< Back to news 30 November, 2015

Food and nutrition in a care home environment

When managing food and, therefore, nutrition in care homes, there are a number of considerations that must be taken into account. It is important to ensure that meals are nutritionally balanced throughout the day – advice from the Food Standards Agency advises that nutrient intake must be divided across four eating occasions each day: breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks between meals. In addition, residents need to enjoy what they are eating and be engaged with their choice of meals.

Beacon, Britain’s leading purchasing company, works in partnership with Bidvest, one of the UKs leading foodservice providers, to help businesses in the care sector ensure they are meeting all relevant regulations, as well as providing their residents with a high standard of care. With combined knowledge from Beacon, Bidvest and Beacon customer, Meallmore, one of the leading providers of nursing and residential care in Scotland, the Beacon team is able to offer advice to caterers in the care sector, to ensure they can offer a varied and enjoyable menu to their residents.

The Meallmore team, led by David Blackwood, Regional Catering Manager, has worked hard to ensure that its residents are actively engaged with the food they are eating on a day-to-day basis, and has worked with Beacon to introduce a variety of activities and schemes in order to do this.

“It’s important to remember that residents need to feel engaged with what they are eating” David commented. “We try to include our residents in the menu development process as much as possible. We trial new dishes with our residents regularly and allow them to ‘score’ the dishes out of 10, with the highest scoring dish earning a spot on our menus and dishes that score poorly being removed.

“We also often hold up-skilling sessions, where we train our catering staff to use more herbs and spices in order to add flavour and dimensions to our food. We challenge the perception that the elderly don’t like modern cuisine; a lot of our residents are very open to spicier and more adventurous dishes and we’ve seen fantastic results over the last two years by adding a variety of flavours to our dishes.

“Naturally, there are challenges that come with varying the menu so often, as it needs to remain nutritionally balanced – changing a soup to a ‘cream of’ soup for example, means that other aspects of the menu need to be balanced out, which can be an extremely time consuming task. This is where working with Beacon as a purchasing partner is hugely beneficial for us, as we know we have a dedicated account manager and a team of experts in the field, to advise us on products and work with expert suppliers on our behalf in order to meet our residents’ needs.

“Another challenge we face is the salt content of our food, which is often a hot topic in the media. In the care sector, specific dietary requirements often mean that the sodium content needs to be reduced. Insight from Bidvest shows that salt added to food during cooking or at the table amounts to 15% of salt content, a further 5% is naturally occurring salt in the food and 75% is salt added during processing. We therefore work closely with Beacon to ensure we choose products with reduced sodium content where possible.

“Finally, we also hold regular workshops with some of our younger residents where we help them with everything from eating healthily, cooking for themselves and even every day tasks like completing a food shop. We find that helping our residents with these life long skills gives them a sense of responsibility when it comes to their diet and nutrition, which ultimately helps to improve their quality of life.”

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