Menu planning in aged care

Source: Shutterstock.

Photo: Source: Shutterstock.

Aged care residents must be offered a variety of food choices, according to Leading Nutrition senior dietitian, Julie Orr.

Ms Orr addressed delegates at the Food for the Ages conference in Melbourne last week as she spoke about the importance of menu planning in aged care kitchens.

According to Ms Orr, alternatives must be available, with the “best practice” being to have a second choice on the menu, as well as the flexibility to allow residents to pre-order meals.

The ‘menu planning’ workshop offered aged care chefs attending the conference an opportunity to understand ‘menu alternatives’, helping to identify the makings of a ‘good menu’.

We’ve listed some menu alternatives you can try at your facility:

  • Try ‘standard extras’ which are simple options that are always available for residents who either don’t like the menu option or are not eating well etc.
  • Food alternative options may include grilled fish, omelettes or other egg dishes, baked beans, salad or sandwich or custard, ice-cream or fruit.

To ensure menus provided adequate nutrition and their design was consistent with best practice guidelines, Leading Nutrition provided delegates with a ‘menu checklist’. Questions included, does the lunch menu contain high protein meals or does breakfast contain at least four cereals including two high fibre and two low fibre options?

Ms Orr added menus in aged care kitchens needed to “avoid repetition” and she encouraged staff to review the food choices regularly. Accommodating and tailoring the menu to meet ‘special needs’ as much as possible was also important.

What makes for a good menu?

  • Same dishes should not appear.
  • Some favourite dishes that are repeated should not fall on the same day each week.
  • Dishes with the same principle ingredients should not appear twice in one day.
  • Incorporate ‘theme days’ or special occasion foods.
  • Appeal with a variety of colour, flavour and texture.
  • Use familiar names/descriptive labelling.
  • Is the menu suitable to cultural groups?
  • Is the dining experience/environment enjoyable and comfortable?

Share some of the food choices you have on your aged care menu or if your loved one is in an aged care facility, list some of the meals you think should be on the menu.