Giving older people menu choices for improved nutrition

Giving older people menu choices for improved nutrition

Recent media in New Zealand has publicised the challenges for older people to eat enough food and to eat a nutritious diet.

A recently published study, The Nutritional Status of New Zealand Adults Living in Residential Aged-Care by Otago University researchers, identified some older people in residential care were at risk of malnutrition. <>

The data was collected throughout 2014 and the results published in 2019, showed that 6.8 per cent of residents were malnourished with a further 39 per cent identified as being at risk of malnutrition.

The study did not identify the reasons for poorer nutrition and recommended further investigation of the causes needs to be carried out.

Professionals caring for older people and family members will have their own ideas about why an older person may not eat well and anecdotally, some reasons may appear obvious.

Dental issues can make it difficult to chew food, the ability to swallow may be impaired or the person may have little appetite.

When a person eats smaller portions or the food offered is not nutritionally balanced, there may be important nutrients missing from their diet.


How can families help with an older person’s nutrition?

We all have our favourite meals, likes and dislikes.

Consequently, it is impossible to serve the same food to a group of people and expect everyone to be happy.

Presenting people in aged carewith appealing mealsthat they like, should increase the likelihood that they will eat them and eat more.

Of course, we might all eat chips and ice cream if we only ate our favourite foods, so the selection needs to be balanced between all the food groups and the treats.

AgedConnect is investigating developing a function that would allow family members to make menu selections for someone in residential care.

This could include selecting:

  • Specific menu items, e.g. beef Bourguignon, chicken and mushroom stir fry or cheesy eggplant parmesan.
  • Serving sizes, e.g. half, full or double serve.
  • Substitutes, e.g. replace rice with mashed potato.
  • Notes, e.g. Can Mum have a boiled egg for lunch?

The intention is to increase the likelihood that meals appeal to residents and thus, they are more likely to tuck into their food.

Families may make the choice if their relative struggles with communicating their meal preferences.

Residents could also be empowered with AgedConnect enabling them to easily make their own choices.

Summaries of orders would be accessible to kitchen staff, assisting them with planning.

Improved menu selection systems could improve the nutrition and overall well-being of older people in residential care and it could reduce waste.

Let us know what you think of this idea at

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