14 Caregivers Share Their Favorite Tips for Mealtime

Brianna Maguire

Written by Brianna Maguire on Mon Mar 13 2023.

14 Caregivers Share Their Favorite Tips for Mealtime

Caregiving can be a challenging responsibility, especially when it comes to mealtime for loved ones with specialized needs or illnesses. However, with the right support and resources, this experience can become an uplifting and enjoyable time for caregivers and their loved ones.

We recently asked our Caregiving Community to share their best tips for supporting nutrition and feeding. Caregivers shared tons of practical, creative, and helpful ideas that can make mealtime a positive experience for caregivers and those they love. 

1: “If your family member can eat solids, that’s always the best choice. However, if they have problems chewing or swallowing, graduate to puréed foods.”

For those with dysphagia or difficulty swallowing, pureed foods offer a texture that’s easier to swallow while still maintaining nutritional value. For an added layer of support, food and beverage thickeners like Thick-It can be mixed with your loved one's favorite foods or liquids. 

Shop some of our caregivers’ favorites below, or check out our full range of thickened foods and thickeners.

2: “Don't count on being perfect. Choose supportive people and work with companies that care (like Carewell!)” 

Caregivers know: no one is perfect. Need an extra hand or have questions about the right solutions for your loved one? Give our Caregiving Specialists a call at 855-855-1666.

3: “Keep looking for new products and new ways to prepare food. Try to prepare food that tastes familiar but may look different due to restrictions.”

Adapting to a loved one’s changing diet is important, but offering them what they know in different varieties often goes a long way in establishing comfort and supporting appetite. For example, if your loved one loves breakfast, try Thick & Easy Purees Maple Cinnamon French Toast

4: “Be patient knowing it will take time to rebuild their appetite. Try different foods to find one they like. Keep feeding them with smaller meals throughout the day to increase overall food intake.”

As people age, their stomachs produce less acid, and their digestive enzymes become less effective. As a result, it can be harder for them to digest and absorb nutrients from big meals. So, instead of having three big meals, it might be better for them to have smaller, more frequent meals.

As people get older, they might not enjoy food as much as they used to because their sense of taste and smell decreases. Offering different types of food might help increase their appetite.

5: “Encourage your loved one. Show empathy, have patience, let them know how great they're doing especially on their hard days.”

6: “Find what works best for your loved one and stick to a plan. You know your loved one the best and what is best for them.”

7: “Respect the loved one, have patience with messes, vary the food choices - ie. Make food enjoyable. And dessert counts!”

As a caregiver, some days, a win might simply be helping your loved one eat anything - even if that means dessert! 

Caregiver Tip:

Nutritional puddings like Boost Nutritional Pudding offer a delicious dessert option, but with the added nutrition of extra calories, immune support, vitamins, and 7 grams of protein.

For loved ones with difficulty swallowing, many pureed food options come in dessert flavors, like delicious caramel apple.

8: “It can be trial & error to determine what your loved one will like. And it may be different from before their illness.”

It’s perfectly normal for dietary preferences to change over time, and this can be even more true for loved ones facing specialized care needs. Take your time to understand what they truly like and want — it’s okay if this takes a while.

9: “It helps to make homemade food and blend them. Thickener helps to make the food easier to swallow.”

If you’re blending food at home, all you need to add is a little powdered thickener to bring the consistency to one that’s easy to swallow for your loved one. Thickeners like Thick-It are unflavored and are easily mixed into almost any pureed meal.

Thick-It Food & Drink Thickener, Unflavored
Thick-It Food & Drink Thickener, Unflavored

Price: $6.95 - $113.94

10: “Make a plan and know the product you need so you can order in bulk ahead of time.”

Caregivers are often tight on time and tight on budget. Meal planning and ordering in bulk can make products much more affordable for caregivers — not to mention having pre-portioned meals and snacks saves time and headaches.

Carewell’s breakfast cereals and oatmeals come in bulk, and highly nutritious bars and snacks offer high-calorie, nutrient-dense options for loved ones struggling with large portions.

Soups and broths come with long shelf lives, making them the ideal food to stock up on ahead in bulk.

11: “Be mindful of what your loved ones may still enjoy eating despite calories & nutrition at times.”

As we mentioned before — sometimes just getting your loved one to eat anything at all can be considered a win. Be kind to yourself, and try not to worry too much about calories or sugar (unless your doctor says otherwise!). 

12: “Use the internet to research solutions and ideas to help with nutrition and feeding”

Carewell.com has plenty of resources to help you on your nutrition and feeding journey. Whether your loved one is managing diabetes, enteral feeding, or just needs to get more calories in, we have the resources to help. Find our nutrition and feeding resources here.

13: “Be on top of what they eat, how much, prepare nutritious meals and make sure they take meds and supplements.”

If you have the time, developing meal plans and tracking nutrients is a great way to ensure that loved ones get a balanced diet. 

Caregiver Tip:

Pill organizers are great ways to track vitamins and supplements! If your loved one takes daily doses of joint health supplements, iron, multivitamins, or anything else, separating them by day can make things easier for you and them.

14: “Every day is a new day to try different supplements and foods that the patient can comfortably eat and digest.”

Remember to stay patient - there’s a lot of food out there that might be just right for your loved one. Stay in contact with your doctor or dietitian about new foods or supplements to try.

Need more help with nutrition and feeding?

Providing nutritional support can be a challenge, but Carewell is here to help. If you need support finding the perfect product for your needs, talk to one of our caregiving specialists today. Call (800) 696-CARE. We’re here to support you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!

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Brianna Maguire
Brianna Maguire

Brianna Maguire heads up Carewell’s Customer Care Team, and serves as a resource for caregivers that need support. Whether it’s helping customers decide which products are best for their needs, answering caregiver questions, or just providing a shoulder to lean on on a tough day, her job is to make caregivers’ lives easier.