“Food brings people together on many different levels. It’s nourishment of the soul and body; it’s truly love.” – Giada De Laurentii
Don’t underestimate the power of a good meal. From the enjoyment that comes from eating with others to food as medicine, what’s for dinner—and lunch, breakfast and snack time—matters more than you might think. As people age, they lose their taste buds and their appetites often decrease. Yet proper nutrition for older people keeps their energy levels up and helps their bodies protect against and recover from all different types of illness. As you explore senior care options, the quality of the skilled nursing facility or assisted living food menu should be a key decision criterion.
This is why, at CareOne, we view creating delicious and nutritious meals as part and parcel of our commitment to high-quality care. Through our Signature Dining Program, our chefs give residents a taste of home or their favorite restaurant while catering to their specific dietary requirements. Our team offers meal plans that satisfy residents’ cravings and provide strong attention to detail with food presentation and fresh ingredients.
Here’s how we make mealtime special and enjoyable for all residents:
Personalizing Meals to Meet Residents’ Needs
Our culinary team works with CareOne dietitians to create menus that support residents’ nutritional goals and leans into their preferences. They collaborate with our activity directors on the meals they’re planning for events, holidays and other special occasions. Examples of holiday staples include delicious whole grain stuffing with pecans and currants at Thanksgiving. For the holidays, our chefs will bake jam dot holiday cookies, or crispy matzah for Passover.
What’s even more unique is that CareOne recreates meals that residents would eat at home, whether they are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, kosher and/or they have specific cultural customs. CareOne at Teaneck is a perfect example. The center is Glatt Kosher, Cholov Yisroel and Pas Yisroel under the kosher supervision of Star-K. Other options can range from specially prepared plant-based meat entrees to vegan potato-leek soup to twice-baked stuffed sweet potatoes. CareOne keeps residents’ favorite dishes in mind year-round and especially on birthdays.
For those with seafood aversions, we focus on preparing other sources of animal and plant-based proteins. We offer “meatless Mondays” but also offer vegetarian and vegan dishes all week long such as gnocchi with spring vegetables and avocado toast with chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes, and spinach. We’ve got our carnivores covered too: CareOne prepares high-protein meals featuring prime rib and other USDA-certified meat options. We also cook fresh soups and sauces from scratch.
At CareOne, meals are individualized to each facility’s needs. However, there is cohesiveness across buildings so that if residents transfer to another building, they will experience and have access to similar foods that include the same standard of presentation.
Our menus are also dynamic and continuously changing to provide variety and as many nutrients as possible while introducing new dishes that residents will enjoy.
Ensuring Patient Safety While Eating
CareOne is committed to ensuring residents can finish their food in a comfortable and safe manner. Our culinary team works with our speech therapists—who help manage swallowing difficulties—to create meals residents can safely eat. The CareOne Perfectly Pureed Program is an accommodating program where pureed foods are prepared to look like traditional solid foods. A pureed diet uses the same meals on the CareOne menu but blends them until smooth so residents (such as those who have difficulty chewing or swallowing) can enjoy their food while getting the nutrition they need. Meals such as lasagna and pork chops are pureed to meet residents’ nutritional goals and are also appealing to taste buds.
Combining Ingredients to Reach Nutrition Goals
At CareOne, the culinary team uses fresh ingredients to create meals from scratch. A fresh meal generally contains more nutrients, hydration, healthy fats and enzymes in comparison to a frozen meal. Through our partnership with Jersey Fresh, all New Jersey CareOne facilities receive fresh produce. This includes locally grown, organic and seasonal fruits and vegetables to incorporate into meals. When not seasonally available, our team integrates nutritious fruits and vegetables from other sources.
At every facility, infused water is housed in the lobby. The water contains fruits and herbs to keep staff, visitors and residents well-hydrated.
Making Mealtime Memorable
Good food brings people together and evokes fond memories. Through our signature dining program, residents experience mealtimes in a cozy, restaurant-like atmosphere. Residents are encouraged to eat their meals in a shared space, so they can break bread, exchange stories and enjoy laughter with others.
Our restaurant-style dining supports our mealtime philosophy to nourish residents physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Getting the Community Involved
Research shows that communal eating plays a critical role in facilitating social connection. The culinary team enhances this feeling of togetherness outside of traditional mealtimes by involving residents in the menu development process. We ask residents for input on upcoming menus. Additionally, they are frequently invited to watch cooking competitions and live demonstrations.
The culinary team also supports the surrounding community through meal donations to local organizations such as nearby colleges, senior centers, food pantries, firehouses and police stations.
In a Nutshell
When it comes to senior care, good nutrition that tastes great is non-negotiable. It’s the CareOne culinary team’s mission to deliver excellence at breakfast, lunch and dinner (and even in between) through wholesome ingredients, impeccable presentation and varied, delicious flavors.