Offering strong nutrition standards in care homes really comes down to forward planning, healthy food choices for residents and ensuring skilled kitchen staff have enough time & resources to prepare delicious meals as planned. Care staff also need to continually listen to resident feedback, understand what they enjoy and also help educate them to make better choices for their health and to seek a balanced diet across their daily meal intake. This blog explores some of the initiatives care providers can undertake to maintain high nutritional standards in their care homes and how they can keep care residents hydrated, as well as enjoying their food.

balanced diet in the care home

Keeping Care Residents Hydrated

Reducing dehydration for people in care is extremely important, and can help prevent serious health complications occurring. If care receivers are not kept hydrated then not only are they likely to feel less energetic throughout the day but the risks of pressure ulcers, constipation and heat stress increase substantially. An integrated approach should be adopted to ensure optimum levels of hydration, it’s common that most care receivers feel more relaxed at the start of the day – so care staff should try to ensure that more fluids are consumed when care receivers first get up. During the morning hours there are additionally more choices for fluid intake, including milk, fruit juices, tea & of course water. Other positive actions which can make a big contribution to keeping care residents hydrated are:

-  Serving drinks in residents favourite mugs or glasses.
-  Looking out for social cues & frequently asking residents if they would like a drink.
-  Making note of when people aren’t finishing their drinks for use later on.
-  Explaining the benefits of staying hydrated, this is particularly useful for dementia sufferers who may not experience the same sensations they once did.

Offering A Balanced Diet In The Care Home

There are many documented nutritional guidelines for care residents, yet the truth is that everyone has their own preferences when it comes to food and many care receivers may have their own unique dietary requirements. The best approach to offering a balanced diet in the care home is to offer residents lots of choice and to regularly refresh care home menus to reflect the feedback and ever-changing dietary requirements of your care home. Respected industry advice concludes that two portions of oily fish should be included within the care home menu each week, which helps protect against rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease. It is also recorded that a growing number of care home dietary requirements need more Vitamin D, as it is not being absorbed as effectively through sunlight. Therefore, foods such as fortified cereals and eggs are also strongly recommended and if there is a serious lack of Vitamin D then supplements can also be used. A final suggestion for creating a respected and balanced diet for care home users is to also make sure that individuals are eating enough food and that malnutrition doesn’t become a problem. As people get older they typically lose some of their appetite and can find it hard to eat large, substantial meals. If this is the case, make sure there are plenty of healthy snacks, such as fruit and nuts, which they can consume throughout the day.

Help People Enjoy Their Food

Finally, one important piece of advice which doesn’t usually make its way into nutrition guidelines for care residents – is to help people enjoy their food! Care receivers who are regularly enjoying their mealtimes are much more likely to continue to take food seriously and maintain a higher level or nutrition, which keeps them healthy for longer. Any efforts which can be taken to improve mealtimes are worth their weight in gold, here are some individual suggestions:

-  If individuals need assistance to help them with their meals, offer this assistance discreetly.
-  Encourage family & friends to visit during mealtimes, it’s a more enjoyable experience & they can lend a hand.
-  Complete regular consultations with the individuals in care, covering areas like the menu choices & quality of food.
-  Give people ample time to finish their meals & create a relaxing atmosphere.
-  During food preparation, take the time to make food look appetising & don’t ignore the power of presentation.

We hope you enjoyed this latest blog on nutrition standards in care homes and found there to be some useful insights on creating a stronger relationship between food and care receivers. For more detailed advice, take a look at our training videos on Food Safety & Nutrition.