How well do you think your current menu is able to provide adequate nutrition and hydration? Particularly for those clients with poor appetites and who eat only small meals?
Increasing energy and protein content of meals, also known as food fortification, can improve nutrition without increasing the amount of food. This can assist with maintaining weight while providing opportunity for greater nutritional intake for elderly clients with poor appetites. Some of our facilities have reported improved weights and less money spent on nutritional supplements by making simple fortifications to their menu. If your home is new to fortification, start with the following changes:
Most aged care facilities provide soup at least once daily and this may be the only item a client eats at dinner. Adding legumes, cheese and using fortified milk (full cream milk with added skim milk powder) where possible in soups will increase energy and protein content in the same volume of soup. Aim for every soup to contain meat, legumes or be made with fortified milk for maximum benefit. Some examples include adding Parmesan cheese to Minestrone Soup, adding cheese to cauliflower or broccoli soup and making these with fortified milk.
Don’t Forget the Vegetable Sides
Add energy and protein to vegetables by including cheese sauce where appropriate or adding olive oil or butter to vegetables. Steaming vegetables can help preserve many nutrients but avoid serving them without any additions of other ingredients. Using sauces, flavouring and herbs will increase variety and prevent flavour fatigue. Try frying garlic or bacon in olive oil and adding to beans and brussels sprouts for a different taste experience.
Desserts and Dairy
Desserts feature on most aged care menus and if you are following best practice you will be serving a range of desserts twice a day. Dairy-based desserts are those with the main ingredients containing milk, yoghurt and custard. You can further increase calcium and protein by using fortified milk instead of regular milk for any dairy-based desserts. Fortified milk can be made with 1 cup of skim milk powder added to 1 litre of full cream milk.
Offering milkshakes 3-4 times per week to all residents also increases protein and calcium intake. Vary the flavours on a regular basis to make them interesting and prevent taste fatigue. Another way to increase calcium and protein is to provide milo (made with milk and not just water) or malted milk at supper. This can also settle clients for the evening.
Small changes making a big impact
Small changes to recipes can make a big difference in nutrition for the elderly. They are not difficult to implement and can make a large difference to their nutrition status, health outcomes and quality of life. If you would like more assistance with meal fortification speak to our dietitians, please contact Leading Nutrition.