Diversifying high protein and energy meal options in the aged care sector

Diversifying high protein and energy meal options in the aged care sector

Diversifying high protein and energy meal options in the aged care sector

By Bethany Snow, UQ Student Masters Nutrition & Dietetics

When asked to name a high protein and energy dish, a salad, sandwich or wrap is not often one of the first items that comes to mind. However, in the expanding aged care industry, foodservice managers and dietitians need to start thinking about innovative and cost-effective ways to incorporate protein and energy into the diets of the nutritionally vulnerable.

The aim of this project, as a part of my Masters of Dietetics program with the University of Queensland, has been to develop a menu for high protein and energy salad, sandwich and wrap options that can be implemented in the aged care industry, for residents who may have a reduced appetite or require a higher intake then the regular menu provides. Over a 4-week period I have experimented with ingredients, made many recipes and even been able to taste test these (a tough job, I know!)

What is HPHE and why is it necessary for the elderly?

HPHE is a commonly used acronym for High Protein High Energy, a diet or eating style often used in the acute and aged care foodservice sectors for persons whom are underweight, losing weight without trying, are unable to eat enough food to meet their nutritional requirements due to appetite or nausea, or have increased nutritional requirements. HPHE menu options are important in maintaining adequate oral intake, hence preventing malnutrition in the aged-care resident population.

Broadening the menu

The key ways to increase the protein and energy content of salads, sandwiches and wraps include:

  • Adding or increasing the proportion of foods that are high in protein, such as meats, fish, cheese and nuts, for example.
  • Fortifying sauces, dressings and spreads through cost-effective ingredients such as butter, cream, milk powder and olive oil.

For example, by adding an egg to a chicken salad, this adds 250 kilojoules and 5 grams of protein to the dish. Ready-made products such as mayonnaise and Caesar salad dressing can be easily fortified through the addition of skim milk powder and olive oil, and used to further increase protein and energy. Not only does the addition of skim milk powder fortify sauces and spreads with protein and calcium, it also adds extra creaminess.  These methods can subtly increase the protein and energy of a salad, sandwich or wrap without varying too far from a typical salad.

Important points to keep in mind

  1. Always use a food-first approach. By opting for foods high in protein and energy such as meats, cheese, eggs, dairy and nuts, these can drastically improve the protein and energy levels of your dishes without your customers realising.
  2. Utilise sauces, dressings and spreads. Ready bought, creamy dressings are relatively easy to cost-effectively fortify with products such as skim milk powder, which not only increase their protein content, but make the sauces even creamier.
  3. Cater your menu options to your clientele. Ultimately, choice plays a large role in appetite, and catering your HPHE salad, sandwich and wrap options to your aged care residents is going to assist in increasing oral intake.