Meeting the Special Dietary Needs of Older Persons

As Mother's Day approaches, my thoughts turn to my own mother, who is on the other side of 70 and requires a special diet.

During a talk on microwaving to a group of senior citizens, I removed a beautiful platter of bright, crisp-tender vegetables from the microwave and offered them for tasting. "Will the microwave cook those until they're done?" one woman inquired. I was puzzled, thinking the vegetables already done, and asked her to explain her question. "Well," she said, "it seems that everywhere you go these days, even at all the restaurants, all you get are undercooked, hard vegetables."

It was then that I realized that in the zeal to present fresh foods, sometimes we don't cook foods long enough for the elderly, who may require softer textures to chew.

Of course, you can cook vegetables until they are soft. In addition, microwaving isn't as likely to cause hardening and crusting around the edges of other foods. And, I pointed out, the speed and convenience of microwaving are a bonus for the elderly, who may have abandoned large-scale recipes and complicated meals.

My mother loves her perfectly cooked, mess-free bacon that she microwaves every day for breakfast. She also uses the microwave to prepare a variety of vegetables, meats and prepared foods and for heating water for her coffee and tea. The microwave helps her eat properly. That means a lot to her children.

Because elderly people often live in one- or two-person households, here are several recipes tailored for them, with a special wish to mothers of all ages for a Happy Mother's Day.


1 pound whitefish fillets

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon finely chopped onion

2 ounces mushrooms, sliced

3/4 cup diced tomato

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, optional

Arrange fish fillets in greased 12x8-inch microwave dish with thick areas toward edges of dish. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, onion, mushrooms and tomato. Dot with butter. Cover with plastic wrap and vent wrap by turning back at 1 corner.

Microwave at HIGH (100% power) 6 to 8 minutes, rotating dish 1/2 turn every 3 minutes. Sprinkle cheese over top, recover and microwave at HIGH about 2 more minutes, until thin areas of fish are no longer translucent. Let stand, covered, 2 to 3 minutes to finish cooking thicker areas before serving. Makes 2 to 3 servings.


1 Cornish hen, about 1 1/2 pounds

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons orange juice

1 small clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon curry powder

1/8 teaspoon dry mustard

Split hen in half lengthwise with sharp knife. Place skin side down in 8-inch square microwave dish. Combine soy sauce, orange juice, garlic, curry powder and dry mustard in small bowl and pour over hens. Cover and refrigerate 4 to 6 hours or overnight.

Just before microwaving, turn halves skin side up and baste with marinade. Cover dish with wax paper. Microwave at HIGH (100% power) 10 to 14 minutes, rotating dish and basting every 5 minutes. When done, meat will be tender and juices will run clear when inner thigh is pierced with fork. Makes 2 servings.

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