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High energy high protein diets in the elderly

A High Energy High Protein or HEHP Diet is a type of diet designed to deliver additional kilojoules and nutrients. A HEHP Diet is highly beneficial for those experiencing early satiety, fatigue and/or a low appetite whereby they may not be able to consume large meals or require additional support. As the rates of malnutrition and risk of malnutrition are so high in residential aged care and among the elderly population, a HEHP diet is a great way to reduce these rates. Let’s find out more about High Energy High Protein Diets by answering the most questions our Dietitians receive.

High energy high protein diets in the elderly to reduce malnutrition rates in residential Aged Care

What is a High Energy High Protein (HEHP) Diet?

Essentially a High Energy High Protein Diet includes food and beverage items that are high in energy and protein! This may assist in minimising weight loss, weight maintenance, help with gain weight in underweight individuals, maintain muscle mass and/or minimise the risk of malnutrition.

Why is a HEHP diet important for the elderly?

Our nutrition requirements and demands for certain nutrients change as we get older. Our protein requirements increase, along with other nutrients like calcium and vitamin D. The elderly population may have smaller appetites, but with a greater nutritional need. It is difficult to convince someone to eat beyond their appetite, so this is where the High Energy High Protein Diet can help. HEHP diets are commonly used within the aged care setting due to the high prevalence of malnutrition, unintended weight loss, wounds, pressure injuries and/or loss of appetite. Read more about Malnutrition in Residential Aged Care here.

For the elderly living at home, daily tasks such as cooking, shopping and eating are often not prioritised and/or can become difficult. This can lead to an increased risk of malnutrition. If your loved ones are showing signs of muscle or fat wasting, please reach out to a Dietitian for support. A HEHP diet may support your loved one.

What food contains energy and protein?

Energy refers to the kilojoules or calories in our food and drinks. Some foods have more energy than others. The amount of energy available depends on the nutrients it comes from – either fat, protein or carbohydrates.

Protein is essential for growth, maintenance and repair of tissues in the body including our muscles. Food that are high in protein include meat, fish, chicken, eggs, dairy and dairy alternatives, such as cheese, milk, yoghurt, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds and tofu.

What’s an example of a High Energy High Protein food?

A reminder that HEHP foods are made up of more protein and energy than other foods. Fruit for example, has relatively low to minimal protein and has some energy. Many dairy products, on the other hand, are a fantastic source of protein and energy. Some examples of HEHP snacks:

  • Yoghurt

  • Custard

  • Nuts

  • Cheese and Biscuits

  • Boiled Egg

  • Cheesecake

Who is a High Energy High Protein Diet suitable for?

A High Energy High Protein diet is used to help those who are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition and all the negative health consequences associated with this. For example, malnutrition can lead to increased risk of falls, greater mortality, infections, decline in mental health to name a few. HEHP diets are generally not recommended for healthy individuals. When there is a risk of malnutrition, a HEHP diet can be the best option no matter what your age is. Always discuss your concerns with your Accredited Practising Dietitian (like us) to work out what is best for your loved one / or for residents within an aged care home.

What are some HEHP strategies to help malnourished residents?

  1. Small frequent meals – try having 6 small meals per day or eating every two to three hours

  2. Eat the protein part of your meal first to ensure the most important part is eaten before you feel too full

  3. Replace tea, coffee, juices or water with milk-based drinks. When appetite is poor it is often easier to drink your nutrition

  4. Eat according to your tastes/preferences at any time of the day. There are no rules around when to eat certain foods. For example, having an omelette for dinner.

How can I make meals and snacks High Energy and High Protein?

OSCAR Care Group can provide interactive training for your chefs, kitchen staff, nurses and carers on the HEHP Diet to help your residents. Our qualified Dietitians are highly knowledgeable within the Aged Care sector and can run High Energy High Protein training within your home or virtually via Teams.

Alternatively, there are High Energy High Protein recipes to follow. Our Dietitians are developing a massive range of HEHP recipes for Residential Aged Care Homes which will be available for purchase soon. Our HEHP Recipe Book will be filled with snacks, main meals, drinks and dessert ideas. Click here register your interest in our HEHP Recipe Book, and you’ll be one of the first to know. Check out our HEHP Chocolate Cheesecake Recipe and our HEHP Cheesy Mashed Potato Recipe in the meantime.

Why is it important to have staff trained in High Energy High Protein Diets within Aged Care?

High Energy High Protein Diets can be simple to incorporate but the understanding of how it works and why it is necessary is very important. Having all your staff trained ensures they all are on board and to avoid miscommunication. We offer a range of training options to suit each home’s needs and availability. For example, we can run through a quick 30-minute session, or a two-hour in-depth with practical examples.

What about food fortification?

This is adding energy and protein to foods, without increasing the overall volume of food. So, making the most of every mouthful.

Malnutrition Resources for Aged Care

For more, let’s compare the pair:

  • 1 medium boiled egg contains 316 kJ and 7g Protein.

  • 1 medium scrambled egg made with cheese and butter contains 556 kJ and 10g Protein.

With food fortification, by swapping the boiled egg for scrambled egg made with cheese and butter, the residents will receiving the benefits of the added protein and energy.

Download our Compare the Pair poster here

Our Dietitians are here to help

With Dietitians all across Australia, we have a Dietitian available to help your residents one-on-one, screen for malnutrition, providing nutritional training to your staff to help as well as providing Aged Care Menus and recipes. As always, see an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) for personalised support.

If your loved one is at home, our Dietitians are available for in-home services in VIC, telehealth or through our clinic in Mulgrave, VIC. We’re here for you!


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