The Role of Meal Delivery Services in Supporting Proper Recovery of Seniors

By: Lina Marquez, RDN, LDN

Who does not enjoy a hot meal? I believe we all do, but when we talk about seniors specifically, the comfort that a hot meal brings to them is truly out of this world. Seniors these days are suffering from loneliness, isolation and unfortunately many times even depression. During covid-19 times, these challenges have increased at even higher rates, way more than we would like to. But reality is that there is a lot we can do for our seniors, whether they are our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, caregivers from childhood or any other loved one. The comfort of a hot meal is often a great way to demonstrate them how much we love and appreciate them.

However, our daily routines are hectic and unfortunately, we do not always have time to prepare a hot meal to share with them and during these times it is even more challenging because we cannot be there physically, either because of social distancing guidelines or simply because our routines will not allow it. 

This is concerning because many seniors are not independent enough to cook their meals or to even grocery shop for themselves or simply, they prefer not to eat due to many different reasons, including trouble chewing and swallowing, loss of appetite, feeling of loneliness, depression, restricted diets, impaired function of the gastrointestinal tract or many other different reasons which leads to malnutrition. But research has proven that the comfort of a hot meal brings joy to seniors and opens their appetite which is a great way of preventing malnutrition along with the many undesired consequences.

But the question remains; how do we ensure that our senior loved ones can enjoy a hot meal if we sometimes can not be there with them or sometimes, they are not independent enough to cook for themselves? Well, food delivery of medically tailored meals specially planned for seniors is a great solution.

Meal Delivery Services – More than a Hot Meal for Seniors!

Food delivery services help seniors meet their food and nutrition needs in the convenience of their home without having to do the meal planning, shopping, prep, and cooking. Additionally, the convenience provided by these meals motivates seniors to actually eat their meals which also improves their quality of life, increases senior’s independence, encourage autonomy, and thereby improve senior’s quality of life. There is no question that meal delivery services are way more than a hot meal for seniors, they are full of nutrients and capable of improving seniors’ quality of life.

Convenience and Savings

Adding to the many wonderful benefits previously mentioned, convenience and savings are two more reasons to choose a meal delivery service to provide the hot meals your senior loved ones need. Forget about the planning, do not even think about the grocery shopping, preparation, and cooking. Now you only need to choose what your loved ones love to eat and let others, Chefs and Registered Dietitians specifically, do all the planning and cooking for your loved ones. And you can rest assure that their nutrient needs are going to be met with these carefully planned meals. Additionally, it is important to mention that most people experience savings because uneaten vegetables, fruits and foods in general are not going to the trash can anymore. Like when they buy an entire lettuce and only eat half of it, the rest goes in the trash, food delivery services are even solving the food waste issue.

Now that you know all the wonderful benefits offered by meal delivery services, it is time for the seniors in your life to start enjoying hot meals again! Talk to them about all the benefits of these carefully crafted meals, and help them choose the options that best suit their needs and appetite. 

It is no secret that proper and balanced nutrition is a fundamental part of the recovery period after hospitalization. When our loved ones are discharged from the hospital, many different instructions are given to us, medications, therapies, appointments, wound care, etc. One of the most common recommendations is that certain medications is to be taken with meals and so the question is, meals? What type of meals and how to prepare those meals? Aside from these questions it is important to keep in mind that when we talk about meals, it is not only about preparing them and serving them. It is about planning the meals, shopping for the ingredients, and ensuring that the meals are balanced enough with all the proper nutrients that our loved ones need for a quick and safe recovery. It is definitely a lot to keep track of. 

Malnutrition or the lack of nutrient dense food is the number one cause of poor health in the United States, and for older adults, the consequences of an inadequate diet are even more severe. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the consequences of malnutrition are a weak immune system, which increases the risk of infections, poor wound healing, muscle weakness and decreased bone mass, which can lead to falls and fractures, a higher risk of hospitalization and readmission and an increased risk of death. Therefore, there is no question that balanced nutrition plays a very important role in the recovery of patients after discharge and in the prevention of malnutrition.

However, as part of the discharge process, it is critical to have a plan for meals but more than meals, it is about balanced meals capable of supporting the safe and quick recovery of the patient to prevent malnutrition and its consequences. 

Meal Delivery Services Help Support Patients’ Recovery after Post-discharge

Meal delivery services are a great option to help support the quick and safe recovery of patients after post-discharge from the hospital or long-term care settings. These meals are specially developed to enhance dietary intake and contribute to the independence of older adults. Some of the benefits of these meals include:

  • Faster Recovery

Good nutrition plays a key role in helping your loved ones regain strength and heal after a hospital stay. That is the reason why well-balanced meals are important and necessary to speed up this recovery. Meal delivery services support a patient’s recovery by preparing well-balanced meals with the right amount of nutrients necessary to help patients get back on their feet faster. These meals are carefully planned by Registered Dietitians and Chefs who have the proper knowledge to choose foods with the most nutrients and methods of preparation to preserve those nutrients. At the end of the day, how the old saying goes; food is medicine. 

  • Reduce Hospital Readmissions

One of the goals of a hospital stay is to get the patients to its best and therefore reduce hospital readmission within 30 days of discharge. Meal Delivery Services support proper nutrition and therefore help prevent malnutrition and undernutrition which are associated with many undesired outcomes, including increased risk of pressure ulcers, weak immune system, increased risk of infection, suppressed immune function, and many others. 

  • Improves Overall Health and Quality of Life

The role of the meal delivery services in supporting proper recovery of seniors after hospitalization, has been widely documented. But aside from supporting a well-balanced diet, meal delivery services also support senior’s independence. Many seniors want to remain independent and meal delivery services are a great way of maintaining this independence with a lot of convenience. Independence in older adults is important to their physical and mental wellbeing which undoubtedly contributes to a high quality of life. 

In conclusion, meal delivery services are a great nutritional intervention at home, developed to enhance dietary intake and contribute to the independence of especially older adults (1). These adults often suffer from reduced physical functioning due to chronic or acute conditions that limit daily activities like shopping and preparing meals [2,3]. Therefore, home delivery services can increase nutrient intake and recent studies indicate that home-delivered meal services also reduce health care utilization and therefore, costs [4,5].


[1] Campbell AD, Godfryd A, Buys DR, Locher JL. Does participation in home-delivered meals programs improve outcomes for older adults? Results of a systematic review. J Nutr Gerontol Geriatr 2015;34:124–67. 

[2] Vermeulen J, Neyens JC, van Rossum E, Spreeuwenberg MD, de Witte LP. Predicting ADL disability in community-dwelling elderly people using physical frailty indicators: a systematic review. BMC Geriatr 2011;11:33. 

[3] Anyanwu UO, Sharkey JR, Jackson RT, Sahyoun NR. Home food environment of older adults transitioning from hospital to home. J Nutr Gerontol Geriatr 2011;30:105–21. 

[4] Cho J, Thorud JL, Marishak-Simon S, Hammack L, Stevens AB. Frequency of hospital use before and after home-delivery meal by Meals On Wheels, of Tarrant County, Texas. J Nutr Health Aging 2018;22:519–25. 

[5] Shan M, Gutman R, Dosa D, Gozalo PL, Ogarek JA, Kler S, et al. A new data resource to examine Meals on Wheels Clients’ health care utilization and costs. Med Care 2019;57:e15–21.

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