If the old ways of caring for the elderly looked dull and dreary, like the stuff you see in drama flicks or TV series (with dilapidated hallways, rooms and dining areas), the new era of aged care has thankfully begun, and catering one of the major areas of focus. Today, majority of aged care providers are working tirelessly to provide the best possible catering services to their residents, with personalized menus, modern twists on classic dishes, breakfast buffets, room service, fancy dining room designs and more. Here’s how the aged care facility managers are enhancing aged care food menu.
It All Comes Down to Presentation, Taste & Service
According to one advocate of innovating aged care food menus, it all comes down to what’s served on a plate and how it’s been served. If the food isn’t cooked and served right, then everything else around it just doesn’t make sense.
The innovative aged care food service advocate also stresses that he’s seen a major focus on moving away from the basic “good food served well”. And there’s more emphasis on the luxuries of the dining experience, and introducing new ways and means of service.
And, since food and nutrition impacts the physical and functional needs of residents in aged care facilities, it is important for these facilities to maximize their resident’s enjoyment of food while at the same time minimizing malnutrition.
For many aged care facility residents, the food provided to them is their only source of nourishment. This means that nutritional status is determined by the aged care facility. Down Under, the Australian Quality Commission Consumer Reviews shows that nationally only 45% of residents in aged care facilities enjoy meals all, or most of the time. Therefore, a continual focus on meals is needed to provide food that’s enjoyed by residents.
The aged care advocate also says that the nutritional needs of residents are more likely to be met if the opportunities to consume food are maximized. A lot of residents in aged care facilities often have smaller appetites which restrict the amount of food that they can eat at any one time.
For this reason, it is essential that aged care food menus are nutrient-dense and should provide lots of opportunities to consume adequate protein due to increased requirements in older people.
Cool Ideas for Boosting Energy & Protein to Aged Care Meals & Snacks
Now, if you’re looking for innovative, and of course cool ways to enhance the energy and protein content of your facility’s aged care food menus, here are a couple if ideas to consider.
For starters, add cream to porridge and scrambled eggs, and second add cheese sauce to main meals. Next, mix cream and margarine to mashed vegetables, and add cream, milk powder or legumes to soups.
Fifth, use high-protein fillings for sandwiches (peanut butter, cold meat, egg and fish). Sixth, add cream, mustard, yoghurt or ice cream to desserts, and seventh use milkshakes, smoothies, yoghurt, dairy desserts, cheese and crackers, savory cheese muffins or scones, scones with jam and cream mousse for mid-meal snacks.
Finally, provide calorie-dense beverages like milk, enriched milk, smoothies, milkshakes, juice, cordial, soft drink or cordial.
The Stuff That Makes a Good Menu
So, what exactly makes agoodaged care food menu? According to one culinary expert, a good menu starts with minimal repetition of meals, including desserts and soups. Second, more choices are offered during meal times, and any favourite dishes are not repeated on the same day each week.
Fourth, dishes with the same principle ingredient should not appear twice in one day, and there should be variety of colour, flavour and texture too. Sixth, use simple language and familiar names for dishes, and aged care facilities should be provided with food that’s appealing and nutritionally adequate too.
The aged care food menu should also be planned around preferred food choices for residents, and food from the Australia Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE) food groups must also be offered every day.
Now, how will you know if your facility’s residents are provided with enough opportunities for an adequate intake? First, ask the residents if they’re hungry. If they are, then provide additional food for them as required.
Next, refer to the resident’s weight, on admission and monthly. Liaise with your facility’s dietitian too. Next, ensure that the aged care food menu provides enough opportunities for adequate food intake. This would be best done by working with your dietitian to have the menu reviewed.
The aged care facility should also perform regular malnutrition screening, as well as be mindful of residents from other cultures. And, the facility managers should also discuss with their chef or cook for alternatives that are available.
The resident’s meal times should also be monitored to determine if any resident requires assistance, and to provide everyone with an enjoyable dining experience. Also make sure that the dining room is inviting, and the meal service is respectful as well.
It’s also highly recommended that a facility’s aged care menu is reviewed by an accredited practicing dietitian annually, or when significant changes have been made to the menu. This helps ensure that nutritional needs and an appropriate dining experience is being provided to all residents.
In summary, what is the key to providing innovative, well-rounded aged care food menus? Again, our food experts say that the answer is simple – Get the chefs behind the stove and provide them with the training and resources that are needed to cook and serve meals for residents.
Like, if a traditional Friday fish, or Sunday roast, is cooked well and served with love, then you won’t need expensive white linen or fancy cutlery. And of course, you need to look at service, because this is where the rest of the catering staff and care staff comes in.
The kitchen staff also need to be trained on what the priority is when it comes to meal service, so that they won’t be rushed leading to meals times, and that they greet the residents when they come to the dining room.