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How to keep your parent’s fridge fresh and organised

How to keep your parent’s fridge fresh and organisedWe’re always told to watch what we eat but when it comes to our parent’s diet we can’t always be around to ensure they’re getting the nutrients they need or that their fridge is full of fresh food that’s not passed its best-before date.

If you’re concerned your parent isn’t eating well we share how to help them keep a well-stocked fridge as well as the foods and drinks that can help your parent live healthily for longer.

How much food should be in my parent’s fridge?

Whether your parent can still do their own shopping, relies on a supermarket delivery service or perhaps you do a trawl for them as part of your weekly shop it’s important to strike a balance between an overflowing fridge and a bare one.

Typically having a mix of long-life items such as cans of fruit or veg (which don’t strictly speaking have to be in the fridge), honey and packets of dried fruit - sources of fibre and energy - and some fresh fruit, meat, eggs etc will help to keep your parent going as well as ensure that their diet is balanced.

Appetite can lessen with age and a lower level of physical activity means that lunch doesn’t have to be a full-blown affair for elderly parents. A ham salad sandwich or some chicken and veg can often suffice but bear in mind that while some parents will be more than happy with a light lunch others may scorn the thought of slimline portions.

How do I pack my parent’s fridge?

Whether you thought there was a right or wrong way to fill a fridge The Food Standards Agency has suggested that correct food storage can be crucial to preventing germs spreading from raw to ready-to-eat foods.

Raw meats, poultry and fish should always be stored in sealed containers on the bottom shelf of the fridge while ready-to-eat food such as leftovers, dairy products and cooked meats should be kept covered on higher shelves helping to protect cross-contamination.

It may reassure you and your parent to open the door on a fit-to-burst fridge but closely packed together food can prevent cool air circulating throughout the fridge leading to some items not being kept cold enough to keep them fresh. Generally speaking most fridges should be kept at 5ºC or below.

What drinks should I put in my parent’s fridge?

Typically fruit juice gets a bad press due to its acidity but nutritional experts advise that a small glass of 100% juice with breakfast can boost your parent’s daily intake of vitamin C and B6 helping to protect them from brittle bones and promote quick tissue repair. Fruit juice tends to last longer than other drinks that live in the fridge as the acid acts as a natural preservative.

Milk has been a diet staple in the UK since we found our love for tea. Switching your parent back to whole milk instead of semi-skimmed can help to provide their bodies with a richer source of vitamin A and D. According to a study by the University of Exeter Medical School older people who have a severe vitamin D deficiency have a 1 in 5 chance of developing dementia.

The British Nutrition Foundation recommends increased intake of vitamin D for older people as the skin’s ability to synthesise vitamin D decreases with age which can impact the body’s ability to absorb vitamin C.

Buying smaller cartons of juice or milk or signing your parent up for local milk delivery can help to prevent them possibly drinking something that’s gone-off. You can also by long-life milk, almond milk and fruit juices from most larger supermarkets if you’re concerned your parent won’t finish the carton within date.

How do I keep my parent’s food fresh and their fridge tidy?

Using smart technology to track the contents of your parent’s fridge sounds bizarre but if you’re already helping them with their weekly shop logging their fridge items can become part of the unpacking process.

Both Google play and the iTunes store have apps such as Best Before, Keep'em FRESH, Fresh Box and Fridge Pal you can download to remind you when something’s about to go off and suggest recipes to use up food that’s on the brink of its use-by.

Buying your parent fit-for-purpose food storage containers can help to keep leftovers as fresh as possible without the possibility of a plate covered with foil contaminating the other contents of the fridge should it leak or spell.

Getting colour-coded plastic boxes can also help your parent to differentiate between foods that need cooking and food that’s already cooked (which can be useful for those with dementia) or foods that will go-off soon vs those that can stay in the fridge for the foreseeable future.

Labelling food with large lettering and clearly displaying the use-by date can help parents with poor eyesight or those who easily forget food that’s made its way to the back of the fridge to remember to eat food before it goes off.

How do I encourage my parent to eat fruit and veg?

Sometimes eating fruit can be a chore for parents who perhaps have limited movement in their hands or have lost the strength in the arms. The peeling, chopping, segmenting, coring and de- leafing can all put older people off eating fruit.

Cutting and peeling pieces of fruit for your parent and storing them in easily –accessible plastic food containers can help to encourage them to eat one of their five a day without the faff. Buying them an apple cutter or its equivalent can help them to prepare fruit themselves but you may find that these types of kitchen gadgets still require a bit of brute force in order to get them to work effectively.

Small bags of salad or chopped veg can be simple accompaniments to main meals while cutting out the preparation side of things or healthy snacks for when your parent has the munchies.

For more information on how to help your parent eat healthily and store food safely visit Nutritionist Resource and the NHS website.

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