Posted on Tuesday, 24th January, 2023
In October 2022 Unilever Food Solutions attended the Aged Care Catering Summit in Sydney.
With 14 speakers from the Aged Care sector, we have provided a summary of the three key themes discussed that are of particular interest for Aged Care Chefs. If you didn’t attend the summit, stay up-to-date with our quick overview.
1. Food specific training
The number one industry challenge, referenced by several speakers, is the need for specialised training for Chefs, kitchen staff and the dining support team.
It was widely acknowledged there is very limited training available which is specific to Aged Care Chefs or food support staff, and no structured upskilling . This resulted in a lack of skilled people entering Aged Care positions and putting pressure on staffing levels and available resources.
There is a wide gap in practical, Aged Care focused in-person training. As Tibor Paller, from Tibor’s Kitchen said: “You can’t learn to cook modified diets from online training.”
Both Tibor Paller and Loretta Reiken (from Dining in Dignity) also mentioned the need for soft skills, such as empathy, to be taken into consideration when bringing new staff to the food service team.
Suppliers of equipment and technology are more proactive in creating practical training which addresses pressing needs such as texture modification. While this type of training is well regarded and valued by Aged Care Chefs, it is not recognised in any qualifications or certification.
2. Gut Health
Dr Liz Isenring from Linc Nutrition introduced the topic of gut health for the elderly. She noted that 90% of serotonin is made in the gut. Serotonin is a naturally occurring chemical in the body which stabilizes the mood and controls wellbeing and happiness. Eating foods which supply essential pre and probiotic benefits can significantly improve mood and wellbeing.
Ensuring residents are eating fruits, including unripe bananas, spinach and seeds such as flax and chia seeds, will provide a good source of prebiotics.
For probiotic foods, include yoghurts, cottage cheese, miso soup, peaches and sauerkraut in meals to ensure residents have healthy gut function.
Liz has kindly shared her Gut Map document here.
3. The “Food First” approach
Supporting the concept of using food to improve gut health, the Food First approach to nutrition was the focus of a panel discussion with Tibor Paller, Loretta Reiken and Amy Knight from Simplot.
Cherie Hugo of The Lantern Project also mentioned in her presentation that “practical food-first strategies can drop malnutrition by 44% in 3 months.”
It was acknowledged that while supplements do provide nutrients, they don’t deliver any other benefits that food and dining do. The social and emotional aspect of nutrition is also as important for residents’ overall well-being.
Simple changes at mealtimes - such as making sure every meal has high nutritional value, serving protein-rich foods first and making sure meals are flavoursome, aromatic and well presented - encourage consumption. Easy-to-implement food-first strategies can go a long way to helping improve health and reverse malnutrition.
Stay tuned as we bring you inspiration, recipes, tips and advice throughout 2023 to help you continue improving the dining experience for your residents.