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Charlie Hodson’s Guide to Healthy Eating for Older People

Our resident foodie – Charlie Hodson

Charlie Hodson is the Executive Chef of The Fur & Feather Inn, Woodbastwick, Norfolk. However, his experience as Executive Chef of The Great Hospital – sheltered housing and care village in Bishopsgate means he has plenty to say about healthy eating for older people ……

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Meals and Diet

“One of the things I do is encourage people, especially older parents on their own, to buy fresh produce, rather than think it’s cheaper to buy frozen meals.

Apart from things like lemons and limes, everything can be bought locally and sourced from producers in Norfolk who supply meat, vegetables and other food products to a wide range of supermarkets and grocers. If you’re worried about your parents diet, perhaps help them to batch cook some dishes using good quality ingredients and freeze for later use.

If you’re cooking for parents, they may well prefer their vegetables cooked so they are literally pureed, but that means the vitamins are literally being washed down the drain. Of course, there are those who have to eat pureed food, but if you are looking after a parent who has difficulty swallowing, there are other ways of cooking food to make the food easy to eat. For example – all meat, including pork chops, can be braised, rather than pan fried, so it falls off the bone.

With regards to healthy eating – other changes you can try include changing milk from full fat to semi-skimmed; and salt from table salt to Maldon Sea Salt, so the sodium content is lower and you use less for the same flavour. Older generations (my parents included) tend to add salt to everything.

Ninety-nine per cent of what we did at the Great Hospital was made in-house, including pastries, cakes and shortbread, so it meant I could change the dietary formula – for example, a few residents were diabetic, so the shortbread had a sugar substitute. Most things can be adapted and given a healthier twist.

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Eating in Old Age

When we get older, our appetites often reduce and for many, the presentation of a meal can make or break whether they enjoy it. I received a beautiful card from one of my residents because I put her portions in a little dish, rather than on a plate. It simply meant she wasn’t put off by too much food. Reverse logic to dieting and eating off a smaller plate.

Another top tip – before I gave a resident anything in liquid form, like a casserole, I would consider how they would be able to eat it. My mother would never give my father gravy because of how he used to sit with his back, he would spill it down his front causing frustration and embarrassment.

When both my parents became ill, they still loved the same food. So if your parent has a medical condition which prevents them from being able to cut a steak, cut it for them.  If you’re cooking for a parent with dementia or Alzheimer’s, remember the food you loved as a child, in case they can’t. Meal times can be great for a little trip down memory lane.

Food might be the one thing they look forward to each day. It gets more complicated if you’re looking after a parent with severe illness or towards their end of life – but then it becomes even more important: they might not be able to eat very much but what they do eat should still be the best.”

  • For more of Charlie’s advice read his recent article on Food Nostalgia 
  • Dining out with dementia – click HERE to find our guide to dementia friendly pubs in Norfolk.
  • Our local Nutrition expert Cath Jeans has written this wonderful article on eating for good Bone Health.