Appealing plant-based meals for seniors

In a nutshell

The aim of this tool is to show how healthy, plant-based meals can be introduced in social care homes in ways that will be embraced by their residents. The transformation of meals for senior citizens has to be gradual, and all stakeholders should be involved; while kitchen professionals learn how to prepare “greener” (plant-based) meals and how to present them to senior citizens in an effective way, the senior citizens themselves can learn about health and environmental reasons for the changes, taste every new item on the menu, and give their feedback. When welcomed by social care home residents, plant-based meals can be a cost-effective way to improve health and lower the environmental impact of public catering, in alignment with EU policies for health and the environment.

Necessary Steps

  • Provide training for kitchen professionals in the techniques of introducing plant-based meals to the everyday menu of senior citizens, led or supported by dietitians. Include information about the health, economic and environmental benefits of these changes: e.g. reducing meat and using lentils can be cost efficient, tasty, and a healthy alternative to traditional heavy dishes; organic and seasonal fruits can become effortless and flavourful dessert; breakfast can become a healthy and colourful meal with legume paste, yoghurt parfait or egg salad; favourite sweets can be modified into a source of protein (bean cookies).
  • Conduct a survey among the residents about their meal preferences, including questions on plant-based meals. The results will provide a first insight into the possibilities and challenges of the transformation.
  • Prepare a questionnaire to gather feedback on the tastings.
  • Arrange regular tasting sessions for new meals such as legume burgers, oven-baked veggies, meals based on diverse groats, spinach cake, and bean cookies for seniors and gather feedback in a short questionnaire.
  • Analyse the results.
  • Gradually, but enthusiastically, introduce the new plant-based dishes based on the preferences of the residents.
  • In parallel, organise presentations about sustainable food and the health aspects of plant-based food for the residents.

More Issues To Consider

  • By letting the residents participate in the process, they feel more involved in the new menu composition, more aware of the reasons behind it, and therefore more tolerant and open to changes.
  • Professionals who cook and serve food are crucial actors in this process, and it is very important that they believe in this action for change and are able to pass on their enthusiasm for the new dishes to the residents.
  • It is practical to start introducing plant-based products gradually (e.g. start preparing meatballs with part meat and part legumes).
  • It is effective to take traditional dishes and transform them into plant-based meals.
  • Cooking with seasonal produce is usually preferable.
  • Analysing food preferences provides a good basis for introducing other dietary changes, like introducing more organic products (Organic Food).

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