Table for one / Protein intake tips for the elderly

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Tomato pazza

The Yomiuri ShimbunTomato-based dishes

For elderly people living alone, a lack of appetite and an unbalanced diet can be a concern when it comes to maintaining healthy eating habits.

Through December, this column will feature nutritional advice on dietary components essential for the elderly, as well as recipes using foods containing these components with advice from cooking expert and nutritionist Chinami Hamauchi. This first installment is about protein.

Protein is a nutrient vital to maintaining healthy muscles, bones and blood.

“Aging weakens your muscles and accelerates shrinkage of your physique, and protein helps you avoid that. So please try to get enough,” Hamauchi said.

Meat and fish are the major protein-rich foods, but many elderly people have a hard time eating sufficient portions. As a result, they tend to rely on soy-based foods such as natto and tofu, or eat eggs instead.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Hearty pasta

“A healthy diet is based on getting nutrition from various ingredients,” she said.

Hamauchi recommends eating natto or eggs in the morning when one does not have much of an appetite and eating fish or meat for lunch and dinner as often as possible.

She shares a recipe she calls tomato pazza — reminiscent of acqua pazza, an Italian dish of seafood poached in broth — to boost one’s intake of fish and meat. The recipe is easy as one simply simmers a yellowtail fillet with other ingredients in a store-bought tomato sauce. The juices of the vegetables and the savory taste of the fish balance the sourness of the sauce. The fish is tenderized as it cooks while the sour tomato reduces the smell of the fish.

The recipe lends itself to improvisation. Mackerel and salmon are good substitutions for yellowtail, while chicken and sausages are good, too. The recipe helps one use up any leftover vegetables in your fridge.

Once the fish is cooked, leave half of the vegetables and tomato sauce for another dish the next day. The ingredients in Hamauchi’s recipe are enough to make two different dishes.

“The menu should be planned in a ‘relay system’ of using the previous day’s leftovers in the next day’s dish,” Hamauchi said.

For the second-day dish, Hamauchi mixed pasta into the tomato sauce and added ham for extra protein. Ground meat can be used instead of ham to make pasta with meat sauce. If one wants to add meat or fish, don’t forget to add water to adjust the thickness of the soup.

“Eating the same foods regularly won’t stimulate your appetite,” Hamauchi said. “Change your way of cooking to wisely optimize protein intake.”

Recipes for tomato-based dishes

Tomato pazza

Cut 100 grams broccoli into bite-size florets, cut ½ onion into 5-millimeter slices and slice ⅔ carrot into thin rounds. Pour 300 grams (or 1 can) store-bought tomato sauce into pan and place 1 yellowtail fillet in center. Lay vegetables around fish and put lid on pan to cook at medium heat until boiling. Simmer for 5 to 6 minutes. Season with pinch of salt and pepper when fish and vegetables are cooked.

Hearty pasta

Boil 80 grams pasta in hot water with pinch of salt, and follow cooking time according to package. In different pan, heat sauce and vegetables left over from tomato pazza and add 4 roughly chopped slices of ham (40 grams) to cook further. Add pasta to sauce and mix with pinches of salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Serve on plate and sprinkle with powdered cheese and black pepper to taste.

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