Rev Up Seniors’ Palates with This Ratatouille Recipe

Caitlin Rogers, Sunrise Senior Living, National Director of Dining & Nutrition Services  |  August 13, 2014

In a recent article, I made recommendations on how to pack flavor into meals for seniors, whose sense of taste and smell tends to change with age – especially after 70, according to research. As we approach Labor Day, I wanted to share a super flavorful and nutritious end-of-summer recipe that the whole family would enjoy.

Serves 6

Nothing is better than ratatouille when produce is at its summertime peak. Check out your local farmer’s market for the best selection and freshest items. Tomatoes, especially, are in another league when in-season and locally grown.

1 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
½ cup medium diced red onion
1 tsp minced garlic
2 cups medium diced eggplant
1 ½ cups medium diced zucchini
1 ½ cups medium diced yellow squash
1 cup medium diced red bell pepper
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tbsp red wine vinegar


1. Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a wide sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
2. Add the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and bell pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 10 – 15 minutes, stirring often, until vegetables are soft.
3. Add the tomatoes and thyme. Cook for another 10 minutes.
4. Add the vinegar and remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil. Cook for 2 minutes more.
5. May be served warm or chilled.

This recipe follows several of our top tips for cooking and preparing foods that will be inviting to seniors’ palates:

  • Uses fresh, seasonal produce at its peak, which allows for optimal flavor.
  • Uses ample amounts of fresh herbs that create strong aromas.
  • Uses vinegar to bring out the dish’s flavor rather than salt. A small amount of acid helps to perk things up.
  • Creating softer, stewed textures can be easier for many seniors to eat and enjoy.
  • Loading up on antioxidants for anti-inflammatory benefits – Vitamin C from the bell peppers, Lycopene from the tomatoes, and Omega 3 fatty acid from the olive oil.

Next month, we’ll host Sunrise’s second annual SeniorEatsTM Nutritional Challenge at The Fairfax in Fort Belvoir, VA. Stay tuned for more senior-friendly recipes, straight from our own chefs across the country!