Gravy is a delicious way to enhance the taste of many meals including meat, poultry, vegetables and casseroles. More importantly, the addition of gravy may also help increase the energy and protein of foods for older residents who have lost weight or are at risk of malnutrition.
What is Gravy?
Gravy is a sauce made from meat juices, often combined with broth or stock and thickened with flour or another starch. The mixture is then cooked until it thickens and becomes smooth, creating a flavourful sauce which is commonly served alongside meat dishes, mashed potatoes, vegetables and other comfort foods.
Types of Gravy
This classic gravy is often made by using meat dripping, it is a versatile sauce that can be used in a variety of dishes. Brown gravy can be customised with onions, garlic, herbs and spices to complement different types of meat. It can also be made vegetarian using vegetable broth.
Creamy gravy usually has a gravy based with the addition of milk or cream giving it a smooth and rich texture. An example of a creamy gravy is mushroom sauce, which adds sautéed mushroom and cream to a traditional brown gravy to accompany a beef steak or chicken schnitzel.
This is made from a base of beef broth, cream and red wine, which is flavoured with garlic, Worcestershire sauce and finished with a touch of Dijon mustard and parsley.
White sauce adds a useful amount of calcium from the milk and cheese added. This makes for a great addition to salmon and pasta. For residents who have lost weight, the extra kilojoules can help them meet their energy needs.
Why is Gravy important in Aged Care?
Additional Energy and Protein
Gravy can be an important component of a meal in Aged Care settings for several reasons. As people age, they can be at increased risk of weight loss and malnutrition. Gravy can help to increase the energy and nutrients of meals, making them more appealing and satisfying for individuals who may struggle to enough food on their own. Adding a protein to gravy can also help to support muscle mass and meet additional protein requirements which is important in preventing frailty and maintaining functional independence.
Adding moisture to meals
In addition to this, some individuals in Aged Care may have difficulties with swallowing known as dysphagia. Gravies can provide additional moisture to meals to help individuals swallow the food and also make texture modified meals more appealing.
Nutritional Benefits of Eating Gravy in Aged Care
In Aged Care, where individuals may have specific dietary requirements, gravy can be a useful way to add flavour and nutrients to meals. Some potential nutritional benefits of consuming gravy in aged care include:
Energy: Gravy is typically made with meat drippings which contain kilojoules that can be a valuable source of energy for Residents in Aged Care who have lost weight.
Flavour Enhancement: For older adults who may have reduced appetite or taste changes, gravy can be a useful way to enhance the flavour of meals and make them more appealing. This can help to promote intake and enjoyment of meals.
Protein: The addition of full cream milk powder, cream and cheese can also contribute to the protein content of gravy. This can help meet the protein needs of Residents and aide in muscle preservation and wound healing.
It’s important to note that some gravies especially packaged gravy can also be high in sodium, which can be a concern for older adults who have high blood pressure or swelling. Therefore, it is recommended to choose low salt options or to consume gravy in moderation as part of an overall balanced and nutritious diet.
How to add protein to gravy?
There are several ways to add protein to gravy. Here are some suggestions:
Full Cream Milk Powder: Add Full Cream Milk powder to the gravy while it is cooking. Stir until the powder is completing dissolved. This will add energy and protein to the gravy whilst also making it creamier and richer.
Cream: Add cream to the gravy while cooking, stir well to incorporate into the gravy. This makes a great addition to a mushroom gravy, diane sauce or white sauce.
Cheese: Add grated cheese to the gravy at the end of cooking. Start with ½ cup of grated cheese at a time and stir until it is melted and incorporated.
Want to know more about HEHP Diets in Aged Care? Our Team are here to help. We have a range of nutritional education sessions Residential Aged Care homes. Find out more.
Get saucy this Christmas.
Ways to add Gravy to your Christmas meal in Aged Care.
Roast Turkey: A classic Christmas staple, roast turkey pairs perfectly with gravy and cranberry sauce. Adding some herbs like thyme, rosemary and sage to the gravy for an extra burst of flavour.
Baked Ham: Another popular Christmas Dish, baked ham can be served with a sweet or savoury gravy. Try making a brown sugar and mustard gravy for a sweet and tangy flavour.
Roast Beef: A juicy and tender beef roast is sure to impress your guest. Serve it with a red wine gravy made with pan drippings, some flour and a splash of red wine.
Mashed potatoes: No Christmas meal is complete without creamy mashed potatoes, topped with a rich and flavourful gravy for the ultimate comfort food.
Roasted Vegetables: Roasted vegetables like carrots, pumpkin, peas and brussels sprouts can be paired with a light gravy made with fresh herbs, vegetable stock, butter and cornflour to thicken.
Stuffing: Savoury stuffing is a must have side dish during holiday season, pour some gravy over it to make it even more delicious and moist.
Whatever floats your gravy boat...
Overall, gravy can play an important role in supporting the nutritional needs of individuals in the aged care setting, particularly those who are at risk of weight loss, malnutrition, taste changes and swallowing difficulties. It is important to work with a healthcare professional, speech pathologist or Accredited Practising Dietitian to determine the appropriate diet and texture modifications for each individual including the appropriate thickness and consistency of gravy and ways to increase the energy and protein content.