HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Elder Food


I am trying to think of things to make for an elderly friend with some coordination issues.

Any ideas on foods that are easy to eat and nutritious?

Thanks for the assist.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I was sorry this thread didn't get more action but perhaps you can get a couple of ideas


    I'm making stuffed jumbo pasta shells to take to her tomorrow. I'm putting Hazan's tomato sauce with onion and butter on the top.

    My MIL had a minor stroke and is actually doing quite well but the knife isn't her favorite implement :) So I lean towards things that either need no cutting or where she can just use the edge of her fork.

    Can't remember if I mentioned this in my reply, but I've been putting things in ovenproof containers (she won't us a MW). I put foil on the top and tape reheating instructions on them.

    1 Reply
    1. re: c oliver

      Good comment C.Oliver - My parents still believe in the radiation from the micro.

      Mom loves mashed potatoes and she has tremors. She'll eat them with no problem. Dad loves meat and sweets and he has diabetes. I'll make lo-fat meat, ground turkey, chicken,etc. and a fruit smoothie.

      It's a challenge - I'll find a common ground, but neither will eat what hasn't been approved beforehand. I can't just pull out "This is what's for dinner" and get an acceptance.

    2. any aversion to finger foods? chewing issues? dietary restrictions?

      3 Replies
      1. re: hill food

        Mostly hard time using a utensil very well. Lot of spillage.

        1. re: ers_jean

          When MIL was in rehab, she got her soup in a mug. Even a stew could be served that way. She could get the mug closer to her mouth than with a bowl probably.

          I like the idea of finger food. Chicken fingers? You could make ahead and she could reheat.

          1. re: ers_jean

            frozen spanakopita can be found in a sort of tartlet preparation at Trader Joe's and Costco. Vietnamese fresh spring rolls are really easy and healthy once you get the knack of how long to soak the rice paper. empanadas are easy to find in your general area. Yakitori or any of the grilled-on-a-stick family. sushi is considered hand food in Japan and if you have the bamboo mat is actually easy after a few tries (Nori on the outside variety). and even Miss Manners says asparagus can be eaten with the fingers.

        2. What is the nature of his/her difficulty? I'd think that the issues that one faced with a significant tremor would be different that someone with arthritis. For instance, someone with a tremor might have a hard time eating soup from a spoon but would have an easier time with something that could be speared securely on a fork. Vice versa with someone who might have generalized weakness.

          Very kind of you to consider the abilities of your friend! Super double bonus karma points to you.

          1. I have a friend with very serious Parkinson's Disease and his shaking is quite severe. Meals are a challenge but I've found a couple of helpful ideas:
            Eliminate ANYTHING requiring cutting with a knife, spaghetti is "out", rotini etc are "in"
            Thick soups are better than thin and using a wide-based mug is best
            Make the flavor zing, there's enough bland stuff available
            Non-drippy finger foods work well, he loves deviled eggs and 1" pieces of cold chicken
            Use a large bowl spoon and smal (salad) fork when utensils are required
            If serving salad, make the pieces small and use a binding (thick) dressing
            Chili is a particular favorite, red or white, with lots of grated cheese
            He loves lemon bars or lemon meringue pie pieces
            Meatloaf and scalloped or mashed potatoes work well, peas = not so much
            Pudding has been successful

            If your friend is eating with others, in a social setting, try to steer attention away from the person with difficulty and make no mention of the special requirements or lengths to which you've gone. We almost had WWIII here the night a kindly neighbor offered to cut his meat. It's demeaning for an adult to be treated like a child and my friend was mortified by what was, in truth, simply a kind-hearted offer. From that day forward, I made certain that everything was as user-friendly as possible. Yes, it is difficult to overlook the elephant in the dining room but the benefits far outweigh the added work.

            1. My mom is starting to have problems getting food to her mouth with utensils but she has no trouble eating burritos, schwerma that literally go from hand to mouth.

              1 Reply
              1. re: chocolatetartguy

                Let me add croque monsieur, ham and cheese sandwich dipped in egg and fried in butter. They hang together better than the average sandwich. My mother loved them. She also loved baked open face sandwiches served in a individual crock like the famous Hot Browns of Kentucky Derby fame. Welch rabbit or Staufer's chipped cream beef on toast points work well in a crock and bacon is finger food!

              2. Unsure if this is any part of the issue, but my dad had Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, and I cooked for him for a couple of years and saw some of the difficulties he had eating. I noticed at some point that his forks were very very dull and bought some inexpensive forks with FOUR, not three, fairly sharp tines, It actually made a big difference. It might also help somebody with post-stroke weakness not to have to wrestle with your food getting it into manageable pieces.

                You're a good friend!

                1. Finger foods probably are easy, and fingers are easily cleaned :)

                  Egg rolls
                  Meatballs (good ones at Whole Foods and Trader joe's)
                  Quesadillas (can use low fat cheese and whole wheat tortillas)
                  Oatmeal Cakes (make oatmeal, let congeal, then form patties and sear in the pan)
                  Baked Yam fries (or turnips or parsnips)
                  Mini Frittatas/crustless quiches in mini-muffins tins
                  Mini-waffles - edible in one or two bites each
                  Hummus and/or Baba ghanoush with Pita

                  I'm sure whatever kindness you bring will be much appreciated!

                  1. I find this thread interesting as my folks are gettind up there and I'm trying to think of what I might do in a similar situation.

                    some freezer casseroles, and other things to allow some level of self reliance - as Sherri notes some independence is critical, just to retain some self esteem.

                    1. thank you all for the tips. I will be doing some cooking towards the end of the week for her and will take your all kind comments into consideration!

                      1. I've found the book Well Aged: Dining with Dignity very helpful.


                        1. All of the suggestions have been good. One thing I would like to add is be aware of portions. Many older people cannot eat as much as they did when younger. At 61 i am finding that I eat less and a plateful of food can make me lose my appetite very quickly. It is daunting to look at and contemplate eating what is placed before me sometimes and I know my mother will just order an appetizer and a salad when dining out.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Candy

                            Portion size is a good comment. My MIL has a great appetite but just can't eat all that much anymore. I use shallow creme brulee dishes that I really pack full for reheating. When on the plate, it's the right amount for her.

                            And, hey, Candy, I'm 62 and WISH I had that problem :)

                            1. re: c oliver

                              Yes thanks for the advice on portion size as I really wouldnt of thought of it.

                          2. Okay, this isn't really cooking but.... We brought the stuffed shells to MIL's yesterday and had thought I'd fix a salad but honestly she's not much of a salad lover. or even vegetables. So I picked up a Stouffer's spinach souffle --- and, wow, was that a hit. She'd forgotten that she used to eat that and liked it. So I'm picking up more today, will cook up and divide in portions to go with the leftover shells. You could do creamed spinach or something the same way.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: c oliver

                              I made my friend a shepherds pie, chicken and rice casserole and she liked both and fairly easy to eat.

                              I also made her some twice baked protatoes which were a hit. Thanks for all the ideas it is a big help.

                              1. re: ers_jean

                                I'm about to go stay with my elderly parents for a while and you reminded me of something, my non-intuitive mother doesn't know how to make twice baked. that will be a treat for her as well - still able-bodied, just clueless.

                            2. Shepherd's Pie - type preparations are great. Use any combination of meats/vegetables they like. Adapt other combinations into this. The great thing about it is that everything under the potato/whatever puree on top is in bite-sized pieces. What about Tourtiere, the French-Canadian pork pie, Cornish pasties, or Jamacan Curry pies? The first is easily adaptable, and the others are meant to be individual-sized, hand-held. Make your own (healthier) versions of those commercial things, even if you have to use a frozen crust - thaw it slightly, cut it, and slightly re-shape so you can fold & crimp it to make individual portions. Stromboli variations can be made with frozen or commercial fresh pizza dough. I've been making thick soups/stews for first grandma & Aunt Tillie, and now my parents, to put in the freezer in containers portioned for 2 for many years now. A favorite is chicken corn chowder - meat, vegetables, potato all in manageable bits and a little sweet and a little salty. Take any soup recipe they like,and find a way to adapt it into a stew. Quiches, meatloaves, ricotta & egg-based crustless "pies" can all be made in small pans and frozen. I've had great success picking up a variety of pans cheap at thrift stores. For 50 cents, it doesn't matter so much if you don't get it back. Hope this helps! Just keep in mind: can be eaten on a spoon or fork, out of a mug, one-dish things and just get creative!

                              Another thing which may help at some point - as a friend aged, her family served her meals in a pie plate, rather than a flat plate. The vertical edges gave her something to push against (and a lot less food on the table!)

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: misspastina

                                The pie plate idea is terrific - thank you! My mother has Parkinson's and meals are becoming very taxing for her. This tip may make a big difference at this point in her progression.