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Seasonal Aged Care Menu Reviews

It is no secret that food and nutrition are associated with our overall quality of life. Food offers nutrients to keep us healthy, nostalgia, encourages socialisation and draws on cultural values and beliefs. The food provided within aged care homes is no different and has an essential role to play. As such, optimising Aged Care Menus is a critical aspect of good quality care. Dietitians tailor menus to ensure residents are offered nutritious meals, whilst having the opportunity to partake in positive mealtime experiences. This is why it is so important to liaise with an Accredited Practising Dietitian in review or development of your Aged Care menu.


Many of you have worked in Aged Care for many years, think of this as your reminder of the new standards and processes. And for those who are new to industry, welcome, we hope this overview provides guidance to the Aged Care menu review process.


Seasonal Aged Care Menu Reviews

Why are menus so important in Aged Care?

Residents in aged care are reliant on the food service system for 100% of their meals, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, mid meal snacks and fluids and therefore they need the opportunity to exercise choice and decision making to maintain independence.


Residents in Aged Care homes are at greater risk of malnutrition, sarcopenia, pressure injuries, bone and muscle loss, frailty, reduced functional capacity and greater care needs. The consequences of poor nutrition in this population are significant and often irreversible. Good nutrition is a vital component for good health within residential aged care.


Menu planning provides residents with the opportunity to:

  • Meet their energy and protein requirements with variety of colours, textures and flavours. 

  • Enjoy their food.

  • Have meals that are catered to their preferences.

  • Maintain good quality of life.

  • Recover from illnesses.

  • Minimise the risk of malnutrition, unplanned weight loss, dehydration, pressure injuries, wounds and falls.


The elderly have specific nutrient requirements that are essential to support their health and wellbeing. Compared to the younger adult population, older people need increased protein to maintain muscle mass, increased calcium for bone health, fibre to regulate bowel health and energy to support their poor appetites.


Why are menus so important in Aged Care

How can a Dietitian help?

Our Dietitians use the Australian Dietary Guidelines and Dietitians Australia Menu and Mealtime Assessment Tool for Aged Care to create meal plans that are nutritionally adequate to ensure best health outcomes for residents.  Our Dietitians have the training and skills required to develop a menu in accordance with current standards and guidelines. We’re here to support you to develop a delicious and nutritious menu within your aged care home.



Types of Menu Reviews

Having your foundation right is a great starting point. Dietitians ensure that there is adequate choice for residents and that the key nutrients in Aged Care are included. From a base menu, menu review, menu development, or the recommended Menu & Mealtime Quality Assessment – our Dietitians can help you with all!  But what are all these options?


Base seasonal menu

We offer base seasonal menus, which can serve as a source of inspiration for new dishes to reflect each change in season, whilst ensuring the final menu is tailored to your individual aged care home and residents within. The 4 -week cyclic menu that is seasonally appropriate and individualised to your home while meeting nutritional guidelines. Our team will create a personalised menu tailored to your resident requirements, demographic, staff capabilities and specific requirements.


Seasonal Desktop Menu review

A desktop review is completed remotely, is quicker to complete and can be called upon when time constraints permit. Our team will provide you with recommendations and what changes your menu may require ensuring your menu is nutritionally compliant.


The desktop menu review involves an assessment of the menu only comparing with the Dietitians Australia guidelines.  Upon completion of the menu review, the aged care home will receive a comprehensive report outlining key recommendations.


Important note on desktop reviews: you can have this, if you have already had or scheduled at least one onsite Menu & Mealtime Quality Assessment per year.  Read more about this here.


Seasonal Desktop Menu Review & Development

This is as above, the Desktop Menu Review, as well as assistance with menu development to meet key recommendations.  Our Dietitians develop your menu for you, based on our recommendations to take any stress away from your staff and chefs and removes the back and forth that may come with the desktop review alone.  We provide you with the finalised menu that meets guidelines.


Menu & Mealtime Quality Assessment

The Gold standard & Dietitian recommended assessment.


The onsite visit by an OSCAR Care Group Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) to your residential aged care home includes interviews with relevant staff, an assessment of the menu, observations of the meal service, weighing of sample meal components and a review of documentation (for example, policies and procedures) relevant to food and nutrition care.

 

As well as a thorough menu review as per above, Dietitians spend a day onsite, in addition to time to write the report. This as well as a thorough menu review. 

 

An onsite assessment is more thorough, looks at the food being served onsite which is incredibly important and onsite menu reviews are the top recommendation. This assessment uses the Strengthened Aged Care Quality Standards as the framework. It is recommended that every home receives an Onsite Menu & Mealtime Quality Assessment at least annually.  Read more about this here.

The Aged Care Menu Review Process

The Aged Care Menu Review Process

For a smooth menu review is as simple as planning ahead of time.


What do Dietitians look for during a Menu Review? 

There are hundreds more items Dietitians look for when assessing a menu, but hopefully this gives you a glimpse and sets you on the right note when planning.


Dietitians look for…

  • 3 meals and at least 3 mid-meal snacks

  • Readability of menu

  • 2 main meal hot options

  • 3 red meat meals

  • 2 fish meals

  • 5 serves of vegetables


Texture Modified Diets and IDDSI

An important aspect of aged care menus is texture modification and Dietitians strive to maintain choice for residents who may require modified texture diets.  We help you comply to the texture modified IDDSI levels on your menus as well. 


Our Aged Care Recipes all have a guide on how to modify the recipe to keep it as similar as possible to the dish, while being suitable for the varying IDDSI levels: Regular Easy to Chew, Soft & Bite Sized, Minced & Moist and Pureed diets.


Gather Feedback

Dietitians encourage feedback from residents ensuring menus are tailored to the consumer and enable community involvement. Aged care homes are encouraged to observe and monitor individual food intake throughout the entirety of the year. It is so important to gather resident feedback to personalise a menu for the group of residents within a home.  When residents enjoy the food they are provided, there is likely greater food consumed, reducing the risk of weight loss and malnutrition. The updated Strengthened Standards put residents first and this really highlights the importance of gaining and implementing resident feedback, choices and preferences regularly into a menu.

Gather feedback from residents on the food in Aged Care

Menu Review timeframe

Menu reviews are a lengthy process so don’t leave it to the week before to get it done! Dietitians have many menus to review from many aged care homes, childcare and disability centres, so from our extensive experience, here are the best tips and tricks for an easy menu review.


Start date

For a smooth menu review, it is as simple as planning ahead of time. Start by working backwards from when the new menu needs to start.  Generally, the seasonal menus start on the first date of the new season. Some may start with the first Sunday of the season to save changing menus mid-week, but this is up the individual homes.


As a guide:

  • Spring Menu starts 1 September

  • Summer Menu starts 1 December

  • Autumn Menu starts 1 March

  • Winter Menu starts  1 June


2 weeks before the menu start date

In the ideal world, having the finalised menu 2 weeks before the scheduled start date, is important for planning, organising and allowing time to order food for the new menu.

For example, for starting the Spring menu on the 1st of September, 2 weeks prior, so mid-August, the finalised Dietitian-approved Spring menu should be in the Chefs hand.


6 weeks before the menu start date

And one month before the finalised Dietitian approved menu is due, it should be in the Dietitians’ hands to start the menu review process. This gives the chefs and Dietitians, four weeks to finalise the menu with you.


The part that is most time consuming is the communication delays from an aged care home between staff on leave, staff changes, gathering feedback etc.  Sometimes it takes chefs weeks or months to get feedback to the Dietitians, when the Dietitians have already started the next season.  So best is to be prompt with communications.  Try providing feedback to the Dietitians quickly and the Dietitians will do the same.


This is why, we recommend 6 weeks prior to the start date to send your menu to the Dietitian to work through the long checklists and personalise the menu to your home’s needs. For example, when starting the Spring Menu on the 1st September, the Dietitian will need the menu mid-July to start the process.  


Menu Review Timeframe

Your guide to a smooth menu review

Organisation, Communication and collaboration

First and foremost, follow the timeline above. We will work in with you to meet your deadlines to give your Residents a delicious and nutritious seasonal menu. Allow time to speak with the Dietitian when they start the review, chat through any recommendations and provide feedback to any possible changes. And hey, we’re here to help! Don’t be a stranger. A quick call or email might help get you on track.


Secondly, plan your menu around what Dietitians are looking for and include variety. Include resident feedback through regular food forums and surveys and update the menu. If you need help with this, let us know.


Involve everyone in the menu review process. Chefs, cooks, kitchen staff, carers, managers and healthcare personnel all have an influence on the mealtime environment and should be consulted for feedback during the process.


It is also vital to offer the residents the opportunity to enlist feedback about what they want to see on the menu, their likes, dislikes, preferences and goals and ask for feedback from them during the review process – after all, they are the ones who will be eating the food!




Ready to proceed with Menu Review?

Get the experts in this space onboard to assist you with all your menus! Together, we develop a tasty, nutritious menu tailored to the unique needs of older Australians that is IDDSI compliant too! Start by letting us know if you’d like from the below menu options 1, 2, 3 or 4 and send your menu in a word or excel ‘editable’ document.


Menu Options


Careful planning of a menu is essential to enhance the nutritional value of the food supply and above all, to encourage residents to eat.


To find out more about the Menus, the process or recipes, visit OSCAR Care Group’s website or email dietitian@oscarcaregroup.com.au for Dietitian assistance.



 

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