Leslie Fabish, regional dietitian for Thomas Cuisines, offers insight for seniors for National Nutrition Month. Thomas Cuisine partners with BRS Culinary Services and offers their culinary expertise at Ventana by Buckner in Dallas, Buckner Parkway Place in Houston, Buckner Villas in Austin, Buckner Calder Woods in Beaumont and Buckner Westminster Place in Longview.
Why is nutrition a priority in senior living?
In general, seniors often need fewer total daily calories but require higher amounts of certain nutrients like calcium and vitamin D. Having a variety of nutrient-dense foods available can help them meet those requirements. In addition, many of our senior living communities offer advanced levels of care for those recovering from recent surgeries or illnesses. Offering nutritious foods in the right quantities can help promote healing and assist in the recovery process.
What impact does nutrition have on a senior’s wellbeing?
Nutrition gives us energy for daily activities and helps prevent illness, maintain strength and promote growth and repair. For some, food can be associated with community, tradition and nostalgia, and is often something our seniors look forward to each day.
How are the menus chosen for our communities?
Our menus are often planned and created by an executive chef. They collaborate with our registered dietitians to ensure meals are nutritionally adequate, satisfying and also meet federal and state guidelines. The culinary team also takes regional, seasonal and community preferences into account when choosing menu items.
How do you balance home-cooked favorites with nutritious options?
Using fresh ingredients with recipes made from scratch in our kitchens is a great way to optimize any home-cooked recipe. We also make sure fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low-fat dairy or dairy alternatives are available daily.
What are the top foods a senior adult should eat?
All our diets should emphasize a variety of whole grains, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, lean proteins/meats, low-fat dairy and limited saturated fats with virtually no trans-fat. Since our seniors often have a greater need for calcium and vitamin D, we look for products fortified with these nutrients. Foods rich in vitamin B12 are also important for daily diets – this includes meat, fish and eggs. Adequate hydration is also very important for senior adults. Foods we may not always think about as sources of hydration are soups, broths, gelatins and fruits or vegetables with a high-water content like watermelon and cucumbers.
Are there are success stories you’ve seen for residents who start receiving proper nutrition at our communities?
I’ve worked with patients who were admitted to rehab after hospitalization for a severe illness. Upon admission, they couldn’t eat and were on a feeding tube. After working with our health care team, we started offering texture-modified meals and weaned them off the feeding tube as they became stronger. Our culinary team also modified some of this resident’s requested foods so he would be able to eat them safely. The resident eventually grew strong enough to maintain his nutrition without the feeding tube.
What is one thing seniors can do to improve their nutrition?
Try to eat at least one serving of protein with each meal! Adequate protein intake is essential for maintaining muscle mass and strength to support daily activities and maintain independence.
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