Meeting the Dietary Needs of Older Patients


Older Patient Dietary NeedsMeeting the dietary needs of older patients is serious business, but made simpler by computer-assisted menu planning. According to the Older Americans Act (OAA) of 1965, which provides funding for nutrition and supportive home and community-based services, meals served to residents in facilities must provide at least one third of Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) at each meal, according to the specific requirements of each state.

Calculating the Dietary Needs of Older Patients

This means that facilities which receive any degree of funding to provide meals for seniors must offer menus that contain the proper levels of vitamins and minerals and meet other criteria that make the food palatable. Given that food science is complex, manually developing menus and carrying out all the steps that takes a menu from planning to serving the food can be an overwhelming task. For most settings, using computer-assisted menu planning is the best way to ensure that the dietary needs of older patients are met.

Since 2002, an Issue Panel convened by the National Policy and Research Center on Nutrition and Aging (Center) recommended computerized menu planning software which can provide nutritional analysis of meals. The software measures macronutrients such as energy, calories, protein, carbohydrate, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, fiber, and water, along with

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Calcium
  • Copper
  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Niacin
  • Potassium
  • Riboflavin
  • Thiamin
  • Zinc

State Units on Aging (SUA) have developed written standards and guidelines that list specific requirements to be used in meal planning to meet the dietary needs of older patients. Not all states monitor every nutrient on the list above, but all states must have requirements for meals that comply with OAA standards.

Additional Requirements

The recommendation of Center is that a Registered Dietitian oversee menus to make sure that they meet other criteria such as variety, serving size, color, texture, consistency, and use of seasonal foods. Some states require that a location where meals are served must submit them to the state for approval, but usually the dietitian can approve and certify the menus. Having a Registered Dietitian involved adds a human touch and ensures that the food is pleasing in appearance and palatable to residents.

Since cost is a concern at all facilities, using the computer assisted menus encourages planners to meet requirements without adding extra food to the menu. An extra snack might add nutrients, but also add additional costs to buy, prepare, and serve and add more calories to the average patient’s diet than recommended.

From the standpoint of a food manager at a facility, computerized menus offer the extra advantage of translating to a shopping list. A local manager can modify the shopping list to account for items on hand, or for donations, and still have an accurate list for shopping with approved vendors.

When you are trying to prepare menus that meet the dietary needs of older patients at your facility, Grove Menus provides the analysis you need to ascertain that your efforts are on track.