The importance of meal experiences that nurture and provide nutrition

Posted on Tuesday, June 8, 2021

"What could be more important than a little something to eat?" - Winnie the Pooh

Like the world’s favourite bear, we know the importance of food - not just for pleasure but also for performance.

Eating well helps our body manage the demands of daily life. It’s vital to help us ward off disease and to recover from illness more easily.

It also helps our brain to function effectively and can be key to maintaining a positive outlook.

Good nutrition is just as important in the senior years, when it can become a challenge to stay well nourished.

“If you’re not eating well it can affect many bodily functions, including immunity, cognition and even your muscle strength. Loss of muscle mass means you’ve got a higher chance of having a fall and a higher chance of sustaining an injury from that fall. If you’re not eating well, you’re not going to be performing at your best cognitively either,” according to Brightwater Clinical Dietitian, Amy Fairburn.

Unfortunately, many seniors do not get the nourishment they need and risk becoming malnourished. They may have increased nutritional needs that are not being met or their body can’t absorb the nutrients as well. Sometimes, they are just not eating enough. For clinical dietitians like Amy Fairburn, the first step is to investigate why.

“If someone has lost weight, their dentures may not be fitting properly which can make eating more difficult. Or they may have problems swallowing. Sometimes constipation or feeling nauseous at mealtimes can also impact upon nutrition and may indicate a need for a dietary modification or a medication review. Low mood can be further impacted by poor nutrition and this can in turn affect someone’s motivation to eat,” said Amy.

Addressing the medical issues for each client can be complex but the benefits can be significant.

“Good nutrition is about keeping people strong enough that they can maintain their independence as much as possible. Being able to do things for yourself is so important for a sense of self and wellbeing.” Amy Fairburn, Food Service Dietitian - Brightwater Care Group

Overseeing the meal experience

To ensure all meals served at Brightwater homes meet the nutritional requirements of clients, Brightwater has a dedicated Food Services Dietitian, Libby Matthew who works closely with the catering team at Malaga.

“It’s my job to assess the ingredients, recipes and portion sizes of the food to make sure it meets the nutrition standard, especially in reference to protein, carbohydrate and fat. I am also responsible for allergy and special diet requests that may arise, advising catering about what to provide as alternatives to the current menu,” said Brightwater Food Service Dietitian, Libby Matthew.

While there is a focus on nutrition standards, supporting clients to eat well is approached holistically at Brightwater. Libby is the link between the catering team and the clinicians - nursing, dietitians and speech pathology. She helps to develop the recipes and to make sure the food served is the best it can be to encourage clients to eat and enjoy.

“ When we get it right, people eat more, so their nutritional intake improves and so does their overall health and wellbeing.” Libby Matthew, Food Service Dietitian - Brightwater Care Group

This year Brightwater launched a new approach to food and nutrition - ‘Reimagining the Meal Experience’. After consultation with clients, our chefs, dietitians and speech pathologists collaborated on a new menu that gives more choice at mealtimes.

The menu provides a vegetarian choice for every meal and increased options for texture modified diets, which is an exciting innovation from our catering team. By reimagining the meal experience, Brightwater’s catering team has developed a separate range of texture modified meals. These look more like a regular meal, with a better taste experience for clients including how they feel in the mouth, which is an important aspect of the overall experience.

“Feedback on the new menu is being received on an ongoing basis. There will be a review of the items that are not popular and parts of the menu will be changed every six months to reflect what the residents are saying,” said Libby.

Through this process of review, Brightwater is honouring its overall mission of learning and growing to continually improve - and making mealtimes even brighter.

Reimagining the Meal Experience

There has been a good response to - ‘Reimagining the Meal Experience’ since it was launched in February. Our clients are pleased to have the opportunity to provide us with feedback.

“Really loved the honey and orange pork.”

“The best meal of the week – fish and chips. Please keep on
the menu!”

All feedback is welcomed and helps us decide whether to change the recipe or remove a meal from the menu.
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