A Guide to Meal Kits for Older Adults With Diabetes

Managing nutrition is crucial for people with diabetes, but planning and preparing meals with just the proper nutrients can feel overwhelming. Meal delivery services are a convenient way to boost nutrition while managing glucose levels, portion sizes, and other dietary needs, like low-sodium and vegetarian requirements. This article will help older adults with diabetes and their caregivers who are concerned about whether home-delivered meals are right for them.

How home-delivered meals work

Finding a suitable diabetic meal delivery is like having a personal chef and dietician plan, shop, and cook for you or your loved one. The meal assistance can help older adults with diabetes stay independent, energetic, and less stressed about their next A1C lab draw, which measures average blood sugar levels over three months.

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In general, there are two types of home meal delivery services.

  1. Meal kit services. Kits include a step-by-step recipe with portioned ingredients requiring light cooking. This option is excellent for older adults who enjoy preparing meals.
  2. Ready-to-eat meals. High-quality ready-to-eat (RTE) meals are made with fresh ingredients and simply require heating, often using a microwave. The top benefit of RTE meals is convenience, especially for older adults and caregivers with limited mobility, time, or cooking interest.

Once you choose between meal kits and RTEs, the next step is to choose a company that provides meals prepared appropriately for the needs of people with diabetes. Once you find a company you trust, you'll set general meal preferences using the company's website. Most companies offer a wide variety of choices, like plans for people with diabetes, carnivores, vegans, calorie counters, low-sodium dieters, keto followers, and more.

With preferences set, you choose meals from various recipes and the number you'd like delivered each week. After you order, meals will arrive weekly, typically on your chosen day. You can pause, cancel, or change deliveries at any time.

Benefits of diabetic meal delivery

Managing blood sugar levels can feel like a full-time job for many older adults with diabetes. In addition, dietary needs, appetite, and mobility changes make meal preparation increasingly difficult with age.

Older adults with a new diabetes diagnosis often feel overwhelmed and defeated as they face significant dietary changes. Meals might feel boring and unsatisfying, leading many to ignore their doctor’s orders or eat too little. Either way, they face inadequate and insufficient nutrition, which significantly impairs healthy aging, especially for older adults with diabetes.

Diabetic meal delivery can be a less stressful way to eat adequate nutrition, learn about diabetic meal prep, and enjoy a wider variety of meals.

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Portion control to support weight goals

Meal delivery companies make premeasured, preportioned meals as requested. This benefit helps manage weight and adherence to daily calorie and nutrition recommendations from healthcare providers. It also helps closely manage and track carbohydrate intake, decreasing the time and effort required to count carbs.

Diabetes-friendly options

Managing blood sugar with meal delivery kits can significantly help older adults meet several nutritional goals with one solution.

Food delivery for people with diabetes typically offers low- and moderate-carbohydrate meals tailored to their carb intake requirements. Carb-conscious meals can also be combined with high-fiber and high-protein to help improve digestion, reduce cravings, minimize blood sugar spikes, and support muscle mass. For those concerned about heart health, meal delivery providers also offer low-sodium meals with low-carbohydrate options.

Variety and convenience

Delivery services offer many different diabetic breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes to boost meal enjoyment and variety. Variety increases adherence to dietary requirements, conveniently boosting older adults' nutrition and overall health without increasing meal planning burdens.

Reduced healthcare costs

Meal delivery services may also lower medical costs by promoting health and wellness. A 2018 study showed that meal delivery programs may reduce healthcare costs for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

Positive mindset and eating changes

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Another recent study found that participants with prediabetes reported positive changes in their eating patterns and mindsets after receiving in-home, family-based meal deliveries. The deliveries also inspired cooking enthusiasm and family involvement. However, despite increased well-being, some participants felt overly focused on test outcomes, like weight loss. When they didn’t fully meet their goals, they felt disappointed that the meals didn’t fully solve their health challenges.

Still, meal delivery programs are not a panacea for all. The study also found that despite the report of increased well-being, some participants focused too heavily on test outcomes, like weight loss. When they didn’t fully meet their goals, they felt disappointed that the meals didn’t fully solve their health challenges.

Choosing the right meal delivery service

Finding the right meal delivery service is key for older adults seeking diabetic meal delivery.

Dietary needs and preferences

Choosing a delivery service that personalizes meal choices is essential. Many older adults face unique nutritional needs to manage multiple medical conditions, like kidney or heart disease, in addition to diabetes. When choosing a meal service, older adults and caregivers must also consider appetite changes, mobility issues, food allergy and sensitivity restrictions, and loss of motivation to cook.

Overall, it’s vital to select a meal delivery service that follows physicians’ orders, manages carb and calorie intake, provides balanced nutrition, and meets personal needs.

Meal preparation skills

Older adults and their caretakers must also consider mobility, dexterity, cognitive ability, and cooking skills when choosing between ready-to-eat meals and kits that require meal preparation before cooking. To address meal prep challenges, some meal kits offer pre-chopped ingredients for those with limited dexterity.

Budgetary needs

Comparing different price structures is necessary to find the best fit for one’s budget. Most services offer a recurring subscription plan. Some also allow customers to place one-time meal orders rather than subscribe to a program.

Delivery costs, range, and reliability should also be considered for rural customers. In the long run, meal delivery costs may be similar to traveling to a distant grocery store for some older adults in rural areas.

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Also, as noted earlier, meal delivery services may ultimately be less expensive than the healthcare costs related to poor nutrition.

Researching reviews and options

Older adults may need help researching and reviewing delivery companies online since finding trustworthy options can initially feel overwhelming. Reading customer reviews can help understand the customer experience and rate various companies.

Additional considerations for older adults

Here are a few more helpful tips to find the right meal delivery service for the unique needs of older adults with diabetes.

Special packaging

Some meal delivery companies may offer larger-font recipe instructions or packing designed for easier handling.

RTE meals may be easier for older adults with limitations. However, some tightly sealed packaging can still be challenging to open. Searching for a company that offers highly nutritious meals with easy-to-open packages may require a little perseverance.

Customer service

Picking a company with patient, friendly, and accessible customer service can help with questions and concerns, like special delivery needs or simple packaging.

Nutritional information

Another important consideration for older adults with diabetes is detailed nutritional information with each meal. Some companies offer nutrition tracking apps with meal delivery memberships. For older adults who can use them, apps are a great way to track carbohydrate, protein, fat, and calorie intake. These apps can also help older adults with diabetes stay motivated and objective about their food intake and blood glucose levels.

Nutritional value of home-delivered meals

When choosing between meal kits and ready-to-eat (RTE) meals, it is important to consider the possible nutritional differences.

Meal kits with fresh ingredients may offer higher nutrient content — like vitamins and plant nutrients — since RTE meals are slightly more processed before delivery. If RTEs are not ultra-processed, the benefits likely outweigh the risk of potentially uncertain nutritional value for many customers.

Home-delivered meals for older adults with diabetes can greatly answer many challenges. For seniors tired of cooking or those with a new diabetes diagnosis, meals delivered to their doorstep may be very beneficial. Consistent and convenient nutrition designed for older adults and personalized to their unique needs and preferences can relieve the stress of meal prep.

As long as home-delivered meals are well-balanced with high-quality ingredients, delivery services can help address several health conditions older adults with diabetes face, increasing their satisfaction, independent living, and healthy aging.

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Key takeaways:

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