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Food First; What Does It Really Mean?

aged care diet malnutrition nutrition Mar 23, 2022

What is The Food First Approach?

The Food First approach is the gold standard nutritional approach in preventing malnutrition amongst older Australians. Contrary to popular belief, malnutrition is not a normal part of the ageing process. With research studies finding that malnourishment can be as high as 50% in aged care homes, older Australians are at increased risk of hospitalisations, illnesses, fractures, and falls.

The Food First Approach is an evidence-based concept that involves using real food to increase the nutrient intake of older Australians. Focused on food that looks good, tastes good and is good for those consuming it, the food first approach elevates the importance of nutrient-rich food amongst our elderly. Working alongside catering staff, dietitians design meal plans and recipes that not only have a high nutritional value but use nourishing ingredients.


Food vs Supplements

Despite consuming balanced and nutritional meals, older Australians can still lack important protein, fibre or nutrients that they need.  Although commercial oral nutrition supplements can be useful when used under the guidance and advice of a dietitian, in the long term they do not have the comprehensive and nourishing impacts a Food First diet provides. With that in mind, it is important that aged care homes work to create a menu that is full of quality foods and nutritional value and use supplements sparingly when required.


Using Food First in Aged Care Nutrition 

Nourishing food and fluids alongside the planned menu

Snacks such as fresh fruit and yoghurt are a great way to increase the chances of aged care residents consuming more, while reducing the pressure to eat larger meals. Dairy, grain or protein-based products, like cakes, milkshakes or cheese and biscuits in between normal meal times are great nourishing options. 

Fortifying foods

Fortifying foods that are nutrient-dense like legumes, cheese, and milk powder can increase both the protein and energy of foods, without increasing the meal size, allowing aged care residents to meet their required nutritional intake easily. 

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