For assisted living food menus, therapeutic meal plans designed to improve senior health used to be the norm. However, research has revealed that few older adults – even those diagnosed with chronic medical conditions – actually benefit from restrictive diets.
Now, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recommends that long-term care providers follow more liberal dining practice standards that empower seniors to make their own food choices.
Giving Older Adults the Freedom of Food Choice
Therapeutic diets, including low-fat, low-salt and low-sugar meal plans, often lack appeal and favor. When seniors are limited to restrictive assisted living food menus, the pleasure of eating diminishes. Older adults who don’t enjoy their meals eat less, which often leads to weight loss and malnutrition.
In contrast, assisted living facilities that adhere to liberal dining standards find that residents are much happier at mealtime. Giving seniors the freedom to choose their own foods is associated with better appetite and increased food intake. For the majority of older adults residing in long-term care communities, the benefits of a liberalized assisted living food menus – based on food preferences rather than medical diagnosis – outweigh the risks.
Dealing with Risky Dining Decisions
In treating chronic medical conditions, health care professionals often advise patients to follow restrictive diets. Diabetics are told to limit their sugar and carbohydrate intake, for example, while people with heart disease should avoid saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and red meat.
Older adults don’t always make the wisest food choices – but, according to the latest dining practice standards, that’s ok. Long-term care providers need to inform seniors with chronic disorders about the benefits of sticking to a restrictive meal plan, but they shouldn’t veto risky dining decisions. Instead, assisted living food menus should honor resident mealtime preferences.
Making the Switch to Resident-Directed Dining
For long-term care communities, stepping away from restrictive diets and committing to resident-directed dining can be difficult.
Adopting liberal dining practice standards means providing a balanced diet and monitoring nutrient intake, while also allowing seniors greater freedom with their food choices – and assisted living facilities don’t always know how to balance these goals. Plus, though staff members discuss food preferences with residents, many long-term care communities don’t have the tools to implement a resident-directed dining plan.
Grove Menus offers a simple, cost-effective solution. Our innovative meal planning software system considers resident food preferences and medically-necessary dietary restrictions in developing menus for seniors residing at long-term care communities. As a result, the meals and snacks offered are both delicious and nutritious.
The Grove Menus system offers hundreds of easily-adaptable, dietitian-approved recipes along with a suite of user-friendly food service tools that save time, reduce waste and cut the costs of preparing and serving enjoyable meals and snacks. For more information, or to schedule a free, no-hassle demonstration of our assisted living food menu program, contact us today.