Essential Cuisine, one of our supply partners spoke to Sophie Murray, Head of Nutrition and Hydration at Sunrise Senior Living and also Deputy Chair at NACC to get her thoughts on some key topics and challenges in the care home sector.
What role does food have to play in good physical and mental heath?
Food creates a sense of purpose - be it serving, cooking or simply eating it. “We are what we eat” may be a well-known saying but it is absolutely true - nutrients are essential to helping our muscles to function, our brains to function, our digestive to system function and so much more. The older we become, the more we need to consider nutrients to help combat ageing effects. Food can help spark an interest and a conscience for so may – provenance and sourcing can make the difference between a good recipe and a great recipe. Buying local, seasonal foods can play a huge part in that.
In your experience, what is one of the key challenges care home caterers face on a daily bases?
Developing well-balanced meals to meet the needs and preferred choices of residents can sometimes be a difficult challenge for a Chef. Ensuring that dishes are full of nutrients is especially important for the elderly, including sufficient protein, key vitamins and minerals. Considering this, in hand with ensuring that the food on offer is popular or ‘on trend’ whilst meeting the skill level of a Chef, can be a delicate balancing act. Within the book we have used oats in a number of recipes. Oats serve as a great ingredient as they are whole-foods, rich in fibre and also contain protein and carbohydrates. A perfect base for so many recipes.
What are the impacts of poor diets, or unvaried diets that are very repetitive?
Poor diets can lead to malnutrition, unhappiness, lack of engagement with others as well as lack of worth. Dining considerations make a huge difference as well as the food. A three tiered cake stand can display food wonderfully and an inviting dining room which smells and feels great can really help. We all feel good when food meets our preferences and having these foods available can be the highlight of the day for so many individuals who may not have the energy nor ability to engage in the lifestyles that they used to.
Do you think that good food relates to happiness and productivity?
Taste, smell, texture, look, even sound - all 5 senses can apply to food. Basic changes to energy occurs from foods but a favourite meal, a favourite snack or a favourite drink can change our mood considerably, perhaps for taste but perhaps in addition to the senses, it contains key nutrients to support the brain and mood.
How would you recommend care home caterers to incorporate food into daily activities - to help stimulate, entertain and engage residents?
Anyone involved in growing seasonal foods can gain huge satisfaction from seasonal growing. Herbs and easy growers such as tomatoes and peppers can help orientate residents to certain seasons - this can be really beneficial for residents who may have memory impairments. A hearty root vegetable soup in winter or a leek and celery soup in the summer, followed by strawberries and cream may trigger memories linking to seasons - for us all and help that feel-good factor! An apple tree bearing fruit year, after year can be a great talking point and encourage residents venture outdoors too! A local supplier who visits and educates residents on their provenance of food is another way we can help to create a relationship with food.
The British afternoon tea recipe is a great one for a social occasion – including savoury options, such as cheese and onion scones is a great way to add variety (onion was staple war time food for many). Victoria sponge and coronation chicken can be really nutritious (chicken became the affordable luxury after the war). Afternoon tea creates an experience and provides the perfect meal occasion for all kinds of seasonal celebrations, for example VE day or Wimbledon.
What are your thoughts about our example menu cycles, recipe ideas, hints and tips found in “Making Mealtimes Memorable”
The menu plan and recipe ideas found in this book create a good starting point for any care home. I’d encourage these ideas, plus some of your own to be shared and discussed with residents - this could be done through interactive tasting sessions. This book could be used as an off-the-shelf solution which can be built upon, enabling you to tailor allergens and other dietary requirements including texture modified diets and therapeutic diets. The cookbook is perfect in size for perusing or using for activity staff when planning socials – the coronation chicken is a must have! It could also be used as a great resource to build on in an education session based on nutrition for Chefs.