In the past few years, you might have noticed that the word “wellness” is having a moment. The dictionary defines wellness as “the quality or state of being in good health especially as an actively sought goal.” But what does “good health” mean when we’re talking about this new wellness trend?
Good health and wellness are about much more than someone’s physical health. It also encompasses someone’s mental and social states. Is a person happy? Do they feel safe? Do they get to do what they enjoy? Do they have a support system of family and/or friends? These answers contribute to overall health. For example, people with strong social relationships are 50% more likely to live longer.
This is where your food service program comes in. It can play a huge role in improving wellness for every resident. Today, it shouldn’t just be about the right nutrition and improving physical health (although that is extremely important!). Dining can also fulfill social and mental needs.
Wellness isn’t just a great diet.
Health is about more than a person’s vital signs and the conditions they may or may not have. Yes, great nutrition and a balanced diet have a large impact on someone’s physical health. But you can improve a resident’s mental and social wellbeing with your dining program too. Several studies have shown that loneliness has a negative impact on health. In fact, being lonely can cause the same amount of damage to someone’s lifespan as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and loneliness is more harmful to a person’s health than obesity. Loneliness is also associated with a higher risk of high blood pressure in older people. This goes to show that health isn’t just about a great diet and regular exercise.
This is why we encourage all facilities like yours to make mealtime a social experience that brings residents together. By offering healthy foods that residents like, they’ll look forward to coming to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While at these meals, they will socialize with other residents while enjoying their food. We also always require the chefs at the facilities we partner with to do table touches after each service. This means that the chef will go up to each table and ask the residents how their meal was and solicit any other feedback. This creates a more social dining environment.
A food first approach
We’ve noticed that many dining programs tend to focus on just the nutritional aspect of health. Because this was so common, we developed a food first approach that encompasses four unique programs designed to solve common dining challenges and improve overall wellness. These programs focus on more than just the food a person eats.
We recommend working with your dietitian and food service director to see how you can incorporate some of these ideas into your dining service for happier, healthier residents.
The four programs are:
All food should be appealing to your residents (even pureed and ground foods!). In this program we make sure that all texture-modified foods are molded and handcrafted to visually resemble the familiar items your residents grew up eating. No matter the meal, it should appeal to a resident’s sense of sight, taste, and smell.
If you have the opportunity to enhance certain foods with more nutritional value, you should. Our fortified foods program enhances common, delicious foods with protein, calories, and other added nutritional value. This program goes beyond just hiding the good stuff in a pile of mashed potatoes. We constantly develop and add new recipes to our rotation to give residents a variety, prevent boredom, and keep them excited about what’s on the plate.
We all know how important proper hydration is to a person’s overall health. Our program focuses solely on keeping customers and staff hydrated by making water interesting (yes, it’s possible!). We set up creatively flavored water stations around each facility to encourage residents and staff members to keep drinking all day long.
It’s important that every resident feels great about the dining experience. Our empowerment program is designed for those with limited dexterity and/or memory loss. The goal is to empower these residents to eat meals without needing to use utensils.
When eating is fun (and not a chore), you’ll notice improvements in social, physical, and mental health for everyone at your community. If you’re going to implement new approaches like these, remember to make sure all of your employees understand the reasons why. Train them in all of the ways you’re changing your food service program and educate them about the importance of resident wellness.
Make a commitment to wellness
At Culinary Services Group, we’re committed to improving and maintaining more than just a person’s physical health, which is why we’ve partnered with The Food Service Wellness Institute™. The institute exists to advance the field of wellness in the food service industry. They do this through credible resources, education, knowledge creation, and by brokering new and empowering connections.
We work with the Food Service Wellness Institute to help them define how food service can best support and promote overall wellness in facilities like yours. We’re collaborating with them to craft courses for food service professionals that gives them the knowledge they need regarding current wellness trends, purchase drivers, legislation, nutrition principles, healthy production and service techniques, concept development, and marketing and communication tactics.
If you’re ready to improve the wellness of your residents, we’re ready to help. Contact us here to get started.