Posted on Thursday, 18ᵗʰ February 2021
Recently Dr Aarti Tobin presented the findings of a study on Texture Modified food in Aged Care when she spoke at the online Lantern Conference 2020 (for more information about the 2020 Lantern Conference, read our article here).
The purpose of the research was to understand what the day-to-day issues are for people working in food service in Aged Care and what science the CSIRO can potentially use to help overcome the identified challenges.
The Australia-wide study surveyed 242 respondents with a questionnaire about texture modified food in Aged Care, and involved a comprehensive mix of Aged Care food service people from catering/kitchen staff, clinicians, food service managers and Chefs.
The study was interrupted by COVID in 2020 so direct insights from Aged Care residents are yet to be collected and included in the research.
One of the barriers to creating the right textures and consistencies is the equipment available to Chefs and kitchen staff. When the equipment is not suitable for texture modification, ie the foodstuff is too dry and additional moisture needs to be added for the machine to work, then the more liquid consistency can mean the meal is now at the wrong texture level for the residents’ needs. Both pureed and minced meals tend to be difficult to make without the right equipment.
TEXTURE MODIFICATION MEASUREMENTS
A large percentage of respondents said they assessed the texture and consistency visually to determine the category according to the IDDSI framework - Dr Tobin suggested the fork and spoon tests are open to interpretation but guidelines exist.
The good news is that in the study group, IDDSI has a large uptake and the framework is being applied to texture modified food in Aged Care homes across Australia.
This image gives a good overview of the percentage of those surveyed who are producing meals at the different texture levels, as well as the methods they are using to standardise the process as much as possible.
TIME IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE
The time it takes to create texture modified food which tastes great, looks great and is at the correct texture level is still one of the biggest challenges faced by Chefs in Aged Care.
Dr Tobin said one of the outcomes of the research is around making texture modified food easier and faster to prepare. Her team at the CSIRO presented a range of concept foods to the survey group and are looking to develop a restructured meat product and some vegetable products which can be reheated and served at the correct texture levels. This work is ongoing.
DEVELOPMENT OF TEXTURE SPECIFIC RECIPES NEEDED
At Unilever Food Solutions we’ve been receiving requests for recipes at different IDDSI texture levels.
Dr Tobin feels recipes created for Minced and Moist (IDDSI level 5) would have the most positive impact for Chefs.
The challenge here is to develop a range of recipes which are nutritious, tasty, look amazing and are easy to make for one or more texture levels and/or a pureed diet.
Due to COVID19, Dr Tobin and her team were unable to get direct resident insights so the following data was gathered via the food service and clinical staff who took part in the questionnaire.
With 60% of residents' respondents indicating they regularly receive complaints on the poor appearance of meals, there is a lot of potential for changing the way texture modified food is presented on the plate to be more visually appealing.
Dissatisfaction with the taste of the meals was also expressed.
With dysphagia and dementia two of the more common conditions found in Aged Care residents, solving the challenges faced by Aged Care Chefs is key to the research being conducted by Dr Tobin and her team at the CSIRO.
At Unilever Food Solutions we are working to support and inspire Chefs in Aged Care. Understanding the challenges Chefs face in the area of texture modification, we have started working with relevant experts and most importantly Aged Care Chefs, to pinpoint specific challenges and brainstorm possible solutions to help Chefs create tasty, nutritious and visually appealing meals at correct texture levels. We will be providing regular updates on this topic over the coming year.
*All images are courtesy of Dr Tobin and the CSIRO and may not be reproduced without permission.