Nutrition Program Manager at NAQ Nutrition
Nutritionists provide valuable support to Aged Care Chefs, particularly with professional advice as part of the accreditation process.
We interviewed Accredited Practicing Dietician, Aloysa Hourigan, Nutrition Program Manager, NAQ Nutrition about how nutritionists and Aged Care Chefs regularly work together to meet best practice standards and support the health and wellbeing of residents.
According to Hourigan, the consulting nutritionist sees themselves as part of the team with a goal to help Aged Care Chefs receive recognition for the vital role they play.
“Nutritionists are not there to impose any rules, but rather to have conversations and offer advice. Many people may not appreciate the unique knowledge and skills Aged Care Chefs have. A nutritionist helps to build this specialised knowledge even further,”
Many Aged Care Facilities understand food is important for residents’ wellbeing and quality of life. Nutritionists support Aged Care Chefs and residents in a number ways including:
- Workshops and training seminars
- One-on-one consultations with residents
- Advisory program and Menu Review
- Accreditation support services
Dieticians also share up-to-date research and knowledge with Aged Care Chefs. One example of this is the advice for catering to diabetics, which has changed in recent times. The latest advice is a standard menu which meets the recommended guidelines for Aged Care will be ok for a diabetic. This type of up-to-date information makes a real difference for residents and Chefs alike.
Aged Care Chefs face many challenges such as helping to prevent weight loss and dehydration among residents.
“It’s not easy preparing food in bulk quantities to suit everyone’s tastes and dietary requirements, especially with limited time and resources.”
Aged Care Chefs need to balance the nutritional quality of the meals, while also focusing on taste, seasonal availability and providing textures that are easy to chew and swallow, so residents are able to eat everything on the plate.
“The Aged Care Chefs we meet care deeply for the residents’ health and wellbeing and work incredibly hard to produce delicious meals every day.” Hourigan also notes residents living with dementia can struggle to sit still to eat a plate of food. To overcome this, she suggests Chefs provide finger food options residents can safely eat while moving around.
There has been a big movement towards improving the dining experience for residents. Wonderful food is one of life’s pleasures, and Aged Care Chefs know the dining experience can be a daily highlight.
“If someone loses their sense of taste and enjoyment as they age, they often eat less and can be undernourished or dehydrated,” Hourigan explains.
“There has been a real focus on continuously refining the way food is presented, improving the texture, taste and aroma, with a goal to reduce plate waste. We know many Chefs who do amazing things with simple ingredients and techniques, in particular with texture modified foods, to make meal times really special.”
Hourigan is seeing a real shift in the way Aged Care Chefs are valued in the organisation. “Aged Care Chefs play a vital role in caring for residents, which I’m pleased to see is valued more than ever before. It’s a career path Chefs are choosing to follow because it’s rewarding on many levels.”
“Aged Care Chefs do a wonderful job to balance many different demands and challenges; dietary needs, food avoidance, texture modified foods, as well as the many personal likes and dislikes. Balancing all these challenges to create delicious and nutritious food on a budget takes a lot of knowledge, creativity and expertise. It takes a special kind of Chef to work in Aged Care.”