- Written by Karen Lentner, MA, RD, LDN, Nutritionist
- Published: 20 September 2017
LifePath’s Nutrition Program – a path to better health
Malnutrition is an epidemic that affects nearly 50 percent of elders. It can affect both the overweight and underweight, and can impact our ability to remain healthy and independent. The amount and quality of food you eat are critical for good health.
If you are age 60, homebound, and unable to prepare your meals or attend a congregate meal site, you may want to consider Meals on Wheels.
The Elderly Nutrition Program at LifePath, in cooperation with other programs throughout Massachusetts, serves more than nine million nutritionally-balanced meals to approximately 75,000 elders each year across our state. Meals are provided at approximately 400 congregate sites in Massachusetts, and more than half of the meals are delivered to elders in their homes through the Meals on Wheels program. Meals on Wheels provides nutritionally balanced noontime meals to homebound elders, delivered by dedicated volunteer drivers. LifePath’s volunteers deliver the meals and ensure daily contact and a wellness check for elders who are alone.
Registered dietitians create the menus for all of our home-delivered meals and congregate meal sites based on current federal and state guidelines. The meals contain approximately one third of the current daily Recommended Dietary Allowance of nutrients and take into consideration the special dietary needs of our elderly participants. Many things are considered when a menu is created, including variety of foods, color, appeal, texture, consistency, cost, and nutritional value. The average meal provides approximately 700 calories, a good source of vitamin C, a meat or meat alternative providing 15-21 grams of protein per serving, and eight ounces of fortified low-fat milk. In addition, we incorporate high-fiber food sources, including fruit and/or fresh fruit three times weekly, vegetables and/or soup daily, and high-fiber bread three times weekly. We aim to limit the fat content to approximately 30 percent of total calories and the sodium content to an average of 800 mg per day. We post the sodium and calorie content of every food item on the menu for individuals who are monitoring their sodium intake. There are no more than two high sodium meals (greater than 1200 mg sodium) served per month. Therapeutic meals for special diets are available if prescribed by your healthcare provider.
Collaboratively, our dietitians and caterer are always looking at new recipes, meal combinations, alternative herbs and seasonings to enhance the flavor of meals, and healthy alternatives that meet the health needs of our elders. It is our goal to provide meals that are nutritious, flavorful, and appealing to ensure elders are consuming their meals. A registered dietitian also provides nutrition education at our senior centers and individual counseling for homebound clients receiving Meals on Wheels.