Too much food, not enough nutrition


Thursday, 27 August, 2015

Too much food, not enough nutrition

The elderly, people with a disability, hospital patients and aged care residents are the most at risk for poor nutrition. Community Chef, the largest provider of prepared meals for the aged and disability care sector in Australia, has collaborated with CSIRO and Food Innovation Australia (FIAL) to better meet the nutritional needs of society's most vulnerable members.

Too much food, not enough nutrition

Feedback from Community Chef’s clients was that current meal sizes were too large, leading to food waste and inadequate daily nutrition. Some clients reported skipping meals so as not to waste food, further reducing their daily nutritional intake.

The company needed a process for modifying its recipes to increase the nutritional density and reduce the portion size of meals but still conform to or exceed the Commonwealth and Victorian Government Home and Community Care (HACC) guidelines.

Nutritional profiling and assessment of meals

CSIRO dietitians, trained in nutritional profiling of foods and food components, assessed and remodelled some of the company’s most popular menu items against HACC guidelines and the nutrient reference values set by the National Health and Medical Research Council. They looked at total energy, protein and a range of macro- and micronutrients of concern for the aged population at risk of malnutrition, such as fibre, zinc, iron and calcium.

They developed recommendations for the energy and protein required for nutritionally dense, reduced-portion meal components — such as soups, desserts and sides — to assist the company with future recipe development.

Increasing the nutritional density of prepared meals

The nutritional density of many dishes was increased by fortifying recipes with whole foods and whole food additives such as skim milk powder, enabling Community Chef to reduce the portion sizes slightly and reduce food wastage.

The CSIRO’s recommendations set a benchmark for defining the appropriate energy and protein content of various meals, which allows the company to mix and match meal components and still meet the nutritional requirements of the meal overall.

It also became clear that the current Home and Community Care meal service guidelines, which are now more than 30 years old, may need revising owing to considerable changes in life expectancies and dietary, social and cultural behaviours which could affect the specific dietary requirements for aged populations.

Joe Ciccarone, Community Chef CEO, discusses the benefits for his business of working with CSIRO and Food Innovation Australia.

Image credit: ©Warren Goldswain/Dollar Photo Club

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