbs, cut into squares, and enjoy!
Roasted root vegetables
Root vegetables — like sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips, and carrots — are vibrant and versatile. They’re high in fiber and antioxidants, and some have been proven to stabilize blood sugar as a successful part of a diabetic diet. They’re also a tasty replacement for classic roasted potatoes — and just as easy to make.
This recipe involves chopping firm vegetables, which may be difficult for some seniors. To get the benefits of root vegetables without as much knife work, check out the recipe for Stuffed Southwest Sweet Potatoes below.
½ red onion, cut into wedges
1 large sweet potato, peeled
2 large carrots, peeled
1 large beet, scrubbed and trimmed
Several new potatoes, skin on, cut in halves or quarters
¼ cup olive oil
4 teaspoons mixed dried herbs, like rosemary, oregano, and parsley
Preheat oven to 400 F and grease a large baking sheet.
Cut root vegetables into even-sized pieces, about an inch each.
Toss root vegetables with olive oil, herbs, salt, and pepper. Spread in an evenly spaced layer on the prepared pan.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring and flipping vegetables twice or until soft.
Berry chicken salad
For a colorful and protein-packed lunch, this easy recipe for seniors repurposes leftover shredded or chopped chicken into a salad that replaces classic grapes with fresh, antioxidant-rich berries.
¼ cup olive oil mayonnaise (regular mayo works just fine but is higher in cholesterol)
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon dried tarragon
1½ cups chopped or shredded leftover chicken (about 1 breast)
1 cup quartered fresh strawberries or whole fresh blueberries
½ cup fresh or frozen peas, thawed
¼ cup chopped celery
Torn salad greens or spinach
Whisk the first three ingredients together in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add chicken, berries, peas, and celery, and stir well to combine.
Scoop chicken salad over salad greens or spinach for a fresh and filling lunch.
This quick take on everyone’s favorite carryout dish can be adapted to whatever ingredients you have on hand and made in one pan for easy cleanup.
1 tablespoon olive oil or non-hydrogenated vegetable oil
½ pound protein, such as cubed chicken breast, sliced steak, or tofu
2 cups mixed vegetables (such as peppers, zucchini, broccoli, onions, snap peas, and mushrooms)
For the sauce
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon fresh ginger or a sprinkling of ginger powder
Heat oil in a large wok or skillet over medium heat. Cook the protein, stirring regularly, until lightly browned and cooked through. Add vegetables and cook for another 5-10 minutes, until soft. Remove meat and veggies from the pan and set aside.
Mix all sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Add the mixture to your pan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer for about 3 minutes or until slightly thickened.
Add vegetables and protein back to the pan and stir to combine.
Serve over brown rice or noodles for a filling meal.
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Garlicky roasted eggplant with creamy yogurt sauce
Eggplant is the star of this easy meal for seniors and is a great source of senior nutrition that boasts phytonutrients — a memory booster — and fiber for digestive health. It’s also a soft food that’s easy on dentures without being mushy.
1 eggplant, cut into ½-inch slices
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (use pre-chopped from the jar if easier)
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon Mediterranean spice blend or your favorite blend
Place eggplant slices on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Let them sit for a couple minutes while your oven preheats to 400 F (this softens them and reduces bitterness).
Mix garlic, olive oil, and spice blend in a small bowl.
Brush both sides of eggplant with the olive oil mixture for a dose of heart-healthy fats.
Roast eggplant for about 30 minutes, until caramelized, flipping once about halfway through.
For the Creamy Yogurt Sauce
1 cup Greek yogurt (a great source of probiotics for digestive health)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon fresh herbs, like basil or mint (optional)
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl; add salt and pepper to taste. Serve your roasted eggplant with the yogurt sauce for a fresh, Mediterranean dish. Consider brown rice, whole-grain pasta, or chopped cucumbers and tomatoes as a side dish.
“Anything goes” quiche
Quiche has been a popular brunch food for decades and was seen as a luxury for many seniors growing up. This is a fairly inexpensive, easy recipe for seniors that includes leafy greens rich in magnesium, iron, manganese, and vitamins A, C, and K. Make this tasty treat for breakfast and enjoy leftovers throughout the week.
1 refrigerated pie crust
1 cup half-and-half
½ teaspoon seasoning of your choice, such as mustard, dill, or rosemary
¾ cup crispy bacon, crumbled cooked sausage, or leftover ham, chopped
1 cup shredded cheddar or Swiss cheese
1 cup spinach or kale, torn or chopped
½ cup of your favorite veggie, diced (tomato, broccoli, asparagus, and peppers are good options)
Preheat oven to 350 F and roll pie crust into your pie plate.
Whisk eggs, half-and-half, and seasoning in a medium bowl.
Sprinkle meat, cheese, and veggies onto the prepared pie crust evenly. Pour the egg mixture to cover.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes before slicing and enjoying.
Recipe adapted from Pillsbury, with vegetables added
Easy pantry staple meals for elderly adults
All of these recipes for seniors are a nutritious rewrite of a traditional classic. Plus, they all use at least three pantry or freezer staples to minimize shopping and stay budget-friendly. While carbohydrates are often talked about in a negative light, they’re actually part of a healthy diet and help aging adults find energy to fuel their daily activities, according to WHO.
Healthy-ish tuna veggie casserole
This no-fuss take on the classic is perfect for a rainy afternoon when you’re in the mood for something hearty but nutritious. The pasta provides whole grains, while the tuna offers heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids that are great for senior nutrition. Broccoli and peas are also rich sources of nutrients and antioxidants.
Note: If arthritis makes opening cans difficult, invest in an electric can opener — it’s a great kitchen tool!
1 (12-ounce) bag whole-wheat egg noodles
2 (5-ounce) cans tuna, drained
2 (10 ¾-ounce) cans cream of mushroom soup
2 cups frozen veggies, like peas, broccoli, carrots, or a combination
½ cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
8 buttery crackers, like Ritz
Preheat oven to 350 F and grease a 3-quart casserole dish or 13-by-9-inch pan.
Cook whole-wheat noodles according to package directions; drain thoroughly.
Mix the warm cooked noodles with tuna, soup, veggies, milk, and cheese. Season with salt and pepper as desired (you can add some red pepper flakes for a kick). Spoon into your prepared pan.
Crush up your crackers into small chunks and spread over the top. Feel free to add some more shredded cheese!
Bake for 20 minutes until golden, bubbly, and beginning to brown. Serve warm.
Sweet potatoes are a powerhouse of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals — and they keep as pantry staples for nearly a month. They also may improve your immune system with high levels of vitamin A.
2 large sweet potatoes, washed and dried
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (12 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained*
1 (10 ounce) can diced tomato pepper mix, drained
1 cup shredded cheddar or pepper jack
*For a soft food substitute, use refried black beans.
Preheat oven to 425 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick aluminum foil.
Cut potatoes in half lengthwise, then brush with olive oil and salt.
Bake potatoes (cut side down) for 30 minutes or until cooked through.
Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly, and mash up potato flesh with a fork.
Sprinkle potatoes with beans, tomato pepper mix, and cheese so the toppings are evenly divided.
Return to the oven for 5 minutes until cheese is melted.
Chickpea tuna salad
High-protein chickpeas are a good source of magnesium and potassium, which may reduce blood pressure.
1 (15-ounce) can low-sodium chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 (5-ounce) can tuna, drained and flaked
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil mayonnaise (regular mayo works just fine but is higher in cholesterol)
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
½ cup green or black olives, or 2 tablespoons capers (optional)
Spinach or torn salad greens
Add the chickpeas, tuna, mustard, mayonnaise, and cherry tomatoes to a bowl and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to your liking. Add olives or capers, if using.
Lay a bed of spinach or greens on a plate and top with salad mixture for an easy dinner. Alternatively, eat the salad between two slices of whole-grain bread like a tuna salad sandwich.
This recipe is a go-to because it’s open to substitutions and relies on nutrient-dense pantry staples. It’s also a soft food that works for seniors who have trouble chewing or other dental problems.
1 pound ground beef, Italian sausage, or turkey
1 small onion, diced
1 (32-ounce) box low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 (15 ounce) can cannellini or white beans
1 (10 ounce) can crushed or diced tomatoes
1 cup frozen or canned spinach or collard greens (use fresh if you’ve got them on hand)
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Add meat to a large soup pot over medium heat. Break apart and stir until browned. Add onion and continue to cook, about 5 minutes, until soft.
If a fair amount of fat has collected at the bottom of your pan, pour the meat mixture onto paper towels to drain. This may not be necessary for ground turkey or lean beef.
Return meat and onions to the pot and add remaining ingredients. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes until the flavors have melded. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve alongside crusty whole-grain bread for a filling meal, or, for a heartier meal, add cooked pasta before serving.
Tip: If you’re cooking for someone who prefers softer food, a good trick for soups or stews is to blend half and add it back into the pot for a smoother texture. If blending part of the soup, use caution. The liquid will be hot, and, if not handled with care, blenders can splatter the liquid, creating a burn risk. Make sure to keep a hand on the blender lid while blending to reduce the risk of it coming off.
Four bean salad
This easy recipe is a classic for a reason! The dressing is tangy and sweet, and beans provide proteins and B vitamins. We switched out traditional vegetable oil in favor of olive oil for a more heart-healthy fat.
1 (15-ounce) can wax beans
1 (15-ounce) can green beans
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
⅔ cup white or apple cider vinegar
½ cup white sugar or ¼ cup honey
⅓ cup olive oil
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl or Tupperware container. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Refrigerate overnight, or at least for several hours, to marinate. Enjoy as a side for grilled chicken or as a topping for green salad.
Italian stuffed peppers
Bell peppers are a low-calorie, high-flavor vegetable containing folate, fiber, and iron, making it a great source for senior nutrition. They’re also a good base for a variety of fillings and sauces. This versatile, easy recipe could even be made as Mexican stuffed peppers with salsa and taco seasoning.
4-6 bell peppers (red, green, yellow, and orange all work)
1 pound ground Italian sausage or ground beef
1 cup cooked quinoa, wild rice, or whole grain of your choice
1 (15-ounce) jar or can tomato sauce
1 cup frozen spinach
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
½ cup shredded low-fat mozzarella
Preheat oven to 350 F and grease an 8-inch glass baking dish or casserole.
Cut the tops from peppers, scoop out seeds, and rinse.
In a medium skillet, cook beef or sausage about 10 minutes, or until browned. Remove from heat and drain the meat, then return to pan.
Stir grains, 1 cup of the tomato sauce, spinach, and seasonings into the cooked meat.
Nestle peppers, standing up, into the baking dish. Stuff them with the meat, grain, and spinach mixture until full.
Pour remaining tomato sauce over the peppers and top with shredded mozzarella. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil.
Bake 20 minutes covered. After 20 minutes, remove the foil and bake about 10 minutes longer until cheese is melted and bubbly.
Creamy pasta and peas
Bright green peas — a low-fat legume naturally high in protein and fiber — and fresh lemon are flavorful ingredients that give easy recipes a pop of color and flavor. This dish also offers plenty of onion (full of antioxidants) and olive oil, a heart-healthy, vegetable-based fat.
1 zucchini or summer squash, cut into thin rounds
1 small onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus some for serving
½ pound short pasta, like shells or penne
1 pound bag frozen peas
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Lemon juice to taste
Fresh basil, if desired
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil on the stove.
While the water heats up, sauté zucchini or squash, onion, and olive oil over medium heat in a separate pan.
Cook pasta according to package directions, adding your frozen peas to the boiling water with 5 minutes remaining.
Remove 1 cup of starchy pasta water from the pot and set aside. Drain pasta and peas and return to the pot, along with onion, olive oil, and veggies.
While the mixture is hot, add Parmesan and stir. Slowly, begin to add the starchy water to the mixture. This is where the magic happens! The Parmesan and pasta water will emulsify to make a creamy, restaurant-style sauce — no heavy cream involved.
Sprinkle with lemon juice, salt and pepper, and a light drizzle of olive oil to serve. Add basil, if desired.
Family recipes for senior fun with grandchildren
Cooking is a fun way to bond with grandchildren while passing along important life skills. These recipes are not only simple, creative, and tasty, but they’re easy recipes for seniors and families.
Easy-peasy pizza dough
With few ingredients and no rise time, this family recipe is simple. Encourage grandkids to roll the dough into silly shapes, make breadsticks that look like their initials, and enjoy playing — it’s great for little hands. You can be creative with toppings, too!
1 (2 ¼ teaspoon) packet yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting (you can replace half with whole wheat)
Your favorite sauce, toppings, and cheese
Sprinkle yeast over warm water and honey in a large bowl. Wait about 10 minutes until the yeast is bubbly and frothy.
Add olive oil and salt and stir. Add flour, a bit at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon or silicon spatula until a slightly sticky ball of dough forms.
Transfer to a clean, floured surface and knead, adding dusting flour until no longer sticky.
Separate the dough into two smaller pizzas and shape as desired (rather than a basic circle, try Mickey Mouse or a heart). Transfer the dough to greased baking sheets or pizza stones, and prick holes in the dough with a fork to avoid bubbles.
Top with your favorite sauce, cheese, vegetables, and meats.
Fried tortilla chips smothered in cheese sauce and sour cream are delicious, but a few replacements can turn this favorite into a heart-healthy snack packed with protein from black beans, good fats from avocados, and plenty of flavor from your favorite salsa.
1 pile of store-bought baked vegetable chips (if you have time and want to make your own, try this recipe for tasty zucchini chips)
½ cup low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed, slightly smashed or whole
¼ cup of your favorite mild salsa
½ cup shredded low-fat cheddar or pepper jack cheese
½ cup lettuce, chopped
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt (a tangy, lower-calorie replacement for sour cream)
1 avocado, sliced, or guacamole (optional)
Set oven broiler to low and adjust rack to top position.
Cover a rimmed baking sheet with a layer or two of veggie chips. Sprinkle beans, salsa, and cheese over chips.
Broil in the oven until cheese has melted and beans and salsa are warm (about 5 minutes).
Remove from oven, allow pan to cool, and top with lettuce, Greek yogurt, and avocado.
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Prevent dehydration in seniors with delicious infusions
Dehydration in seniors is common because the ability to conserve water is actually reduced as people age. In addition to the list of healthful meals for elderly adults, these tasty water infusions can also benefit senior nutrition.
Rosemary citrus water
Rosemary is a rich source of anti-inflammatory compounds, while citrus is high in vitamin C.
1 orange, blood orange, or grapefruit
Add sliced orange and several sprigs of rosemary to the bottom of a pitcher.
Cover with water and let sit in the fridge overnight. Enjoy!
White tea with berries
White tea offers antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties with little caffeine.
1 cup mixed berries, such as blueberries and strawberries
2 bags white tea
Wash berries thoroughly.
Quarter strawberries, leaving other berries whole.
Add tea bags and cover with water.
Infuse in the fridge for several hours, or until tea has brewed.
Cucumber melon water with mint
Cucumber promotes hydration and contains antioxidants. Melon adds a sweet, low-sugar flavor to round out the classic, refreshing combination, and it’s a great addition to your list of senior recipes.
1 cup watermelon
Handful of fresh mint or basil
Cold, filtered water
Thoroughly wash and slice cucumbers.
Cut watermelon into cubes.
Lightly crush the mint to release fragrance and flavor. If you’re using basil, remove the stems.
Add your ingredients to the bottom of a pitcher, cover with water, and infuse for 2-8 hours before drinking.
Claire Samuels is a senior copywriter at A Place for Mom, where she helps guide families through the dementia and memory care journey. Before transitioning to writing, she gained industry insight as an account executive for senior living communities across the Midwest. She holds a degree from Davidson College.
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