Chefs and cooks in residential aged care are continually under pressure to deliver nutritious meals that satisfy a diverse customer base. The challenge is to ensure meals meet food safety and IDDSI specs, sit within budget, preparation is manageable, are consumed by the majority and not over-processed.
Taste and smell declines with age which can affect dietary intake and ultimately have negative health consequences. Taste loss is worsened by polypharmacy and chronic disease. New research suggests we may also have olfactory (smell) receptors on our tongue, which may influence our taste perception. Literature has revealed taste loss does not appear to make elderly people prefer stronger flavours and nutrition surveys have pointed to a greater consumption of sweet and salty foods. Indeed, this is observed when reviewing the dining experience onsite at facilities.
Five basic taste qualities include sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. These combine with other oral sensations, such as texture, spiciness, temperature and aroma, to produce what is commonly referred to as flavour. It is this combination of qualities that lets us deduce what we are eating. Take a thumbnail tour of the 12 tastes of food with Vic Cherikoff.
It is important that food offered looks, smells and tastes good. To get the right texture and consistency, some foods may require extra liquids eg. gravy/glace, milk or stock (water may dilute the goodness in the food). Utilise rich, dense, nutritional tasty stocks and glaces like those from Greenmount and Birch & Waite. Or utilise existing equipment to slow cook stocks and sauces overnight in bratt pans, kettles and combi ovens.
Flavour up the meal by including indigenous ingredients that are tasty AND nutritional.