Last Updated: November 14, 2019
When you think of a pureed diet, edible art doesn’t often come to mind. However, the gourmet chefs at Brookdale Senior Living Solutions are reinventing the dining experience in senior living facilities.
Learn more about fine senior dining. It will change the way you think about pureed food for adults.
The University of Virginia Health System defines a pureed diet as one where the food is pressed, ground and possibly strained to create a smooth, pudding-like consistency. As you can imagine, many patients do not look forward to eating this kind of food, but it may become necessary if they experience difficulty chewing or swallowing. Some might naturally turn to foods such as juice, yogurt, mashed cereals smothered in cream, or soft-cooked eggs, but getting enough nutrition with those limited ingredients could be challenging
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A pureed diet would be used for people who have trouble swallowing, chewing, fully digesting or breaking down solid foods.1 Dysphagia is the technical term used within the healthcare community to describe difficulty swallowing. Patients who suffer from this condition require more than the usual level of effort to transfer food from the mouth to the stomach.2
Sometimes the inability to swallow results from pain, but there are also instances where some patients simply forget how to chew and swallow. This may often be the case with dementia patients.
Naturopathic physician and A Place for Mom nutrition expert, Dr. Lindsay Jones-Born comments:
“Changes in body function may impact nutritional intake, such as dentition, or the makeup of a set of teeth — including how many, their arrangement and their condition. The loss of teeth and/or ill-fitting dentures can lead to avoidance of hard and sticky foods; and certain medical conditions, including dementia, stroke, dysphagia, and others make soft-food diets, such as yogurts and mashed or cream cereals, necessary as swallowing can be difficult.”
“The introduction to these soft, smooth foods can often make eating less enjoyable, which creates a problem when it comes to maintaining not only a healthy diet, but also the socialization involved with eating. This is why finding tasty pureed meals is so crucial for a senior’s health and emotional well-being.”
The short answer is artful, tastefully cooked pureed meals. While eggs, mashed cereals, yogurts and juices can be a good start to a softer diet, pureed food can provide other healthy ingredients, like vegetables, that you wouldn’t be able to get any other way. Making delicious pureed meals may sound like an impossible process, but you may be surprised by what some chefs have been cooking up for seniors.
“Awaken your taste buds.” This is the mantra used by the culinary geniuses at Brookdale Senior Living Solutions daily. The goal is to attend to residents’ specific dietary needs while maximizing flavor and offering healthy meals. This is just the start of what senior living has to offer these days.
Pureed food may seem unpalatable, but Brookdale chefs are able to construct the ingredients into tasty, culinary masterpieces with the use of high quality food processors for their senior communities.
Ricardo Gomez, Regional Director of Dining Services at Brookdale Senior Living Solutions, provides insight into how chefs “put a lot of love” into every dish.
“Flavor is the intersection of what we taste and smell — it’s important,” notes Gomez. “Appearance and texture also have a large influence on our appetite, which is why it’s so essential to get pureed foods right.”
Often, when seniors switch to pureed food diets, their nutrition can take a turn for the worse because the mashed, smooth or creamy food is not particularly appetizing. Pureed food diets require additional seasoning and presentation, and this is where Brookdale Senior Living chefs shine.
To learn more about the artful and masterful ways chefs are creating pureed meals that patients may enjoy, read our interview with Ricardo Gomez below:
Ricardo Gomez (RG): Assisted living and skilled nursing require a different level of cooking expertise. Brookdale hires great, professional chefs, but they don’t necessarily have the experience of modifying foods to puree. So we do ‘hands-on’ 1:1 training with regional directors so that all our chefs in these communities can transform any meal into its pureed form.
We also encourage all dining leaders to watch videos and study training material, and everyone goes through our Service Learning Management Systems training. We also offer our Culinary Arts Institute training. Pureed food requires tools and molds, including high-quality food processors,which is why it is one of the more challenging dietary meal options. It’s also important to include that ‘passion and love’ in each meal, which is a part of the Brookdale culture.
RG: Our mission is to create high-quality, enjoyable meals for residents. We have to ask ourselves, ‘Does it look good?’ and then, ‘Does it taste as good as it looks?’ — every dish needs to pass the test.
We do this by pureeing our meals to light consistency using only fresh ingredients in a high-quality food processor. A lot of other communities will provide premade and frozen versions, but we want to take it a step further as we understand how important resident satisfaction is; we provide freshly cooked pureed meals at the time of service.
Also, some cooks use water when blending, but we use homemade chicken stock — and mold it. We have molds available to make the food beautiful. And when we mold we use ‘piping-hot’ stock and puree at the moment of service to ensure good taste. We construct the meal to look as close as possible to the original meal.
And practice makes perfect — it’s true. I like to sit down with the marketing director and the health and wellness director and present them a menu — and they choose items — and we create and serve items in puree form. We use flavored broths and spices to enhance taste … and minimize extra textures and gelatins to keep flavors intact. We find that there’s no better way to discuss pureed food and the process than having our dining professionals experience the meals for themselves.
RG: Yes, it does! Presentation is huge as we eat with our eyes. For example, vegetables presented as a ‘scoop and blob’ on a plate isn’t very appealing. If we puree at the moment — have a canvas — and create a true artistic masterpiece, the vegetables become appetizing. We also garnish; it makes a huge difference.
RG: We find that if you don’t freeze and thaw — instead serve fresh — that makes a huge difference. Also, make sure the foods don’t run together and NEVER serve leftovers. Stay away from canned foods. Make sure to portion properly and seal the foods’ juices. Chefs can enhance flavors using citrus, spices, and seasonings and using the proper technique. Also, make sure you use a recipe for everything you do and put a lot of love into the meal. Don’t underestimate residents’ hearts and desire for a good dining experience!
RG: Basically any resident who has chewing and swallowing problems. If there is a choking hazard, we might recommend a pureed diet. Every assisted living and skilled nursing community offers 8 diets, and puree is one of those.
RG: Chocolate cake — I love chocolate cake! And when you see the regular and pureed version, they both look and taste great!
But, in all honesty, all the foods are great. The ham looks like ham, the eggs look like eggs, and the cheese looks like cheese. The steaks, salads, spaghetti, and baked goods are all masterfully created and taste delicious. You just have to understand who you’re serving. Puree is just a different consistency that residents get used to. All the foods taste the way they’re supposed to taste, even though it’s pureed.
But you do have to remember that you can’t pick up the hamburger and eat it as it’s hard to grab with your hands. It’s best to eat with a fork. Utensils are necessary with this type of diet.
RG: It’s impossible for me to answer that! We have so many excellent options and so many communities provide pureed meals.
The chef’s salad and beef stew seem to be popular on our Culinary Road Show and the deli sandwich is pretty amazing as it has sliced tomatoes, pickles and lettuce. The fresh cod looks beautiful. I know that Bob Davis prepares the beef stew during the Road Show presentation, which is pretty popular. What’s great is that our menu manager program and diet summary reports offer items. Our chefs have access to any item at their fingertips — they can puree anything on the menu.
Again, we follow the ‘eat well, live well’ philosophy, which includes our beautiful puree options.
Ricardo Gomez is the Regional Director of Dining Services at Brookdale Senior Living Solutions. Brookdale offers new answers that deal with the question of aging. We frame everything we do inside your vision for all the places you’d still like your life to go, whether as an individual, a couple or a family.
As a trusted partner, Brookdale Senior Living listens and understands your needs. We discuss potential solutions and options, working with you to determine the right things to do. Then, we customize a solution that puts the life you want within your reach. It is our job to provide solutions for the unmet needs of those who seek senior living solutions.
We do this in more than 600 retirement communities, and with a wide range of innovative programs and services. Brookdale has nearly 50,000 associates whose passion, courage and true sense of partnership make Brookdale what it is. More than a company, it is a calling.
Do you have any pureed food cooking tips or recipes? What do you think about the pureed food images in this article? Would you eat them? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
1University of Virginia Health System. (2017). UVA Nutrition. Retrieved from: https://med.virginia.edu/ginutrition/wp-content/uploads/sites/199/2014/04/Pureed-Diet-Nov-2017.pdf
2Mayo Clinic. (2019). Dysphagia. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dysphagia/symptoms-causes/syc-20372028