Posted on Thursday, 20ᵗʰ May 2021
The importance of keeping residents well-nourished and healthy cannot be overstated and this is at the forefront of menu planning in Aged Care.
Dr Karen Abbey recently hosted a webinar on the topic of creating meals with sufficient protein and energy across the menu, including mid-meals.
According to Dr Abbey, residents who are getting enough of the foods which contribute to overall health and wellness generally have:
- More resilient immune systems
- A decreased risk of falls as they have better muscle strength and balance
- Reduced frequency of pressure injuries and faster recovery times
- Better overall functionality, including brain functionality
3 additional key factors which are important to consider, when planning protein and energy rich meals, are:
- Sense of taste deteriorates with age: making sure food has strong, recognisable flavours is the simplest way to help residents enjoy their meals and ultimately helps people maintain their health and wellbeing.
- Know what medication people are taking and if it has an effect on their taste, smell and appetite: coordinating with clinical staff can help Chefs understand why someone might suddenly be eating less food.
- Chronic illness and deficiencies in micronutrients in the body can have an impact on healthy eating and food intake: boosting intake of probiotic rich foods such as natural yoghurt can help improve nutrition.
In addition to ensuring meals have the right protein and energy profile, Amit also has the following tips:
Make sure food is always available
Because not everyone is hungry at mealtimes, Amit advocates for snacks and food being freely available at all times so his residents can eat when they feel hungry. At SummitCare, the kitchen is available at all times as an a la carte service.
Have a large selection of meals and meal variations
Allowing residents to choose what they would like to eat at any particular time, means having a comprehensive menu. For example, Amit will offer anything up to 15 different types of soup at any one mealtime.
Follow Dietitian’s recommendations
Ensuring the Chef and kitchen staff know exactly what has been recommended for their residents and ensuring these recommendations are followed is a key part of keeping everyone healthy and strong.
All meals need to be cleared with a dietitian to make sure they are meeting the needs of residents and adjustments are made for those with specific needs on a meal-by-meal basis.
Involve residents in all aspects of menu planning
At Summitcare, Cooking Groups, made up of residents, are instrumental in what meals are included on the menu. Taste testing sessions are arranged regularly. Residents are able to try new dishes and have them added to the menu.
Everyone is encouraged to give feedback to the Chef at any time, so the menu is in a constant state of refinement.
As Amit says, the people in your facility are not patients, or visitors; this is their home and part of the role of Chef is to help them feel they can have what they want, when they want it. Another part is to ensure the meals not only taste amazing but contribute to their health at every bite.