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List of Finger Foods for Dementia Patients: Supporting Elderly Diet
Brenda Peralta

Fact Checked And Medically Reviewed By Adrian White, Certified Herbalist

By Brenda Peralta, Registered Dietitian and Health Coach

Last Updated on March 2nd, 2024

Cognitive Nutrition

List of Finger Foods for Dementia Patients: Supporting Elderly Diet

If you or someone you love has dementia, you already know that it’s tough to deal with. Various limiting factors come with this condition. People with dementia may have trouble getting ready, going to the bathroom, and eating.  

According to studies, 63% of people with dementia have severe cognitive problems, and 32% depend on others for eating1. They often have trouble using cutlery, chewing, or swallowing. As a result, family and caregivers need to modify their diet to give them some independence and dignity. 

Finger foods are an excellent solution. They can provide autonomy when eating. They can also help older adults with dementia reach their nutrient intake, prevent weight loss, and reduce malnutrition. 

We’ll explore some delicious finger food options tailored for dementia patients. These foods are nutritious, safe, and enjoyable. The best part is that they are family-friendly. So everyone can enjoy them. 

Before we begin, remember to talk with a health professional to understand your or your loved one’s needs. 

What’s the Significance of Finger Foods in Dementia Care?

Finger foods are items that can be hand-held and eaten without using any utensils. Dementia can affect different parts of life, such as being restless, fidgeting, trouble focusing, and constantly tossing and turning. All of which can affect meals. 

The problem is that people with dementia can experience weight loss or malnutrition since they may not be getting all the necessary nutrients.1 

According to research2, eating with their hands (finger foods) allows patients to eat on their own without feeling like they need assistance or utensils. It also allows them to reach their nutritional goals safely.

See also: Top Food Assistance Programs for Seniors and Their Benefits

What are the Essential Criteria for Selecting Finger Foods?

Picking finger foods for people with dementia doesn’t mean you should only provide finger sandwiches. You must still consider providing a healthy and balanced diet to cover all your needs. Also, consider some important factors, such as size, shape, and texture.

Pay attention to the following four factors when selecting finger foods. 

1. Size. Make sure you pick foods (or cut them) into sizes you can hold with one hand. If you need two hands to pick it up, it’s too big and needs to be smaller. However, it shouldn’t be too small since a person with dementia may find it challenging to pick up. 

Properly chopped Food

2. Texture. Consider whether the person with dementia has dentures or problems chewing. In such cases, it’s best to opt for soft foods instead of crunchy ones.

Women trying to break walnut

3. Temperature. Since these are finger foods, and most people with dementia may be unable to cool down their foods, ensure you don’t serve them too hot. They should be cool, warm, or room temperature. 

Man got burn with steaming food

4. Nutrient density. Focus on providing nutrient-rich foods to ensure they cover all needs. Include fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, healthy carbs, and lean proteins. Try to avoid ultra-processed and processed foods. 

Healthy Juice

Ensure that each time you provide a new food, you stay within range to watch for choking hazards. Also, consider possible allergies or intolerances to avoid any gastric issues. 

The Ultimate List of Finger Foods for Dementia Patients

Here is the ultimate list of finger foods for patients with dementia. They are categorized into groups to provide more variety and allow you to mix and match depending on individual needs. 

16 Proteins and Meats

  1. Fish sticks
  2. Chicken strips or nuggets
  3. Boiled eggs (cut in quarters)
  4. Sausage links or patties
  5. Meatballs 
  6. Deli meat 
  7. Grilled chicken (cubes or strips)
  8. Edamame (without the pod)
  9. Mini sliders 
  10. Mini quiche 
  11. Muffin egg bites
  12. Peanut butter sandwich
  13. Rotisserie chicken 
  14. Chicken or meat fajitas 
  15. Tuna or salmon patties 
  16. Egg, tuna, or chicken sandwiches

20 Fruits and Vegetables

  1. Apple slices
  2. Banana
  3. Blueberries 
  4. Broccoli (florets or tots)
  5. Cantaloupe (cubes)
  6. Carrot sticks or slices (cooked if they have problems with dentures)
  7. Cauliflower (florets or tortillas)
  8. Cucumber slices 
  9. Grapes (halved)
  10. Green beans
  11. Mushroom slices 
  12. Orange or mandarine slices 
  13. Onion rings 
  14. Pear slices
  15. Peach slices 
  16. Pineapple chunks
  17. Raspberries 
  18. Strawberry slices 
  19. Watermelon (cubes)
  20. Zucchini slices 

8 Types of Dairy and Alternatives 

  1. Cheese sticks 
  2. Yogurt dip
  3. Kefir 
  4. Cheese slices
  5. Milk in a cup (with lid)
  6. Smoothies 
  7. Yogurt tubes
  8. Yogurt mixed with jello (cubes)

14 Snacks and Treats

  1. Brownies
  2. French toast (cubes or slices)
  3. Mini pancakes 
  4. Mini donut
  5. Mini cinnamon rolls 
  6. Ice cream sandwich
  7. Cookies 
  8. Popsicle 
  9. Pound cake 
  10. Dessert bars
  11. Energy balls 
  12. Strudels 
  13. Banana bread
  14. Jello (cubes)

23 Carbs and Grains

  1. Bagels 
  2. Biscuit with jam
  3. Crackers
  4. Cereal bars (soft)
  5. Croissant 
  6. English muffin 
  7. Fries
  8. Granola bars (soft or chewy)
  9. Mini muffins 
  10. Potatoes (halves or mini potatoes)
  11. Pasta
  12. Pretzel bites
  13. Ravioli 
  14. Gnocchi 
  15. Sweet potato fries
  16. Tater tots
  17. Toast (quarters or strips)
  18. Waffles
  19. Quinoa patties 
  20. Hummus
  21. Pita bread (cubes or slices)
  22. Breadsticks
  23. Tortilla (slices)

Practical Tips for Caregivers and Families

When preparing finger foods for dementia patients, it’s essential to create a comfortable and supportive dining environment. Remember that people with dementia may struggle with the situation, and you want them to feel as relaxed as possible. That’s why setting an adequate atmosphere for them to feel at ease is crucial. In some cases, dementia patients may exhibit unusual behaviors, such as playing with their food or even their feces. If you’re concerned about this, our article Why Do Dementia Patients Play with Poop offers helpful information and guidance on managing this challenging situation.

Elderly women sharing good time

Place their foods in a familiar place in every meal, and set the mood by placing a regular meal setting (plate, mats, glasses). Encourage them to sit down, but if they are full and want to leave, allow them to do so. To avoid spilling, serve the drinks in a glass with lids and straws.

Also, make sure that you involve them in their eating choices. Ask them if there is something in particular they would like to have for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The more involved they are, the better for them and the rest of the family. 

Finally, if a mess is left behind, ensure you don’t produce any negative reactions. Otherwise, it may cause a bad food relationship, and the patient may not want to eat, making it more challenging.

See also: 11 Best Organizations to Join in 2024 (Volunteering for Seniors)

Resources and Support

If you would like more information regarding dementia, talk with a health professional or support group that can help you understand the condition and provide the best quality care for your family member. 

Elderly women laughing with nurse

The Alzheimer’s Association3 is an excellent resource for learning more about the condition and finding local resources to make things more manageable. 

Also, we encourage you to keep learning and staying informed on the best practices for dementia care. Just make sure you are getting information from reputable sources. 

Takeaway

Dealing with dementia can be tough. The diagnosis can affect a person’s independence and self-worth. That’s why it’s important to search for ways to help people with dementia feel like their old selves again. 

Finger foods allow a sense of autonomy when eating. When choosing finger foods, opt for those with a high nutritional value to ensure they contain all the recommended nutrients. 

If you are struggling with a family member with dementia, make sure you reach out to a health professional, support group, or a facility to help you determine the best approach to deal with the condition. 

Sources

    1. Jung D, Lee K, De Gagne JC, et al. Eating Difficulties among Older Adults with Dementia in Long-Term Care Facilities: A Scoping Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021;18(19):10109. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph181910109

    1. Pouyet V, Giboreau A, Benattar L, Cuvelier G. Attractiveness and consumption of finger foods in elderly Alzheimer’s disease patients. Food Quality and Preference. 2014;34:62-69. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodqual.2013.12.011

    1. Ford G. Putting Feeding Back Into the Hands of Patients. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services. 1996;34(5):35-39. doi:https://doi.org/10.3928/0279-3695-19960501-16

    1. Alzheimer’s Association. What Is Dementia? Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. Published 2023. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia

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Brenda Peralta

Written By

Brenda Peralta

Registered Dietitian and Health Coach

Brenda is a Registered Dietitian and health coach with over nine years of clinical experience. But besides being a registered dietitian, she has certifications in sports nutrition, precision nutrition, diabetes education, women’s health specialist, fertility advisor, and gut health.

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