Friday, March 15, 2013

Cooking for Special Needs

Healthy cooking in assisted living communities

Learning about nutrition and helping to prepare healthy snacks during the day program is a good introduction to some of the key components of embracing a healthy lifestyle, but the best place to reinforce healthy eating habits is in the home. My last stop of the evening, after all of the cooking classes and groups have left for the day, is always to one of the many assisted living homes in the CSS residential community. 

Peeling garlic for a garden fresh tomato soup
Every home in the residential program has a house menu, many of which are tailored to the specific dietary needs of the individuals living in the house. By visiting the houses at dinner time I am able to assist the staff in following their house menus and help them to find creative ways of including more of the foods that their clients enjoy. In this way we ensure that the individuals are enjoying the food they eat in addition to getting the nutrition they need to stay healthy.

In all of the houses, individuals are encouraged to participate in preparing their own meals. With guidance and supervision, many high functioning individuals are able to prepare meals independently. Making a healthy dinner can become a fun activity for everyone to enjoy instead of a chore. While the individuals enjoy the meal, I sit down with the staff and discuss strategies to meet the clients nutritional needs and keep them satisfied while following the guidelines laid out in the planned menus. Subjects in this area include developing healthy shopping habits, understanding proper food sanitation, and recognizing healthy alternatives to components of the meal that the individuals don't like.

Low-Guilt Comfort food
Stirring the sauce while we wait for the pasta
Most people don't get cravings for celery sticks and quinoa. Often times the foods that we crave are the ones that do the least for our bodies, at least from the standpoint of trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. One way of overcoming such cravings is to simply cheat! Find creative ways to make the junk food that you crave into a healthy meal that you can feel good about indulging in. Think about the criteria that make healthy foods good for you and then look for creative ways to make the less healthy foods that you crave fit into that group. The following recipe is a variation on the classic macaroni and cheese that is so easy to make and satisfying to eat, you'll never buy the prepackaged stuff again (as if you could even call that stuff "cheese"!).

Low-Fat Homemade Mac'n'Cheese with Broccoli
1/2 box Whole Wheat pasta
1 can Low-Fat Condensed Cheddar and Broccoli soup
1 cup Fat-free Milk
1 cup Low-Fat Shredded Cheddar cheese
2 cups Broccoli, steamed
Garlic and onion powder to taste
Black pepper to taste
Boil pasta according to package directions; Drain and set aside. While the pasta is boiling, combine condensed soup and milk in a medium sized pot. 
Bring the soup to a simmer over medium heat and stir until it is blended well and has thickened slightly; remove from heat. 
Return the drained pasta to the pot and pour the cheddar soup mixture on top of it; add the shredded cheese and cooked broccoli and gently fold the 
ingredient into the pasta. Place the pot over very low heat and continue to mix until the cheese is melted and the pasta is coated with sauce.
Makes 4 servings

I guess they like it!


  1. Great article, Adam. I'm proud of you!


  2. Very nice article. I'm going to share it with a friend who has a special needs child. They enjoy cooking together, but finding the right recipes is always a challenge. Great website, Chef Adam!