TRAVERSE CITY — Making sure your elderly parents or other loved ones are eating well can be a challenge.

A Cooking for Seniors class sponsored by Oryana Community Co-op is geared toward both older adults and those who take care of them, said Heather Campbell, a registered dietitian who will offer up education, cooking tips and some tasty recipes.

The class, which still has openings, is being held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Grace Episcopal Church in Traverse City. The cost is $35 for co-op members and $40 for non-members.

As people age their sense of taste may dull, they may have less of an appetite, swallowing may be difficult, they could have medical issues, or they may be overweight and need to take in fewer calories, Campbell said.

That means nutrient-dense whole foods that contain vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, she said.

"We want to make sure we get all the good nutrition in the small amount they're eating," Campbell said. "Everyone focuses on calories and misses the whole point."

The recipes are simple, don't take a lot of time and are made from ingredients that can be found at most grocery stores. They include a smoothie made with avocado, mango and spinach; a vegetable-rich borscht; and a flavorful hamburger soup.

Campbell will also educate those who attend the class on the right way to make oatmeal by soaking rolled oats for at least eight hours, which increases their digestibility and allows for better absorption of their nutrients.

The oatmeal can be dressed up with honey or maple syrup, or even caramelized onions, feta cheese or toasted pine nuts.

"You don't have to do all those crazy difficult things that take hours to make," Campbell said. "You can just make oatmeal."

Oryana holds several cooking classes per month for most of the year, but this is the first one aimed at providing appetizing and nutritious dishes for older folks, said Luise Bolleber, outreach and marketing specialist.

Bolleber is personally interested in the topic after taking care of her elderly father, who has passed away.

"I've just seen other people go through the same thing with their own parents or grandparents or elderly friends," Bolleber said. "It's harder for them to eat certain things. They like standard comfort foods."

Campbell does nutritional counseling at Whole Health Traverse City, where alternative medicine is offered.

"Our belief is that the body is able to heal itself. We just need to provide the support," she said.

A dietitian since 1994, Campbell calls herself a holistic dietitian. As such, she looks at the whole person in considering what dietary changes need to be made, not just a few numbers from a lab test or even the numbers on a scale.

Campbell said she hears a lot that digestion slows down in older people. But it doesn't have to, she said.

"A lot of that is from the SAD — the Standard American Diet — and it is sad," she said.

The SAD diet consists of a high intake of red meats, processed, refined and fried foods, butter and sugar. It also includes animal products from factory farms, Campbell said.

"I really find that animal foods have never been bad for us when they're raised the way they're supposed to be," she said.

She recommends eating super foods, including bone broth, fermented foods or grains that need to be properly prepared to make their nutrients readily available to the body.

Avocado Mango Spinach Smoothie*

Makes 2 servings

½ avocado

1 c. frozen mango

1 c. chopped spinach

4 dates (or honey)

1 c. homemade oat milk

1 T. fresh grated ginger

2 T. fresh lemon juice

Blend ingredients with a high-powered blender or food processor. If fresh mango is used, add ice cubes.

*High in Lutein, zeaxanthin, omega-3, vitamin C, vitamin B12 and zinc.

Hamburger Soup

1 lb. burger, naturally-raised, pastured

3 potatoes, cubed

6 carrots, sliced

1 onion, diced

2-3 stalks celery, diced

1 can diced tomato

1/3 c. barley

1/3 c. rice

1 t. onion powder

1 t. oregano

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 can organic tomato soup

4 c. stock or water

Sea salt and pepper

Brown burger, onion and garlic. Add potatoes, carrots and celery and saute. Add tomatoes, soup, stock or water until “soupy.” Add spices, barley and rice. Simmer until vegetables are soft, about 30 minutes.

This recipe freezes well.

If you go:

What: Cooking for Seniors class

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Grace Episcopal Church, 341 Washington St.

Cost: $35 for Oryana members; $40 for non-members

Sign up: Visit www.oryana.coop; or call 947-0191

Reporter