Recent press reports have highlighted data that in the last 5 years 1,463 died in Care Homes from malnutrition, dehydration or bedsores. To highlight the importance of nutrition and hydration and to share ideas to support the International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative, QCS have asked Claire Fretwell, a chef with a passion for creating visually appealing food for residents who require a modified diet, to guest blog and share her passion.
Dysphagia is a growing condition in the UK, with all age groups and more and more people are needing to have their meals pureed. As a catering manager within a care setting, it is important to me that our Residents meals are varied, nutritious, tasty and visually appealing.Unfortunately, many of those who require a pureed diet, don’t always have the benefit of the latter. Many times, they will be provided with food, that looks like soup.
After hearing some of our Residents who have a pureed diet were losing weight, I did a little research, spoke with those who were on the diet and found the main problem was that they were just visually disappointing. Well, I’m sure we can all agree this is true.
Over the past 18 months, I have developed a new way to puree and make the food look like how it did in its solid form.While this has been around for a while, these methods rely on moulds, which you then must freeze to maintain the shape and then reheat. This has so many disadvantages as the food loses texture, flavour and nutritional value.
When I create my pureed food, I don’t use moulds, but choose instead to use piping bags, piping the food as soon as it is ready. I also use soaking solutions to help with foods that may not have even been considered for a pureed diet at one time. This not only means that it retains its flavour, but also the texture is better, and our Residents love it.
I have combated the “watered down” effect by using flavours such as stocks or sauces to gain the consistency that I need. By taking a little extra time and research I am able to give our Residents everything they would like to eat.
From roast dinners to full English breakfast, from pasties and sandwiches, to mince pies and fruity, zesty desserts, pizza, cheese burgers and even crisps- and all looking the same as the “normal diet” plate!
Our Residents look forward to their meals and have started requesting what they want to eat, meaning they are eating with more enthusiasm and in turn, gaining weight. They are able to dine with dignity, knowing that there meal will look like anybody else’s in the dining room and no need to look wistfully over at another’s plate. One service user requests sandwich with different fillings every night for supper because he thought he would be able to have them again due to his dysphagia and I am thrilled to help. There will be no food left un-pureed, in my mission to make pureed food tasty, delicious looking, nutritious and more than anything- a delight to eat.
Claire has been a professional chef and catering manager for over 20 years, working mainly within the restaurant industry. She has a strong passion for food, creating fabulous meals and exciting taste experiences that has only grown stronger throughout her career. After a recommendation for another health care professional, 2 years ago Claire took a role as a chef in a healthcare centre for the first time.
After just 6 months, she took on the role of catering manager and saw straight away the problem with the pureed food. While this was the expected method, Claire was not happy with how it was done, knowing of the disadvantages this method could have and a new passion was born!
Having been totally self-taught, researching, experimenting and using family, friends and herself as professional tasters, she feels she has found her calling and wants to pureed food more accessible, less daunting above all enjoyable.