With winter finally coming to an end and warmer weather approaching, it’s time to start thinking about the transition into the new seasonal menu for residential aged care facilities (RACFs). The change in seasons creates a wonderful opportunity to provide residents with fresh ideas and updated meals on their menus.
At the start of any menu review process, it is vital to collect resident feedback via meal satisfaction surveys, questionnaires, food focus meetings, or one-on-one meetings with residents or resident representatives. Taking this information into consideration when planning your new menu will ensure that the menu is based around residents’ likes and preferences.
In the warmer months, we are all generally more inclined to consume cool or room temperature snacks and lighter meals, such as sandwiches and salads. One of the challenges faced when planning Spring Summer menus is to ensure that these lighter options meet the nutritional requirements of the aged care population, as they tend to be less nutrient dense than many cooked main meals. As the menu in RACFs tend to be the sole source of nutrition for residents, it must provide a variety of seasonally appropriate food and fluids that meet nutritional requirements for protein, calories, calcium and all other micronutrients.
Listed below are some great ideas for Spring Summer main meals and side dishes that are nutritious and popular in RACFs during warmer weather:
- Summer salad with a boiled egg, ham and/or cubed cheese
- Chicken Caesar salad with bacon and croutons
- Tomato, beetroot and mixed bean salad
- Open burger with cheese and salad
- Rice salad with tuna, egg, cheese and assorted vegetables
- Nourishing pasta and potato salads
- Fresh sandwiches with the following protein-rich fillings:
- Chicken and avocado
- Tuna and mayonnaise
- Egg and mayonnaise
- Cheese and salad
Cooler desserts such as panna cotta, Pavlova, trifle, and fresh fruit with ice cream are a welcome change to the slightly richer puddings and baked desserts that are offered during the winter months.
In addition, icy poles, jelly and ice cream, fresh fruit smoothies or ice cream in a cone are refreshing additions to morning and afternoon tea in warmer weather. Keep in mind that cakes, slices, scones and biscuits should always be offered to residents regardless of the season, as these tend to be favoured and enjoyed by residents, and also assist them in meeting their daily calorie, protein and carbohydrate needs.
Selecting seasonally appropriate fruit and vegetables is also important when planning a new menu. In Australia, we are fortunate enough to have an abundance of produce year round – selecting fruit and vegetables that are in season is not only advantageous from a budget perspective, but also with regards to quality and nutrition. The following fruit and vegetables are in season during the spring and summer months and are fantastic additions to RACF menus:
In order to develop a tasty, seasonally appropriate menu, it is vital to involve residents, their families or representatives, and catering staff in the menu planning process. In addition, your Accredited Practising Dietitian from the Eat Well Nutrition team is available to assist you in planning and reviewing your menu for the warmer months, to ensure that the seasonal variation in meals and snacks are nutritionally adequate to meet the needs of your residents.
Abbey., Wright., & Capra (2015). Menu Planning in Residential Aged Care – The Level of Choice and Quality of Planning of Meals Available to Residents. Nutrients, 7(9): 7580-7592.