Preparing new foods today to meet the diverse needs of tomorrow’s LTC residents

OMNI’s operations manager of nutrition and food services Chris Weber (left) Frost Manor nutritional care manager Neil MacDonald are seen here during a cooking demonstration at the 2015 Together We Care convention and trade show.

OMNI’s operations manager of nutrition and food services Chris Weber (left) and Frost Manor nutritional care manager Neil MacDonald are seen here during a cooking demonstration at the 2015 Together We Care convention and trade show.

OMNI’s Chris Weber discusses the importance of creating meals that marry familiar foods with exotic ingredients

With changing resident demographics, long-term-care home kitchens need to incorporate new ingredients and flavours to meet the needs of a more diverse population, says Chris Weber.

Weber, OMNI Health Care’s operations manager of nutrition and food services, says one way long-term-care home kitchens can do this is by integrating foods familiar to the Canadian palate and marrying them with more exotic ingredients already enjoyed by the many cultures making up the country’s culturally diverse fabric.

“The importance of this is that we’re ensuring that we’re able to continue to meet the needs and wants of our residents going into the future,” Weber says. “We have to be forward thinking and we have to make sure that all of our decisions will benefit our residents.”

OMNI’s 18 long-term care homes offer two meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner – a main meal and an alternate. Weber suggests using the alternate meal choice as an opportunity to create dishes with a more international flavour to introduce new foods to the majority of residents while bringing a taste of home to others.

To illustrate this concept, Weber and Frost Manor nutritional care manager Neil MacDonald led a cooking presentation at Together We Care, the Ontario Long Term Care Association (OLTCA) and Ontario Retirement Community Association (ORCA) annual convention and trade show.

During the March 31 presentation – called Diversified Menus for Diversified Populations – the duo created four dishes that included both traditional ingredients and new flavours: Curried goat and amaranth soup, chimichurri and fennel coleslaw, pineapple jerk chicken meatballs and sweet sticky rice with mango for dessert.

Weber cites the pineapple jerk chicken meatballs as an example of fusing two flavours – one familiar, one Caribbean that may be less familiar to many residents – and creating a menu item that will appeal to a wide array of taste buds.

“What the jerk flavour on the chicken meatball is going to do is make it appealing to not only people who are familiar with and grew up with jerk cuisine, but also to many others in the home because it’s a good flavour,” he says.

“We want to use recipes that are recognizable but also introducing new ingredients and new aromas.”

While OMNI’s long-term care homes do not currently have a large number of residents from places like Asia or the Caribbean, this will likely change within the next 10 years, Weber says.

By learning to prepare meals that incorporate a wide range of different flavours appealing to a diverse resident population, long-term-care home kitchens can stay ahead of the curve, he adds.

Many of these dishes are simple to prepare, Weber says. For example, the sweet sticky rice – a popular pudding in Thailand, where it’s called “khao neeo mamuang” – can be made by preparing Asian sticky rice, soaking it in coconut milk overnight and topping it with pureed frozen mango the next day.

The result is a tasty dessert that’s also nutritious, Weber says.
“Opening our minds and our eyes is not only giving us more selection on our menu, but also giving us healthier options.”

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