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Nutrition-minded Older Adults Should Heed These Tips

By Kimberly DaSilva with Carrie Taylor and Andrea Luttrell


Your nutritional needs change throughout your lifetime. Some physical changes may impact appetite, senses, and fluctuations in your digestive system. These changes may be due to aging, decreased physical activity, or in conjunction with prescriptive medication suppressing your appetite.

Having a decreased appetite may impact your intake of calories, essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins needed to maintain muscle mass and prevent unintentional weight loss. When it comes to appetite, decreased senses of smell and taste can also affect the enjoyment of your food’s flavor and aroma. For digestion, your gastrointestinal tract could become less mobile and more rigid — leading to issues including constipation, stomach pain, and nausea.

“Produce that freezes well includes tomatoes, corn, carrots, peppers, zucchini, and berries. High-water-content foods such as melons, cucumbers, lettuce, and eggplant should stay clear of the freezer.”

To overcome any decrease in taste and smell, get creative. Cook with spices; herbs; aromatic vegetables like celery, onion, garlic, and shallots; and savory sauces to engage your taste buds. Select higher-quality food; cook seasonal fruits and vegetables so they have a softer mouth feel in recipes like soups, stews, and casseroles; drink plenty of water; and reduce stomach irritants, such as alcohol, to overcome physical changes as well.

As you age, your nutrition may be affected by your social and financial situation versus physical. For example, your social circle may become smaller due to the loss of a spouse, family members, and friends. Living alone and cooking for one while eating on a fixed income can present challenges for some as well.

Not all is lost! Below are some tips when cooking for one on a budget.

Six Nutritional Tips for Older Adults

Older adults have unique nutritional needs.

Simple adjustments can go a long way toward building a healthier eating pattern. Follow these tips from the National Institute on Aging to get the most out of foods and beverages while meeting your nutrient needs and reducing the risk of disease.

• Enjoy a variety of foods from each food group to help reduce the risk of developing diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Choose foods with little to no added sugar, saturated fats, and sodium.

• To get enough protein throughout the day and maintain muscle, try adding seafood, dairy, or fortified soy products, along with beans, peas, and lentils, to your meals.

• Add sliced or chopped fruits and vegetables to meals and snacks. Look for pre-cut varieties if slicing and chopping are a challenge for you.

• Try foods fortified with vitamin B12, such as some cereals, or talk to your doctor about taking a B12 supplement.

• Reduce sodium intake by seasoning foods with herbs and citrus such as lemon juice.

• Drink plenty of water throughout the day to help stay hydrated and aid in the digestion of food and absorption of nutrients. Avoid sugary drinks.

Tip 1: Be a savvy shopper. Get the most out of your food budget and purchase meats and shelf-stable foods when they are on sale. And stock up on fruits and vegetables when they are in season.

Tip 2: Be an organized shopper. Plan meals in advance and create a shopping list from your menu. Buy store brands for the same quality items at a lower cost.

Tip 3: Freeze your meals. When cooking for one, a great option is to cook and freeze meals. To do this, make multiple servings versus just one. Divide quantities into individually sized portions and freeze for future ready-made meals. Planning portions also prevents waste and can save you money.


Freezing Inspiration

With cooler weather around the corner, plan for hearty soups, stocks, and quick casseroles. For example, take advantage of less-expensive seasonal fruits and vegetables and preserve their fresh-picked flavor by freezing them.

Why freeze? Freezing temperatures stop the growth of microorganisms while slowing the chemical reactions that break down food and reduce its quality. This makes freezing food perfect for enjoying the taste of summer for seasons to come!

Produce that freezes well includes tomatoes, corn, carrots, peppers, zucchini, and berries. High-water-content foods such as melons, cucumbers, lettuce, and eggplant should stay clear of the freezer. Avoid discoloration of fruits such as peaches, apples, pears, and apricots by tossing with lemon juice prior to freezing.

For the best flavor and texture, use ripe, non-bruised produce free of nicks. Most raw fruit freeze just fine without blanching.


Tips for Freezing

• Rinse and cut produce into the desired size.

• Blanch vegetables before freezing. Drop vegetables in boiling water for one to two minutes, then immediately transfer to an ice bath and chill completely to help stop the cooking process. Drain and pat dry.

• Place fruit or vegetables in a single layer on a sheet pan lined with wax or parchment paper. Place in the freezer until the produce is frozen solid.

• Once frozen, pack into whichever freezer-safe container you prefer — a freezer-safe food-storage bag, a plastic container with an airtight lid, plastic wrap, or aluminum foil. Avoid glass, as it can shatter and cause your food to become unsafe to eat.

• Leave only a half-inch to one-inch space at the top of containers. Reducing food’s contact with air will prevent ‘off’ flavors or freezer burn.

• Store sauces and soups in freezer-safe food-storage bags and lay flat on shelves to save space.


Tips for Storage

• Practice food safety when cooling leftovers. Cool to room temperature for no more than two hours, or one hour for hot summer conditions above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, to avoid the risk of a foodborne illness. Putting hot food directly into the freezer creates condensation on the food, which can lead to freezer burn while possibly raising the temperature of the refrigerator. Although freezer-burned food may have off flavors, it will not cause you harm.

• Label foods with prepared, frozen, and use-by dates. Soups and stews with meat can be frozen for up to two to three months. Leftover meals can be frozen for two to six months, and fruits and vegetables can be frozen for up to one year.


Tips for Thawing

• Determine the quality of food after thawing. First, check odor, as some foods will develop a rancid or off odor when frozen too long. Discard such items. (Note: although some items may not look picture-perfect when frozen, they work exceptionally well in soups, stews, casseroles, and sauces.)

• Never defrost foods at room temperature. Use these three safe ways to defrost food: in a refrigerator running at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, in the microwave, or under cold running water. (Note: for foods thawed in the microwave or by running cold water, cook immediately after thawing.)


Tips for Use

• Enjoy frozen fruit as is, without cooking, for smoothies, flavoring plain yogurt, adding to sautés, and baking recipes.

• Vegetables can be cooked while still frozen and/or after thawing.

• Raw meat and casseroles can be cooked, or reheated, from the frozen state.

• Always reheat and/or cook foods to their recommended internal temperature, as verified with an instant-read food thermometer.

As you can see, any challenges that impact nutrition as you age can be minimized by incorporating a few new practices into your normal routine. Preserving nutrients and flavor of seasonal produce and your favorite recipes by freezing is a great way to control your food budget as well. Happy freezing!


Kimberly DaSilva is dietetic intern with Be Well Solutions. Carrie Taylor, RDN, LDN, RYT and Andrea Luttrell, RDN, LDN are registered dietitians with Big Y.


Breaking Down the Trickier Aspects of Massachusetts Laws

By Ludwell Chase and Amy B. Royal, Esq.

State and federal laws pertaining to minimum wage, tips, overtime, and employing minors are complicated. As a result, these are areas where mistakes are often made.

Ludwell Chase

Ludwell Chase

Amy B. Royal, Esq

Amy B. Royal, Esq

Employers, however, cannot afford these errors because the consequences of not complying with these laws can be very costly. In fact, in Massachusetts, there are mandatory treble (triple) damages for violations of wage-and-hour laws relating to minimum wage, tips, and overtime. This means that, if an employer is found in violation of state law, at a minimum, for every dollar an employer does not pay in accordance with wage-and-hour laws, that employer will have to pay three times that amount.

Under Massachusetts and federal law, employers are allowed to pay employees who receive tips an hourly wage that is lower than the minimum wage. This works by allowing employers to take a ‘tip credit’ for a certain amount in tips that the employee earns. The employee must not make less than minimum wage when their tips and hourly wage are combined. Under the federal law, the Federal Labor Standards Act, all hourly workers must be paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Tipped workers may be directly paid $2.13 per hour if their tips and hourly wage combined are at least equal to the minimum wage. In other words, employers can claim a ‘tip credit’ of $5.12 per hour.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently released new proposed regulations for tipped workers that reinstate the 80/20 rule. This rule limits the amount of time tipped workers can spend performing activities that are related to tip-generating duties, while their employers can still claim the tip credit. Tipped workers must spend at least 80% of their time performing directly tip-generating activities, such as serving customers, and no more than 20% of their time performing not directly tip-generating activities, such as setting tables. This rule was previously in effect but was replaced by DOL guidance in 2018.

The 2018 guidance provided that employers could claim the tip credit if non-tipped duties were performed at the same time as tipped duties, or if the non-tipped duties were performed for a reasonable time before or after tipped duties. This new proposal returns to the 80/20 rule. In addition, the new proposal specifies that, if an employee performs non-tipped activities for 30 minutes in a row, the employer cannot pay the employee the lower tipped hourly wage for that time.

For employers with tipped workers that are subject to federal wage-and-hour law, this proposal is a good reminder that they need to pay attention to these potential changes and their effects on how they compensate employees.


Caution on the Menu

Massachusetts has its own complex laws relating to tips, minimum wage, and overtime. As a result, these are areas where it is easy for employers to make mistakes. Therefore, employers need to pay special attention to ensure they are complying with both state and federal laws. As of Jan. 1, 2021, the minimum wage in Massachusetts is $13.50 per hour. Massachusetts is incrementally increasing the minimum wage in order to reach a $15 minimum wage by 2023. For now, employers may pay workers who make at least $20 a month in tips a tipped hourly wage of $5.55 and take a tip credit of up to $7.95 per hour, for a combined minimum wage of $13.50.

The Massachusetts Tip Law mandates that all tips must be given to employees whose work directly generates tips, and that employers and managers may not keep any portion of their employees’ tips. The law applies to three categories of employees: waitstaff employees, service bartenders, and service employees. Waitstaff employees include waiters, waitresses, busboys, and counter staff who serve beverages or food directly to patrons or clear tables, and do not have any managerial responsibilities. Service bartenders prepare beverages to be served by another employee. Service employees include any other staff providing service directly to customers who customarily receive tips but have no managerial responsibilities. For the purposes of this law, managerial responsibilities are duties such as making or influencing employment decisions, scheduling shifts or work hours of employees, and supervising employees.

Massachusetts law allows for ‘tip-pooling’ arrangements. This means all or a portion of tips earned by waitstaff employees are pooled together and then distributed among those employees. Employers must be cautious when administering a tip pool and ensure that only waitstaff, service bartenders, and service employees are being paid from the pool. This means managers and back-of-house employees like cooks and dishwashers cannot share in tips. Even employees with limited managerial roles who also directly serve patrons are not considered waitstaff employees on days when they perform managerial duties.

When employees do not receive enough in tips to make up the difference between the tipped hourly wage and the minimum wage, employers must pay the difference. Employers are required to calculate tipped employees’ wages at the end of each shift, rather than at the end of the pay period. This requires employers to keep track of how much workers receive in tips for each shift. This may also require employers to pay their tipped employees additional amounts in order to compensate for slow shifts.

Under Massachusetts law, certain businesses, including restaurants, are exempt from paying employees overtime; however, they may not be exempt under federal law. If subject to federal law, employees working in restaurants must be paid one and one-half times the minimum wage (not one and one-half times $5.55 per hour) for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week.

Under the Massachusetts Tip Law, if a restaurant includes a service charge, which serves as the functional equivalent of an automatic tip or gratuity, all the proceeds from that service charge must be paid only to waitstaff employees, service employees, or bartenders as a tip. Employers may, however, charge a ‘house fee’ or an ‘administrative fee,’ which they may use or distribute at their discretion, but only if it is clearly stated to customers that the fee is not a tip, gratuity, or service charge for tipped employees. Thus, any fees not intended as gratuities and not paid solely to tipped employees should not be labeled as a service charge.


Food for Thought

These complexities are especially important to Massachusetts employers, given that the consequences of failing to comply with wage-and-hour laws can be costly, and the penalty is the same regardless of whether the employer violated the law willfully or by mistake.

Considering the consequences of violations, businesses with tipped employees should regularly consult with their employment counsel to review their practices and policies to ensure compliance with state and federal law.


Ludwell Chase and Amy B. Royal work at the Royal Law Firm LLP, a woman-owned, boutique, corporate law firm; (413) 586-2288; [email protected]