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Using Purees to Go Food First

Making appealing meals for people with dysphagia can be challenging. As important as good nutrition is, it’s imperative to provide them with nutrient-dense meals that they will eat. Too frequently we see organizations not prioritizing this and defaulting to unappetizing meals for dysphagia patients and residents, often leading to weight loss and, eventually, added health issues. The all-too-common reaction is to load them up with nutritional supplements in place of a real meal, which can be a vicious and expensive cycle that usually fails in helping to improve long-term nutrition and quality of life.

Food First

The Food First movement focuses on offering residents and patients nutrition from real food, giving them the choices they want in a texture that’s easier to swallow. If they’re having trouble getting enough nutrients, favorite foods can be fortified with high-protein, nutritionally-dense ingredients. Fueled by this movement, we are seeing a surge in creative operators prioritizing pureed meals.

Operators are using out-of-the box ideas to offer diners the opportunity to eat a dish that looks and tastes like real food in a consistency that’s easy for them to swallow. Products and recipes are available using special techniques to help operators make these meals. Whether using commercially-made pureed products or using traditional recipes with thickening agents, such as eggs and manufactured thickeners, operators can make a difference.

Integrating these ideas into your menu doesn’t have to mean an expensive overhaul. Josh Randall, Regional Sales Manager at SimplyThick, LLC. recommends looking for duplicity in the menu, “Operators can cross-utilize ingredients, using the same ingredients they would use to thicken and shape a chicken breast as they would a pork chop.”

Chef Allen Alvarado, Executive Chef of Lapeer County Medical Care Facility, challenged himself to think of a way to marry the real-food-first approach with the traditional pureed dishes that his kitchen was serving. With dishes like pork chops, spaghetti and meatballs, fried chicken, and more, he’s giving residents the opportunity to enjoy their favorite meals again. 

“The beauty of these dishes,” says Randall, “is that they look - and taste - like the dishes they are.” Better yet, these dishes contain nutrients that residents commonly lack if the diner is not eating well on a pureed-foods diet. For example, Chef Allen’s spaghetti and meatballs contains 21 grams of protein and allows diners to enjoy a meal that looks like a traditional plate of spaghetti and meatballs.

Serving meals with innovatively-shaped pureed foods – either commercial products or housemade - present healthcare foodservice operators the opportunity to preserve the dignity of patients and residents with dysphagia. 

It’s time to step up to the challenge and offer appealing, delicious pureed dishes for your patients and residents.

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