Loss of appetite can trigger unhealthy weight loss among elderly and can lead to serious health complications. While suppressed appetite has often been explained by conditions such as the inability to chew and swallow or simply depression, many facilities overlook the stale foodservice menu as the cause for the lack of excitement in the dining room. Here are four ways to increase menu diversity and improve appetite.
1. Offer Seasonal Menus
Our eating preference tends to differ from season to season. While we prefer heavier, meatier foods with more carbohydrates during winter, such as meatloaf and mash potatoes, beef and chicken stews, and hot soups to keep us warm, we are more drawn to lighter and cooler selections in summer such as cold pasta dishes, a variety of salads and fruits that are high in juice such as melons, peaches and pineapples. Through seasonal menus you can offer your residents a variety of creative dishes that resonate more with their natural eating cycles.
2. Incorporate Ethnic Flavors
Most residents prefer flavors they are familiar with or that are similar to what they were served at home. Since your facility has now become the home to many of your residents, it is important to consider their demographics and culture when developing your menu For instance, if the majority of them are Hispanic, it would make sense to incorporate more Latin flavors. Similarly if your facility is multi-cultural, offer a variation they are all comfortable with while giving the opportunity to try other types of foods.
3. Enhance Meal Presentation
If the food we are served doesn’t look appealing, we won’t eat it. Long-term care residents have the same attitudes. Some of the simple ways to serve a more appetizing dish without having to reinvent the menu are to use colorful spices or garnish plates with fresh herbs. This will also enhance the flavor while improving the presentation. Tray presentation plays an equally important role to residents that choose or require room service.
“It’s important to remember that we are to the resident what a restaurant is to us. We have to look at the whole experience from ambiance to taste…and every hospitable detail in-between. ‘Appetite’ is developed from the eyes first…always, “says Rocky Dunnam, CEC, CDM Executive Chef at Bivins Foundation.
4. Improve the Dining Environment
Your dining room is significant to residents’ attitude and appetite. This is the place they gather to not only dine but to also socialize and make new friends. If the setting is pleasant, they are more likely to spend time here, be social and feel less depressed. Many long-term care facilities are moving away from traditional buffets, instead offering restaurant dining with set tables and restaurant-style menu. This will benefit your residents by enhancing their dining experience but it requires planning, budget and time. If you can’t completely transform your dining room, then at least consider making less costly changes such as repainting the walls, hanging a few paintings on the walls, and if you have windows let light shine in to brighten the room.
Addressing weight loss in long-term care isn’t only about food quantity. It’s also about the quality and the overall experience. Foodservice professionals can help improve in their residents’ appetites by combining menu variations and nutritious ingredients with a pleasant ambiance.
For more Healthcare foodservice ideas, contact your local Cambro Healthcare representative.