What Makes a Great Aged Care Menu?

Nutrition Matters Newsletter June 2017

For many residents the food provided by an aged care home is their only source of food and drink. This means nutritional status is entirely determined by whether the aged care home is providing sufficient quantities of suitable, appealing, texture appropriate food within their menu.

When assessing a menu there are numerous criteria and factors we look at, in general we provide recommendations with the aims of curating a great aged care menu. The below are the main things we look at.

  • The menu must demonstrate that there are ample opportunities for care recipients to be able to consume the recommended number of serves from each of the five core food groups (vegetables, protein, fruits, carbohydrates and dairy) per day. This is largely very different to the recommendations for the general population
  • All components of each meal needs to meet weight standards to ensure that residents are offered the appropriate amount of each food group. i.e. 90g of potato at lunch meal
  • There needs to be plenty of opportunity for residents to make choices within the menu, improving quality of life, dignity and independence
  • The menu should include a wide variety of dishes, flavours and colours. Most people enjoy meals where there is a variety of flavour, texture, colour and type of food and are more likely to stay interested in the meals served
  • The menu incorporates food fortification techniques to maximise nutrition content of food. Examples of this include adding skim milk powder to soups, providing nourishing high-fibre mid meal snacks, having substantial fillings in sandwiches and so forth
  • There should be plenty of resident consultation and involvement. What makes a menu great is different for each home, for each resident group and comprises more than just the nutrition, its the ownership by resident, responsiveness, flexibility that makes it truly great. In addition to resident meetings and menu surveys, we like to see family recipes from residents being incorporated into the menu and even resident taste-testing sessions.

In December 2016 the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) released The DAA Menu Audit Tool with the aim of providing dietitians working in aged care a consistent approach to reviewing the nutritional adequacy of aged care menus. Leading Nutrition offer services that are adapted from the DAA Menu Audit Tool, giving aged care homes a thorough assessment of their menu and food services. The assessment criteria used in our reports aims to be practical for both facilities and their residents.
The benefits to having your menu reviewed by Leading Nutrition as Specialist Aged Care Dietitians include the confidence that once reviewed

  • Your menu will meet guidelines for nutritional adequacy, as per current Best Practise, and the corresponding accreditation standards
  • You are providing meals that are nutritious, and healthy for the residents
  • You are providing a menu that is responsive to, and meets the special diet needs of your group.
  • You have evidence of continuous improvement in Food Service and Nutrition and Hydration Management

If you are unsure whether you have a great aged care menu, contact us on 1300 712 722 and we would be pleased to assist.

As an organisation, Leading Nutrition has been completing Aged Care menu reviews for many years and already has a strong process in place to do so, which is based on a number of credible resources available to us, as well as drawing on our experiences working within the aged care sector.