Menu Planning in Aged Care

November, 2019

Food and nutrition impacts on the physical and functional needs of residents in aged care and contributes to quality of life. It is important for aged care facilities to maximise enjoyment from food while minimising malnutrition.

For many residents the food provided by an aged care home is their only source of food and drink. This means nutritional status is entirely determined by the aged care facility providing an adequate menu. The Australian Quality Commission Consumer Reviews show that nationally only 45% of residents in Aged Care enjoy meals all or most of the time.

Therefore, a continual focus on meals is required to provide food that is enjoyed by residents.

Nutritional needs of residents are more likely to be met if opportunities to consume food are maximised. Many residents in aged care homes have a smaller appetite which restricts the amount of food they can eat at any one time.

For this reason, it is essential that meals and snacks provided are nutrient dense and should provide plenty of opportunities to consume adequate protein due to increased requirements in older people.

Ideas for boosting energy and protein to meals and snacks:

  • Add cream to porridge and scrambled eggs.
  • Add cheese sauce to main meals.
  • Mix cream and margarine to mashed vegetables.
  • Add cream, milk powder or legumes to soups.
  • Use high protein fillings for sandwiches – peanut butter, cold meat, egg, fish.
  • Add cream, custard, yoghurt or ice cream to desserts.
  • Use milkshakes, smoothies, yoghurt, dairy desserts, cheese and crackers, savoury cheese muffins or scones, scones with jam and cream and mousse for mid meal snacks.
  • Provide calorie dense beverages such as, milk, enriched milk, smoothies, milkshakes, juice, cordial, soft drink or cordial.

What makes a good menu?

  • Minimal repetition of meals, including desserts and soups.
  • Choices are offered at meal times.
  • Any favourite dishes are not repeated on the same day each week.
  • Dishes with the same principle ingredient should not appear twice in one day.
  • Variety of colour, flavour and texture.
  • Use simple language and familiar names for dishes.
  • Residents are provided with food that is appealing as well as nutritionally adequate.
  • The menu is planned around preferred food choices for residents.
  • Foods from the Australia Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE) food groups are offered every day.

Are the residents provided with enough opportunities for an adequate intake?

  • Ask residents if they are hungry. Provide additional food for residents as required.
  • Refer to resident’s weight – on admission and monthly. Liaise with your facility Dietitian.
  • Ensure menu provides enough opportunities for adequate food intake – work with your Dietitian to have the menu reviewed.
  • Perform regular malnutrition screening.
  • Be mindful of residents from other cultures. Discuss with your facility Chef/Cook for alternatives that are available.
  • Monitor meal times for any residents who require assistance.
  • Provide an enjoyable dining experience. Ensure the room is inviting and the meal service is respectful.

When is the last time you had your menu reviewed by an aged care Accredited Practising Dietitian?

It is recommended that your menu is reviewed by an Accredited Practising Dietitian annually, or when significant changes have been made to your menu, to ensure nutritional needs and appropriate dining experience is being provided for all residents.

Food Solutions also recommends menu items for texture modified diets are regularly reviewed by a Speech Pathologist to ensure they are compliant with IDDSI standards.

Please make contact with Food Solutions so we can assist with menu reviews or meal planning questions.

Dietitians Australia

Don’t let your residents or budget experience the side effects of malnutrition or dysphagia.
Call us on 1300 850 246 or email and request a call back.

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