Gourmet food presentation tips for senior diets that do double-duty. Chef Walter Pisano shares his secrets on how to cook with senior nutrition in mind and how to design nutrient dense, beautiful meals that will entice older loved ones to eat more.
As many of us have learned through the trials and tribulations of preparing family meals, you can’t please everyone, but no matter how good the food tastes, if a meal looks sloppy and unappealing on the plate, poor food presentation can dampen enthusiasm for eating.
Portion size and food presentation is especially important for seniors whose enjoyment of food may already be diminished by restricted diets, medication conflicts, smaller appetites, and a decreased sense of smell and taste. Seniors also have different nutrition needs; as we age, our bodies require fewer calories, yet require more protein, calcium, B vitamins and other nutrients. Nutrition is a key contributor to the well-being and longevity of the elderly. Caregivers should know the signs of senior malnutrition and how to prevent it.
According to award-winning Chef Walter Pisano, cooking for your family is truly a labor of love. “Every dish you prepare, regardless of how simple or elaborate, is a handmade gift you’ve put your time, thought and energy creating. Like any gift, the packaging is the enticement of what’s to come.”
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You don’t need to be a professional chef to make delicious, nutrient packed meals that are also pleasing to the eye. Chef Pisano shares his expert tips on how to prepare nutrient dense meals tailored to senior nutrition needs using food styling secrets that will encourage the whole family to eat more.
Use a peeler or mandolin to shave a selection of easy to peel colorful vegetables that are packed with anti-oxidants and vitamin C, such as carrots, cucumbers, beets, green squash, red and green pepper, yellow zucchini or onion. The shaved vegetables form their own unique twists and curls which when tossed in a salad provide that “wow factor.” Toss with a light olive oil or vinaigrette for a delicious, nutrition-packed side dish or main course. Add a few toasted nuts or sunflower seeds for even more texture and vitamin power.
Redesign soft fruits like watermelon or cantaloupes with a melon baller. Slice cherries, cherry tomatoes, strawberries or grapes into halves or quarters. Or try cutting carrots or apples into thin, short strips. Not only does the fruit look appealing, the bite-sized pieces are easier to eat. You can also use small cookie cutters to create different shapes out of thinly sliced melons and cucumbers.
Dress up salads, soups, baked chicken or fish and give it a nutrition boost at the same time by adding one or more colorful toppings. Place a few sliced beets on top – this power vegetable is loaded with vitamins A, B and C. Golden raisins will bring a dash of color and sweetness, plus they are packed with iron. Sprinkle fresh finely chopped or minced spinach or soft Lacinato kale over soup or a main protein dish for a pop of color, subtle flavor and extra beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and calcium. Toasting pine nuts, slivered almonds or walnuts takes only a few minutes and really brings out their flavor and aroma. Sprinkle a few on your meal, along with some crumbled feta or bleu cheese, and you have created a very pretty and delicious meal.
Chef Walter Pisano was trained in classical European cuisine before moving to Seattle in 1980. He is the Executive Chef of Tulio Ristorante, which he opened in 1992 and continues to operate today. Chef Pisano has received numerous awards and accolades, including having Tulio named by Travel + Leisure magazine as one of the top 10 best Italian restaurants in the U.S. Chef Pisano lives in Seattle, WA where he is active in the community and enjoys cooking for his wife and two children.