Making Molds Work in Aged Care

With all the media attention and discussion in the aged care industry, we are all aware that improving the look of texture modified meals can go a long way. It can encourage residents to eat more, provide meal enjoyment and dignity and thereby providing benefit from the nutrition it provides. This is where the use of food molds can come in.

Aged care homes have the option of purchasing pre-molded texture modified meals or making it themselves. The latter is usually more cost-effective and allows the home to create what they prefer and according to their menu. However, doing so can be fraught with difficulties even when following directions from the manufacturer of the thickening agents. If you are thinking about using commercial molds, or have tried but struggled to get the right texture or presentation, don’t lose hope. Using food molds can be very rewarding and your residents will thank you for it.

Our dietitians (with some who are chefs with years of experience in aged care and restaurants) have detailed below some common problems that are commonly encountered and our possible solutions.

Troubleshooting Smooth Pureed Molds

Food looks a bit flat or has lost its shape

Either not enough setting agent has been used or the meal has been over heated. It’s worth noting that Shape It (or any thickener that is mainly from agar agar), will revert to its liquid form when the food is heated to 85°C. The food may then collapse.

Liquid bleeds from the final product

Thus making it unsuitable for those requiring thickened fluids. It is also visually unappealing. To the initial puree, try adding some potato flakes or commercial thickening agent normally used for thickening drinks. This should stop the water bleeding out.  This is most common in foods with a high-water content such as pumpkin or broccoli.

Food is very sticky in the mouth

This can occur when using just one type of thickener that is originally made for thickening fluids (e.g. Resource Thicken Up). To reduce the sticky feeling in the mouth, you can use a combination of thickeners (both thickeners made for fluid and for thickening food) or try using less of the fluid thickener while still ensuring the food holds its shape.

Rubbery texture or too firm to meet the texture modified standards

This can be due to too much setting agent being added. This usually occurs when using an agar based product. Balancing the right amount of product to retain its shape while not being rubbery can sometimes be difficult, and it can take trial and error.  Keep experimenting! .

Lacks flavour or insipid taste

This usually happens when too much liquid is added to the food during the puree stage. This is common for harder vegetables such as carrot and parsnip that need extra liquid to get the correct texture. Adjusting the seasoning and adding fortification or using milk or cream is important with these foods, and using a bench top blender is more suitable than using a stick blender to get a good texture.

Food is very light or mousse-like

Thickener mixed in with the blender, try folding in the thickening agent by hand. Typically, this occurs with some setting agents such as Gelea.

It’s worth it

Making molded pureed food can be a challenging but worthwhile experience if you take the time to get it right. Being patient and keeping detailed notes of the ratios of thickener to the amount of food and quantity of fluid for your recipe are essential for success. Once mastered molded food can be streamlined and built into the kitchen’s weekly routine, providing an appealing pureed menu for your residents.

There is also now an online community of aged care chefs on Facebook that are helping each other out with tips and support. Connecting with your dietitian and with other passionate aged care chefs is a great way of sharing our learning.

Leading Nutrition can assist you and offer you more advice so please contact us on our website or call us on 1300 712 722.

Photo source: Alice Bucknell from Henry Kendall Aged Care, Wyoming