There is no doubt about it…nutrition costs. And so does malnutrition. Malnutrition and unplanned weight loss is known to be a higher risk for those with dysphagia or requiring texture modified diets.
From a dietitians perspective, we want to do whatever we can to prevent malnutrition even if it comes with a higher initial cost. Savings come in the form of less time and money in trying to heal wounds, additional time taken to care for more frail and malnourished residents, the consequences of falls, and dealing with the unplanned weight loss. But this is hard to measure.
We know that every mouthful counts. The more food scraped into bins is nutrition lost and money down the drain. So how do we marry the two?
In a study looking at texture modified diets presented traditionally as ice cream scoops compared to re-shaped meals, 37% of the lunch and/or dinner main meals were fully consumed in the traditional scoop group, while 89% of the meals were fully consumed in the re-shaped group. Translation: the re-shaped group achieved their energy and protein intake. While the re-shaped meals were more expensive to purchase than making them in-house, there was less preparation time, no specialised equipment, and consistent safe textures served to the residents. When costs were calculated including labour, over-production, and raw food costs, there was little difference providing a menu using re-shaped products for all main meals, desserts and two snacks daily.
This study went one step further and looked at wastage. Here’s where aged care homes can make savings. Over a third of the food served (average of 9kg) was thrown out daily in the scooped group compared with 14% (average of 2.25kg) in the reshaped group. Extrapolated to an annual cost of wastage, this takes one to $75,723.33 of food wasted in the scooped group compared with $36,542.89. Just think what one can do if we make more of an effort to prevent food waste, improve intake, and keep our residents nourished!
This study is part of Lisa Sossen’s PhD thesis, Exploring Food First Approaches in Aged Care, Monash University (2021, unpublished). For more information check out @lisaandassociates.com.au
For more information on re-shaped foods go to www.texturedconceptfoods.com.au