Eating Well During Our Senior Years

This information is a companion piece to the “Eating Well During Our Senior Years” video.
For more information, please contact SeniorCare’s Nutrition Dept at 978-281-1750.

Healthy eating is recommended throughout life, but as we age certain factors can affect our nutrient needs. It’s challenging to eat a nutritious diet when taste buds are diminished and you have less desire to cook. It is not uncommon that we end up eating the same thing. Choosing a variety of foods can lead to a healthier eating.

To help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Nutrition Program at SeniorCare, here are some suggestions to help you add more variety to your meals.

Add Variety: Try Having Whole Grains 2-3 Times a Week in Place of White Potatoes, Pasta, and Rice

The difference between whole grains and refined grains is that refined grains are missing one or more parts of the grain structure and this removal strips many of the nutrients. After it has been refined, it may be enriched with vitamins and minerals, but whole grain products are better.  Your body doesn’t respond to refined grains the way it does to whole grains. Replacing refined grains––for example, white rice and white bread––for whole grains can lead to big health benefits. The refined grains may lead to increased inflammation and increase in health risks. Improvement in lowering risk of Type 2 Diabetes or prediabetes, cardiovascular disease, and help in maintaining weight are benefits of eating whole grains. Trade up for whole grains today.

Quinoa, farro, couscous, oatmeal, and brown rice are examples of whole grains to try as alternatives to white starchy foods such as potatoes and rice.

Quinoa (pronounced “Keen-wah”)

Native to the Andes Mountains of Bolivia and Peru, quinoa looks like a grain, but it is really a seed. Quinoa is packed with a nutritious combination of vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, and fatty acids. Quinoa is a seed and is gluten free.

Quinoa Nutrition Information

Portion: 1 cup (cooked)
Gluten Free

Calories: 222, Fat: 4g, Sodium: 13mg, Carbohydrate: 39g, Fiber: 5g, Protein: 8g

The most common types of quinoa in U.S. are white, red, and black quinoa. You can find it in the grocery store near grains such as couscous or in the rice aisle.


Farro is an ancient whole grain. It deserves praises for its nutty taste and robust texture. It can be used in soups, salads, or side dishes. If you have not tried farro, you will not be disappointed. It is not gluten free, but is great for people looking to use more plant-based proteins in their diet. The Mediterranean Diet encourages more fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains.

Farro can be used for variety of courses. Swap out your oatmeal for warm bowl of farro with dollop of yogurt, nuts, and fresh or frozen fruit. Keep a batch in refrigerator for go to lunch and add favorite vegetable and protein for a satisfying grain bowl at mealtime.

Farro Nutrition Information

Portion: 1 cup (cooked)
NOT Gluten Free
Calories: 200, Fat: 2g, Sodium: 0mg, Carbohydrate: 52g, Fiber: 7g, Protein: 7g


Couscous is another delicious staple and is derived from North Africa.

Couscous is a starch and made up of small grains. It is not gluten free due to made with semolina flour. Compared to white rice- the calories are similar but couscous has more protein and vitamins.

Couscous Nutrition Information

Portion: 1 cup (cooked)
NOT Gluten Free

Calories: 176, Fat: .25g, Sodium: 0mg, Carbohydrate: 36.5g, Fiber: 2.2g, Protein: 6g


Quinoa, farro, and couscous can be used interchangeably in recipes.
Make up enough to eat that day and then store the leftovers. Dry grains or quinoa have a long shelf life and can be stored in original package or in an airtight container. Once it is cooked, quinoa will stay fresh in a refrigerator for 6-7 days. Farro and couscous are good in refrigerator for about 5 days. All of these can be cooked and stored in the freezer in an airtight freezer container for 3 months.  To cook these grains, it is usually 1 cup of grain to 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook 20-30 min until tender and the water is absorbed.

Chick Pea Pasta or Plant Based Pastas

There are many made from plant protein. An example is Banza brand, made from chickpeas and pea protein. Due to the ingredients of chickpeas and pea protein, this pasta is higher in protein than other grains mentioned above.

Chick Pea Pasta Nutrition Information

Portion: 1 cup (cooked)
Calories: 190, Fiber: 5g, Protein: 11g, Carbohydrate: 35g

Oatmeal & Breakfast Cereals

Oatmeal & Breakfast Cereals Nutrition Information

Portion: 1 cup (cooked)  (1/2 cup raw = 1 cup cooked)
Calories: 190, Fiber: 5g, Protein: 11g, Carbohydrate: 33g

How Do I Incorporate These Guidelines?

  1. Make at least half your grains whole grains. Make grain to be used for meal and then pack in airtight container and store in freezer for 3 months to use as ingredient to add to vegetables. Use as side dish to meat, poultry, or fish for dinner.
  2. Use quinoa, farro, and couscous interchangeably in recipes.
  3. Try at least 1 meatless meal/week- Meatless Mondays are a great idea.

Up Your Protein Sources and Vary Your Choices

As we age, our protein needs increase.

Sarcopenia is loss of muscle mass which is common as we age. A variety of protein sources is recommended. Spread protein foods throughout the day: add to meals/snacks.

How to Get More Protein at Breakfast?

Oatmeal can be jazzed up to taste better. By adding fresh or frozen berries to oatmeal, you are boosting your intake of antioxidants. To add protein to your oatmeal, you can add one of the following:

  • 1 tablespoon of flax seeds = 1.9g protein
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts = 1g protein
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of Greek yogurt stirred in after oatmeal is cooked = 2-3g protein
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter = 4g protein
  • 1 scoop protein powder = 15-20g protein

Cook oatmeal either on stovetop or microwave. Stir the oats and add protein powder and /or other ingredients. If oatmeal gets too thick, add a little water or milk. Depending on what additions you make to your oatmeal, you can increase the total protein to 20+ grams. By adding fresh or frozen berries to oatmeal, you are boosting your intake of antioxidants.

Alternatively, make oatmeal or your favorite grain for breakfast and add top with an egg for added protein (6g).

Oatmeal or other grains do not need to be made that day to be delicious. Cooked oatmeal can be refrigerated in airtight containers for 4-5 days.

Add Beans to Dishes

Beans are rich in protein, high in minerals and fiber, and are without saturated fat found in some animal protein, They are an inexpensive way to get nutrient-dense high protein options in your diet.

Protein Found in Some Beans
½ cup cannellini beans or chick peas = 6g protein
½ cup kidney, pinto, navy, or black beans = 7g protein
½ cup split peas = 8g protein
½ cup lentils = 9g protein
½ cup great northern beans= 10g protein

By layering grain, vegetables, and adding protein in form of beans, cheese, meat, poultry, fish, or soy, you can add variety and expand protein intake of meal.

Examples of Protein additions include:
1 egg = 6g protein
3 oz salmon = 19g protein
½ c Edamame (soybeans) = 9g protein
2 tbsp peanut butter = 8g protein
3 oz chicken = 24g protein
½ c cottage cheese = 12g protein
3 tbsp hemp seeds = 10g pro
7 oz Greek yogurt = 20g protein
3 oz tofu = 8g protein
3 oz shrimp = 20g protein
3 oz turkey or chicken = 24-26g protein

Eat a Rainbow of Fruits/Vegetables

Try and include variety of red, yellow, green fruits and vegetables.

Dark Green- spinach, kale, broccoli are sources of vitamins A, C, E, and K.

Beans, peas, and lentils are also good choices. Fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables can all be healthful options. Look for “reduced sodium” or “no-salt-added” on the labels. If you don’t want to use reduced sodium canned products and have regular on hand, rinse under water and drain the vegetable. You will reduce sodium by 1/3.

Add fruit to meals, snacks or as dessert. Choose fruits that are dried, frozen, or canned in water or 100% juice, as well as fresh fruits.

Examples: frozen blueberries added to yogurt or a smoothie

Mandarin Oranges , baby carrots, baby spinach- make a colorful and delicious salad.

Keep fruit available – Having some fruit in a bowl is enticing as you walk by and a great reminder to eat/daily.

Make a plan for a few days of what you will have for meals. By purchasing some staples- grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, you will have a base from which to make some nutritious and colorful meals.

Bon Appetit.

For more information, or questions, please contact SeniorCare Nutritionist Deb Davidson, MS, RDN, LDN



Serves: 4-6
Prep time: 15 minutes, Cook time: 10 minutes, Total time: 25 minutes


1 cup farro, cooked
1/2 cup dried cranberries or cherries
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 cup matchstick carrots
1 cucumber, diced
1/2 of a red bell pepper, seeds removed, diced
5 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Salad dressing:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper


In a large mixing bowl combine the farro, cranberries, onion, carrots, cucumber, bell pepper, green onion and parsley and toss. In a mason jar or salad dressing container combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, paprika, cumin, turmeric, garlic, salt and pepper and whisk or shake to combine. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss again. Serve immediately or put it in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

Additional ideas:
Beans: chickpeas, white beans, black beans, kidney beans
Cheese: feta or goat cheese
Vegetables: tomatoes, zucchini, radishes, mushrooms, avocado
Dried fruits: prunes, raisins, apricots

Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew

A hearty Indian-style stew without meat, but chock full of protein

Serves 4


2 tablespoons coconut or extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 diced large onion
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 minced cloves garlic
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 peeled and diced sweet potatoes
1 diced (stemmed, seeded) red bell pepper
1 1/2 cups rinsed red lentils
6 cup vegetable or LS Chicken broth
Chopped fresh cilantro


Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook cumin, turmeric and curry powder until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add onion with a few pinches salt, and cook, stirring, until tender, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until tender, about 2 minutes. Add sweet potatoes and bell pepper and cook 1 minute.

Add lentils and broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until lentils are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Roasted Vegetables

These can be combined with couscous, farro, or quinoa


1 small eggplant, peeled and 3/4-inch diced
1 red bell pepper, 1-inch diced
1 yellow bell pepper, 1-inch diced
1 red onion, peeled and 1-inch diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 scallions, minced (white and green parts)
1/4 cup pignolis (pine nuts), toasted
3/4 pound good feta, 1/2-inch diced (not crumbled)
15 fresh basil leaves, cut into julienne
4 cups cooked couscous, farro, or quinoa


1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Toss the eggplant, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large sheet pan. Roast for 40 minutes, until browned, turning once with a spatula.

Meanwhile, cook the couscous, farro or quinoa in boiling salted water until tender. Add the roasted vegetables to the grain, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the bowl.

For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and pour on the grain and vegetables. Let cool to room temperature, then add the scallions, pignolis, feta, and basil. Check the seasonings and serve at room temperature.



4 medium red, yellow or orange bell peppers
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound plant-based ground meat, such as Beyond Meat (OPTIONAL)
2 shallots, chopped
1 fennel, cut into 1/3-inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
One 14-ounce can tomatoes,
1 cup baby spinach, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup grated Provolone or Mozzarella cheese


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut off the top 1/3 inch of each pepper, remove and discard the seeds. If needed, cut a small amount of the bottom off each pepper so that they sit flat. Season the insides evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place the peppers in a baking dish and set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat another minute. Add the plant-based meat and use the back of a wooden spoon to break apart the meat into small pieces. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is browned, about 5 minutes. Add the shallots, fennel, oregano and 1 teaspoon salt and cook another 4 minutes or until fragrant and the vegetables begin to soften. Stir in the rice, tomatoes, spinach, Provolone/Mozzarella cheese, basil and pepper and cook until the spinach is wilts and the cheese is melted. Divide the mixture among the peppers. Top with the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Add 1/2 cup of water to the bottom of the pan. Bake the peppers for 40 minutes or until the cheese is melted and peppers are soft but not falling apart. Serve hot.