We’re off for a Spot of Brekkie

Eileen Steinbock, head of health and nutrition at Brakes Group, talks about the company’s innovative strategy to deal with the needs of an ageing population: and she isn’t just talking about care homes.


The population of the Uk is ageing. Over the past 25 years the percentage of the population aged 65 and over increased from 15 per cent in 1984 to 16 per cent in 2009, an increase of 1.7 million people. Over the same period, the percentage of the population aged under 16 decreased from 21 per cent to 19 per cent.


This trend is projected to continue. By 2034, 23 per cent of the population is projected to be aged 65 and over compared to 18 per cent aged under 16.


The needs of an ageing population should be catered for by a range of foodservice establishments – ranging from pubs, restaurants and hotels in the ‘out of home’ sector to care homes and hospitals in the ‘healthcare’ sector. As part of this, the right nutrition needs to be offered at the right stage of life. Though a younger population is looking to achieve health via nutrition, due to a variety of social and health factors, malnutrition often becomes a prevalent issue later in life.


For the ageing population, malnutrition can sometimes start in the home. As it is common for an older person to live on their own, many are reluctant or sometimes incapable of preparing fully cooked meals for themselves.

Here a local pub, restaurant or hotel can play a key social role. Outlets can consider creating a lunchtime and afternoon offering specifically catering for the older generation. A ‘day centre’ environment can be created by providing an attraction – for example a speaker such as a local community police officer, and a wholesome and nutritious lunch menu for guests. Dining in this type of social environment people are more likely to eat enough calories and protein.


In later life, the healthcare sector plays a key role in delivering a wholesome and appealing diet to those in hospitals and care homes. Here selecting and delivering food which has nutritional quality, variety and meets dietary requirements can pose many challenges for caterers. In general the sector faces two key dietary issues; hospital patients who can suffer from inadequate energy intake and care residents who may have difficulty chewing and swallowing solid food.


Within a hospital setting, in order to ensure patients maximise their energy and nutrient intake, policies that caterers and other staff can try include protecting mealtimes so food can be eaten without interruption and help can be provided where needed.


In a care home mealtimes can be the highlight of the day for many residents and food often defines the quality of the establishment. A common issue is that residents are unable to chew or swallow solid food. In some cases this results in meals being pureed – perhaps with meat and vegetables combined. However, this regularly results in an unattractive and unappealing meal that can quickly put a resident off eating. to avoid this, caterers can try cooking each component and pureeing it to a smooth consistency individually. this can then be piped or scooped on to a serving plate, keeping separate sections to ensure food maintains its identity. For great time- saving alternatives, convenient for the busy caterer, Brakes offers a selection of ready-made pureed meals, with each component made to look like the original produce.


In both hospitals and care homes increasing food intake by offering regular small meals and snacks, giving hand held foods to people that wander and taking personal food preferences into account will help to prevent malnutrition.


Foodservice suppliers can also help chefs and caterers deliver in a healthcare setting by ensuring that their offering can help to provide the best in nutrition and caters for individuals dietary requirements. Our industry should endeavour to provide solutions that are easy for the care sector to use and implement.


In support of this, Brakes Group has dedicated resources to helping hospitals and care homes with dietary advice. In 2009 the group published a nutrition brochure for care homes and hospitals and online advice to help meet the catering needs of older people.


Brakes is also assisting the care sector by providing an on-hand, dedicated nutrition team to advise and educate on the best food solutions. Our nutrition team can be an extremely useful resource for care home and hospital caterers. Depending on requirements, the team can provide expert advice on menu planning, highlight suitable Brakes products, or offer general nutritional advice on malnutrition through our dedicated email nutrition@brake.co.uk.