Eating Without Utensils

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Good nutrition is key to healthy aging. However, many older adults live with a variety of conditions—including dementia, arthritis or tremors—that can impact their ability to feed themselves using utensils. If a loved one has trouble with utensils for any reason, you often can turn any food into finger food simply by cutting it into smaller pieces. 

Check out these ideas for nutritious snacks and meal substitutes that can be eaten without utensils. Some seniors may prefer eating several small meals or nutritious snacks throughout the day instead of three big meals, so these ideas also work for them.  

Nutritious Handheld and Finger Foods for Older Adults

  • Smoothies: Smoothies are a great way to increase fruit and vegetable consumption and prevent dehydration. Include a handful of spinach, your favorite frozen fruit, water or milk, and combine in a blender. Try serving the smoothie in a cup with handles and use a lid to prevent spills. 
  • Sandwiches, wraps and toast: Small sandwiches, wraps and toast can be eaten with your hands. For example, try a spread of tuna, lime, cilantro and avocado on whole grain bread. 
  • Soup: Soup served in a cup with handles can help you eat more vegetables, and you can do it without a spoon. You can also try pureeing the soup in a blender so it can be more easily sipped. 
  • Quesadillas: Heat refried beans, your favorite vegetables and a little cheese on a whole grain tortilla.  
  • Bite-sized fruit: Snack on some chunks of fruit like pineapple, bananas and strawberries. 
  • Cheese cubes: Snack on cheese cubes or cheese sticks to add calcium and protein. Choose low-fat cheese when possible. 
  • Fruit- or vegetable-based breads and cookies: Let your loved one snack on some fruit- or vegetable-based breads and cookies for a sweet treat that also counts toward their daily fruit or vegetable consumption. Check out this recipe from MANNA FoodBank and visit MANNA FoodBank for more easy produce-based recipes. 

The Easiest Cookies in the World 


  • 2 over-ripe bananas    
  • 1 cup quick oats  
  • ½ cup chocolate chips    

Mash bananas in a bowl using a fork. The consistency should be gooey; try to get the lumps out. 

Pour in oats and chocolate chips and mix well. 

With moist hands, form 2-inch balls of mixture; place on greased cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool and enjoy! Try adding raisins, craisins or nuts for more nutrients per serving.

If you are caring for someone with dementia, this can be a great recipe to make together. Try having the person with dementia help with mashing bananas, mixing or forming the dough into balls. 

Related: Learn more mealtime tips for people with dementia and other kitchen hacks for maintaining independence

Katherine Starr
Katherine Starr

Katherine Starr, an AmeriCorps VISTA at CICOA, brings her passion and skill to the Meals & More Nutrition and Wellness project this year. Throughout college, Katherine volunteered 60 hours a semester at a dementia care facility, and she is now excited to help people with dementia and their caregivers live well within their own communities. Katherine received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania and completed a dementia care certification through Presbyterian Senior Care Network and California University of Pennsylvania.

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