11-17 March is international Nutrition & Hydration Week, to highlight, promote and celebrate improvements in nutrition and hydration.
Adequate nutrition is dependent on the amount of food actually eaten. A nutritious, varied, well balanced menu is only as effective as the amount that is consumed. For residents in aged care who require their meal texture to be modified, ensuring the meal is palatable is critical for maximising consumption.
A quality texture modified meal at the time the resident is ready to eat it depends on:
- The recipe – ensure plenty of taste that incorporates familiar ingredients. Simple seasoning with salt and butter on vegetables after cooking and draining will pop the flavour in the mouth. Incorporate umami ingredients into the recipe to stimulate appetite and saliva.
- Presentation – the senses have a major impact on taste. If the meal looks inviting in its appearance, colour, aroma and temperature, desire to eat will increase. Creatively plate the meal to delight the recipient. Share conversation about the meal to trigger happy memories and associations.
- Optimal at the first bite – while preparation, cooking and plating are important, the resident is focussed on the meal when they receive it and are ready to eat. This is where your efforts should focus. Every modified hot meal is reheated, with potential to lose colour, flavour, nutrition. Aim for the shortest possible time between reheating and eating. Perfecting the meal in the kitchen may not translate into a pleasant dining experience.
- Continuous improvement – incorporate a staff mindset of continually improving the experience for the resident. Have care and catering staff taste every modified meal. Get feedback – if they don’t like it, neither will the resident. Ask and implement ideas from residents and staff. Have residents and staff run the projects to bring ideas to life. Educate care staff about every meal so they can talk about it with confidence. (But make sure the meal is worth eating)!
- Staff set up to succeed – your staff are not dead wood. They are succulents waiting to be nourished. Clarify and align your food strategy to your vision and values. Show staff what good looks like and set clear benchmarks and KPIs. Nurture their passion, harvest their talents, reward their initiative. Stop blaming down.
- Utilising resources – use the abundance of knowledge available from your experts. Internal staff, allied health partners, food suppliers, equipment suppliers, government agencies, producers, manufacturers, industry colleagues. Collaborate and codesign solutions. Stop being the same as everyone else.
Create and utilise innovative solutions to enable staff to provide a fresh, nutritious, safe and tasty meal to every resident at the point they are ready to eat their meal. They will love you for it.