Since 1999, Tibor Paller has been working on food innovation in Aged Care after a career as a Chef in the restaurant industry.
Over the past 18 years, Tibor has been focused on improving the way texture modified food is approached in Aged Care.
His passion for creating enticing puréed food is centered around serving meals that not only satisfy the nutritional needs of the elderly, but embodies everything people love about food - the aroma, the aesthetics, how it is eaten and when.
First and foremost, Tibor believes there is a misconception that people on texture modified diets are suffering some form of dementia, are very elderly and ‘don’t care about what they eat’. He cites the actor Michael J Fox as example of someone who eats a texture modified diet as a result of having Parkinson’s Disease, and who would have an expectation that the food should be ‘good’.
Tibor has gone to the extent of creating his own moulds from food grade silicone, so he can re-create a variety of foods including prawns, spinach and sweets such as Turkish Delight and Vanilla Slice.
Tibor believes that Aged Care is about to undergo a significant change as the current generation of residents (known as the Silent Generation) is replaced by the early Baby Boomers and the expectations of residents themselves and their families will be much higher than before.
Clinical care will be replaced by lifestyle, suggests Tibor, and a large part of lifestyle is good food and, by default, good health.
With texture modified food being a significant part of meals served in Aged Care facilities, the importance of creating nutritious, tasty and visually appealing food cannot be overstated.
Anecdotally, up to 30% of Aged Care residents experience some degree of malnutrition, so the importance of nutritional requirements being met is vital to the overall health of the elderly.
The process of modifying the texture of food – heating, blending, refrigerating or freezing - negatively affects the nutritional levels and therefore it is not enough to make sure the food looks good, but that the lost nutrients are replaced, and where possible, increased.
Tibor’s Top 3 Tips to make texture modified meals enjoyable:
Create and present a meal that looks delicious. Take care to make the food look like food. Chefs and kitchen staff in Aged Care facilities are always short on time but a few extra minutes can make a big difference to how much food a resident will eat.
Even something as simple as presenting food in a Bain Marie in the dining room will help increase interest in a meal. Presence of food in the room helps to remind residents it is time to eat. The aroma and aesthetics of the food will stimulate appetite and encourage people to eat. Residents will also be able to choose what they would like to eat and have control over their portion sizes.
Serving more smaller meals per day is better for residents’ health, nutrition and hydration. Tibor recommends 6 meals each day, particularly for those on puréed food diets as it puts less stress on residents having to sit and finish a larger meal when swallowing is difficult.