Vegetarian Journal 2003 Issue 3

Eating Vegetarian in Assisted Living Facilities

As many of us get older, there is going to be more of a demand for vegetarian food in assisted living facilities and nursing homes. When we see the sometimes bland, all-American food served in these institutions, we joke about how we'll all be on our cell phones calling for ethnic take-out, thus driving the nursing home dietitians and staff crazy.

Back in the current world, we are already receiving inquiries from vegetarians looking for a facility that will cater to their diet. Some older individuals are still driving a car and getting around, but they have decided to move into a community of seniors where meals are served. Others may need a lot of care because of health problems. There are also younger people who need long term care in a rehab hospital during an illness or after an accident. (We delivered Chinese food to a VRG member who was out of action for several months after a car accident.)

We knew one 99-year-old in a nursing home who lived on noodle kugel (pudding), white cake, some bread, an Ensure-like food supplement, and a few other items. (Please note that a vegan option for Ensure is Vigoraid. You can see more about Vigoraid on Westsoy's website at

VRG member Ed Murphy, who has spent time in a traditional assisted living facility, was nice enough to share some of his experiences. The facility where he lives was already serving some items that he was able to eat, including baked potatoes, prunes, bananas, an assortment of cereal, juice, tossed salad, beets, and cabbage slaw with pepper (instead of mayonnaise). Ed bought soymilk from a local supermarket, which is much easier today than even a few years ago.

For breakfast, Ed just wanted simple items. For other meals, food service did offer some vegetarian entrées, like spaghetti with tomato sauce. They also tried to accommodate his special needs by serving items such as veggie (Boca) burgers purchased from the local supermarket. Ed put some lettuce and onion on the burger, which is usually served with a side of carrots, vegetarian baked beans, lima beans, and green beans. However, he admits he was getting a little tired of eating them. "Everyone thinks you want veggie burgers every night," Ed said. "It's kind of like eating a hamburger every night. Guess some people would be happy with this, though vegetarians usually like variety."

The food service bought other special items from the supermarket since they were not readily available through their food service supplier. Some options would be refried beans and hummus, though hummus wouldn't keep as long as the veggie burgers. In addition, Ed personally bought Ezekial (whole grain) Bread, which the food service stored in the refrigerator or the freezer and served to him. We've found that other institutions will perform this service. As always, the key is to be persistent but pleasant.

Debra Wasserman & Charles Stahler
Coordinators of The Vegetarian Resource Group

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