Food for thought

23 September 2022

A new menu for NZ healthcare

Residential care and hospital food suffers from a poor reputation. That’s why many New Zealand facilities are now looking to overseas counterparts and new trends to enhance mealtimes for residents and patients.

George Bernard Shaw said, “there is no sincerer love than the love of food.” For many, that love remains strong throughout the course of their lives. For others it no longer holds as much importance.  Tastes change, health diminishes, and digestive systems become less forgiving.

For healthcare facilities it is a fine line to walk. Attempting to up the culinary game while still providing for a variety of palates and dietary needs, can make meal planning complicated. However, it is worth putting the effort in. Mealtimes are often meaningful and highly anticipated for those in care homes and hospitals. Not just for the food itself but for the opportunity to socialise and interact.

Internationally, the tables have turned in care homes from mass produced institutional style meals towards freshly cooked cuisine that follows food trends. Some assisted living homes offer family meals in a restaurant style setting, allowing residents to eat together with family members. This is often the highlight of a resident’s week, and it can have the flow-on effect of increasing their general well being in days to come.

Healthy food, made cost-effectively, without compromising taste? It’s possible…

Gone are the days of bland, take-it-or-leave-it meal options for care homes. Effort is being made worldwide to incorporate different flavours and healthy, fresh food into care home meals. Menus will of course still include options for different dietary and physical requirements, such as softened vegetables for those who have difficulty chewing or swallowing. Soups are a great way to include seasonal vegetables with plenty of flavour that can be enjoyed by all.

While health is important, for many residents taste comes first. Creating meals that are full of flavour can take priority over ensuring food is highly nutritious. In saying that, lowering salt and fat intake remains important for many residents depending on health conditions. For others, certain foods can interact with their medications, so individualised meals must be created.

It’s not just what you’re serving, but how you’re serving it.

Covid has impacted the way dining settings work in care facilities and hospitals. Some new residential care builds are now factoring in pandemic-proofing. This may mean satellite dining spaces on each floor, or by creating multi-use spaces where games rooms or family rooms can double as dining rooms in an emergency.

For existing care homes, the use of mobile dining carts is one solution for serving meals in a pandemic situation. This means either small groups or individual diners can be served a meal anywhere in the facility safely. Some homes are also using dividers between residents or staggering serving times to reduce the number of interactions.

Cleaning is a big consideration too. Dining tables and chairs should be easy to wipe clean between sittings and made from materials that can withstand high-strength cleaners, such as faux wood, metal, or plastic. Those serving meals or assisting with feeding must be mindful of reducing contact also.

Outside experience is proving invaluable.

There has certainly been a shift internationally in how residents and patients are now being seen as consumers – guests who should be catered to and served as any other customer would be in a hospitality setting.

Some residential care facilities employ qualified chefs to create the menu for the week. This ensures variety and freshness, providing a range of high-quality meals like what would be served at a restaurant or cafe.

Prioritising the person and providing for individual tastes with a high level of variety and choice means that residents and patients feel more satisfied with their care. Placing menus on tables can be helpful in creating this sense of choice and anticipation.

Another way to create a cafe-like experience is through table setting and the appearance of staff. Many residents will have high standards around food service so the use of quality table linen and chef’s apparel will help create pride for both the residents and the service team.

Planning is the new priority

Just as there is a move in hospitality circles towards a garden-to-table approach, care homes and hospitals are changing to follow the seasons to provide meals that are both fresh and cost effective. Good planning and a seasonal approach mean chefs can avoid using expensive, imported products and provide a well-balanced diet.

Yes, many residents and patients enjoy old favourites such as mashed potato and gravy. But the shift towards variety is reflective of a generational change. It is also beneficial for those residents who are not in the elderly age bracket, who may be in care homes due to disabilities or other health problems. Their more modern tastes should not be ignored either.

Search Results

Close Icon | Modal Vendella
Close Icon | Modal Vendella

Welcome Back

Log In to see your saved items and more.

Lost your password?

Having trouble logging in?

If you cannot access your account, contact our customer care team on 0800 836 335 for assistance.

Create an account

Sign up and enjoy your benefits.

Trade Customers Only

We only authorise trade accounts from the below industries:

  • - Hospitality & Accommodation
  • - Aged Care & Health Care
  • - Staff & Student Accommodation
  • - Government Departments & Support Housing
  • - Commercial Laundries
  • - Resellers & Interior Design

Reset Password

Please type your Email or Username to reset your password.

Change Password

Please create your new password.