Best Snacks for the Elderly: Top 6 Categories!

Dietitians are constantly trying to provide the best snacks for the elderly.  Providing snacks that are high in calories and protein can help prevent Malnutrition, weight loss, and more.  

With nutritional supplement drinks on back order in most areas, snacks can help provide extra nutrients!  

What Are Good Snacks for the Elderly?

Healthy Snacks for the Elderly

As long term care Dietitians we want to provide the most nutritious snacks possible.  Healthy snacks for the elderly can help to fill the void left if they have inadequate food and fluid intake.

Here is a list of healthy snacks for the elderly that you can add to your shopping list:

Greek yoghurt packs
Cheese and crackers
Nutella with cookies
Hummus and pita bread
Baked loaves (banana bread, nut breads, etc)
Variety of cookie options
Nut butters 
Sandwiches (Cheese, egg salad, tuna salad, meat varieties)
Specialty smoothies
Cottage cheese and fruit
Vegetable sticks

It is a good idea if you provide a list to new patient’s and their family members so they are aware of their options.

For new admissions I like to review during their assessment what the options are.  If we as Dietitians want to encourage increased food intake in the elderly, we need them to be aware of what’s available.  

More often than not elderly patients won’t ask for food.  They will however more than likely accept what is offered.  Be the first to offer and give them options.

You can also make posters and put them up in your facility with a list of snack offerings.  It’s a fun thing to do around the holidays as well if your facility can offer holiday baking treats! 

Think Thanksgiving and Christmas: Christmas themed Rice Krispies, Pumpkin Nut Loaves, Cinnamon Muffins, Shortbread Christmas Cookies.  There’s so many options!  The patients will love it because it will remind them of the days when they baked. 

Soft Snacks for the Elderly

Soft snacks are necessary for many elderly patients.  They made need it for a variety of reasons such as:

Mouth sores
Poor dentition
Ill-fitting Dentures
Dry mouth
Cognitive impairment

Creating soft snacks for the elderly is more than providing pureed texture foods or soft vegetables.  Whether young or old, think about what you would want for a snack.  Just because a snack has to be soft doesn’t mean it can’t be a sweet treat as well.

Greek yoghurt packs
Cheese slices
Nutella with cookies
Hummus and pita bread
Baked loaves (banana bread, nut breads, etc)
Variety of cookie options
Nut butters 
Sandwiches (Cheese, egg salad, tuna salad, meat varieties)
Specialty smoothies
Cottage cheese and fruit

Does the list look familiar?  Yes, it’s almost exactly the same as above!

The snacks in the list can be adapted to be a soft texture.  If your facility has the ability to cook loaves, muffins and cookies in house, look for soft-baked options.

Snacks for Elderly With No Teeth

Dentition is a big issue as we age.  Some patients will have few or missing teeth, dentures (upper, lower, partials), or no teeth at all.  

Applesauce is NOT the only pureed snack available.  I have seen too often in facilities that applesauce is on their mechanically altered diet as a ‘dessert.’  Please… Don’t ever give me applesauce as a snack, ever.

If you need to have pureed snacks for elderly with no teeth here are a few ideas beyond applesauce:

Pureed cottage cheese with fruit flavours
Greek yoghourt
Ice cream
Pureed desserts

You can puree almost any dessert.  Work with your kitchen department to have a day where you experiment with recipes.  It saves your kitchen a lot of work if they only have one dessert but alter the diet textures. 

Find some great pureed dessert recipes by clicking here.  These recipes give you great ways to adapt a sheet cake to pureed texture!  For most cakes you add milk and puree to the correct texture.  For something like an apple pie you can puree with apple juice.  

High Calorie Snacks for the Elderly

Making high calorie snacks for the elderly largely starts with the creation/recipe development process.  You can look for ways to add in extra calories to a recipe such as adding:

Dried fruits
Higher fat percentage milks
Top with nut butters
Add cheese to savoury snacks 

Look for ways to add in extra calories whether it is in adding into the recipe, or finishing it off with extra calories.  

Click here to read an awesome high calorie peach muffin recipe!

high calorie peach muffins recipe
A Fantastic Resource!

Healthy Snacks for Elderly Diabetics

The amount of sugar that a patient with diabetes can have will vary by person.  If your patient is not under a strict diabetic diet, I always try my best to liberalise their diet as much as possible.  

Here is a great article on liberalising diets in the elderly if you want tips.

If your patient is eligible to have regular desserts, I recommend giving it to them!  Just because a patient has diabetes, does not mean that they can’t have a regular dessert.  Diabetic patients can still have up to 10% of their daily caloric intake in added sugar b.

If your patient absolutely cannot have regular desserts, I suggest developing desserts that have reduced sugar content.  

Some ideas to adapt recipes are:

Use black beans, sweet potatoes, and zucchini to adjust recipes!
Pureed fruit can be the base for a lot of sweet desserts
Banana ‘nice’ cream sundaes
Black bean brownies
Baked sweet potato pudding

There are so many vegetable based sweet recipes that can help to provide quality of life in eating for diabetes!

High Protein Foods for the Elderly

Increasing protein in snacks can really help toc:

Prevent malnutrition
Promote wound healing
Promote skin integrity
Increase satiety
Achieve daily nutrient needs
Prevent sarcopenia
& So much more!  

Some high protein snack ideas are:

Cottage cheese whipped with fruit puree 
Greek yoghurt
Nut butter sandwiches
Nut butter with apples & bananas
Toppings for yoghurt ( chia seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp hearts, crushed nuts)
Boiled eggs

You can obviously add in oral nutritional supplement drinks but those seem to be in short supply these days. 

I also recommend having a high protein smoothie for your facility.  If you want me to publish some recipes, drop a comment below!

Promoting Weight Gain in the Elderly

Increasing access to snacks can promote weight gain in the elderly.  Snacking occurs all through the life cycle and it does not stop as we age.  By having snacks visible and available at all times, it promotes snacking in the elderlya.

The Snack Initiative Program

This is something that I think is the BEST THING you can do for your facility!  I think every facility should have The Snack Initiative Program!

Let me break it down and how YOU can implement it in your facility!

As we age, the fact that we enjoy having access to snacks doesn’t change.  Access should not be a barrier to our patient’s getting snacks.  

The Snack Initiative Program is having a ‘snack counter’ available either in dining rooms, close to a nursing desk, or in designated areas in your facility.

You can purchase a plexiglass container that will hold the snacks.  Make some creative signs so patient’s know they can ask for these snacks anytime.  Have the container filled with a variety of snacks (non-perishable), that staff can give out to the patients.  

snacks for the elderly
Think a Snack Display Like This!

You will want to ensure that staff have access to a list of resident diets.  If you want a free spreadsheet to implement, click here.  Use the resident nutrition information spreadsheet!

Having a snack counter allows patients at any time to go up to the nursing desk for example and know they have options!  You can have the Nutrition and Food Services department refill the case on a daily basis with fresh baking.  The smells around the unit will encourage intake!

Get creative and send me pictures if you implement The Snack Initiative Program!

All the best


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