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The Party is Over for the Party Pie!

Let’s face it, we have all tucked into a party pie and sauce at a party or special event on one occasion or another. After all, what’s not to love? Succulent and well-seasoned fillings encased in flaky, buttery pastry; these cocktail treats are exactly that – a treat! Unfortunately, for some residents in aged care, party pies and sausage rolls have been provided as a “meal” which is significantly reducing the nutritional quality of their diets.


In an environment where malnutrition is affecting 1 in 2 residents, good nutrition and diet quality is vital. Residents of care facilities are at high risk of unintentional weight loss due to the physiological and environmental changes that occur when ageing or entering care. They may be battling poor appetites, sensory changes, cognitive or physical deficits, loneliness and isolation and food intake is often put on the backburner. Unintentional weight loss leads to strength loss and ultimately increases the risk of illness, falls, disease and early mortality.


Residents in care rely solely on the facility to provide 100% of their daily food and nutrition requirements and therefore, it is imperative that the food offered is rich in the nutrients they need to support good health and prevent malnutrition.

Party pie in Aged Care

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly about Party Pies

Party pies are loved!

Party pies are often a crowd favourite in aged care facilities. Residents love them for their taste, their nostalgia and their ease of consumption. Easy to handle and classed as a finger food, party pies are suitable for people with poor dexterity, great for those on the run (dementia residents who wander at mealtimes) and can help maintain independence with feeding which overall increases consumption. They are also a convenience for kitchen and catering staff as they are kept in the freezer, are quick to cook, prepare and serve and often well received by residents.


Enjoy a party pie sometimes, not every day

According to the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE), pies are classified as a discretionary (extra/“junk”) food. Discretionary foods don’t fit in to any of the core 5 food groups as they are not necessary foods for a healthy diet. They are often packed full of added fats, salt and sugars which can cause negative health effects when eaten too much and too often. The AGHE recommends limiting the intake of discretionary food choices for those aged 70+ to:

  • 0-2 serves per day for women

  • 0-2 ½ serves per day for men.

On average, 2 party pies will make up 1 discretionary serve, provide 10g of fat and 6g of protein. Party pies do not provide any dietary fibre and lack micronutrients such as calcium.


Is it a meal or snack?

The food and nutrition provision in Australian residential aged care facilities is governed by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission standard 2.10 Nutrition and Hydration whereby recipients receive adequate nourishment and hydration. It is recommended that Accredited Practising Dietitians (APDs) develop aged care home menus in conjunction with the chef and residents themselves to ensure the menu is offering 100% of the population’s nutrition requirements (with key focus on protein, energy, fibre and calcium) as well as complying with aged care quality standards of consumer dignity and choice. Like the rest of the adult population, AGHE guidelines recommend consuming foods from the core 5 food groups, focusing on lean meats, wholegrains and calcium rich dairy/alternative products.


Pies and pastries are highly processed and offer poor nutritional value, therefore should only be offered on occasion as a snack or party food for special events such as high tea celebrations, birthday parties and sporting events (e.g., AFL Grand Final, Melbourne Cup Day etc.). They should be served in between meals (e.g. morning/afternoon tea) and on rotation no more than twice a week. This allows residents the opportunity to enjoy the foods they love whilst encouraging them to engage in mealtimes where the bulk of their nutrition is provided through whole foods.


If not Pies, what else?

Finger food alternatives to pies that everyone will love

Mid meal snacks are important in aged care. Older people may struggle with poor appetites and are often overwhelmed by large portions food. Mid meal snacks (including morning tea, afternoon tea and supper) are 3 more opportunities throughout the day where residents can meet their daily nutrition and hydration targets. It is recommended to include high energy, high protein (HEHP) options at mid meals as the elderly have increased requirements of these nutrients to support them in maintaining their weight, strength and muscle mass.

You are right - pies are high energy, and meat varieties can be a source of protein too, however it is time for the pie to move aside and welcome in some HEHP finger food options that are equally as delicious whilst offering a better nutritional profile.

meatballs Finger food alternative for aged care

Meatballs – made with lean protein, meatballs are a fantastic savoury finger food option! They can be made with a variety of meats including turkey, chicken, lamb, beef or pork, grated vegetables can be added for extra fibre and micronutrients (such as garlic, carrot, zucchini and onion) and they can be served with various dipping sauces to intensify their flavour.


mini quiches Finger food alternative for aged care

Mini quiches – eggs are a great source of protein, vitamin D for healthy bones, iron for energy and an abundance of vitamins and minerals essential for health. Keeping them vegetable based is also fantastic for the vegetarian residents. You can further increase the energy and protein content by whisking some milk and milk powder into the egg mixture and topping them with grated cheese before baking.


HEHP sandwiches Finger food alternative for aged care

HEHP finger sandwiches – sandwiches are a staple finger food which can offer an excellent source of fibre and protein. Think HEHP fillings such as cheese and pickle, tuna and mayo, chicken and avocado, peanut butter and banana, meat and salad or curried egg. Wholemeal or wholegrain bread can add fibre, whilst butter/margarine can add extra energy. Cutting them into triangles or fingers helps with self-feeding.


sushi Finger food alternative for aged care

Sushi – a Japanese favourite, sushi is packed full of energy and protein! Fillings may include tuna, chicken, salmon or egg with vegetables.






homemade chicken nuggets Finger food alternative for aged care

Homemade chicken/fish nuggets – making your own chicken nuggets is a great way to indulge in finger food favourites whilst avoiding processed meats, added fats and salt. Chop chicken breast or white fleshed fish into bite sized pieces, crumb and bake/fry them until golden and crunchy. You might like to add parmesan cheese to your crumb mixture for a protein boost.


More Information

For more information on malnutrition, additional HEHP tips, tricks and recipe ideas or to book a menu review for your aged care home, please reach out to your OSCAR Care Group Dietitian by emailing dietitian@oscarcaregroup.com.au


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