Care home food: Common myths debunked

When we welcome residents into our care homes, it’s never long before the conversation turns to what’s on the menu! Historically, care homes have received bad press surrounding their food offering which has contributed to the stigma that often surrounds care home food. Thanks to stereotypes, negative media portrayal, lack of awareness, and individual experiences, care home meals are often assumed to be bland and unappetising with low nutritional benefit. However, in our experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Visitors and new residents are always surprised and delighted by the culinary delights on offer and our chefs prioritise the quality, variety, and nutrition of all the meals served. In this article we look at several common myths surrounding care home food that are important to address:

Myth: Care home food is tasteless and unappetising.

Reality: While there may have been instances in the past where care home food was not up to par, many care homes today, like ours, prioritise providing tasty and nutritious meals. Care homes often have dedicated chefs and dietitians who work together to create flavourful menus that cater to the dietary needs and preferences of the residents.

Myth: Care home residents receive low-quality or processed food.

Reality: Care homes are aware of the importance of providing nutritious meals to their residents. Many care homes now focus on using fresh, locally sourced ingredients to prepare meals. They aim to offer a variety of options, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins to ensure a well-balanced diet. Our chefs are very passionate about creating tasty, fresh, and nutritious meals and they love surprising residents with their favourite meals.

Myth: Care home food lacks variety and choice.

Reality: Our homes recognise the importance of offering residents a choice when it comes to their meals, and we always provide menus with a range of options to accommodate various dietary restrictions, cultural preferences, and personal tastes. Residents often have the opportunity to provide input and make suggestions for menu planning.

Myth: Care home food is not suitable for individuals with specific dietary requirements.

Reality: Care homes are experienced in catering to specific dietary needs. Whether it’s a low-sodium diet, vegetarian or vegan preferences, gluten-free options, or diabetic-friendly meals, care homes ensure that residents’ individual dietary requirements are met. At the Future Care Group, we are particularly experienced with catering for dementia residents.

Myth: Care home food is always served in a cafeteria-style setting.

Reality: While some care homes may serve meals in a communal dining area for socialisation purposes, many also offer in-room dining options or smaller dining areas where residents can enjoy their meals in a more intimate setting. Care homes understand the importance of creating a comfortable dining experience for residents and in our care homes we can accommodate most dining requests.

It’s important to note that, while care homes strive to provide high-quality meals, individual experiences may vary depending on the specific care home and its resources. It’s always a good idea for families and individuals to visit and enquire about the dining options and food quality when considering a care home.

Food at the Future Care Group homes

Sarah Barrett, Head Chef at our Oaklands House Nursing Home in Southampton, has been a member of staff at Oaklands for an incredible 24 years! We asked Sarah how she came to work at Oaklands all those years ago and what’s kept her here?  She told us:

“I went to catering college for three years and then on to work for a catering company for four years. Unfortunately, the company I was working for went into liquidation and I needed to find another job. A friend of mine suggested I come to work at Oaklands as a carer, as she said I had the compassionate caring nature needed and I got the job! I worked as a carer for 10 years, and helped out in the kitchen. A vacancy became available in the kitchen, and I was offered the position. This enabled me to return to the career I loved, whilst staying with the residents I had grown very fond of.”

We asked Sarah what she enjoyed about catering at Oaklands, she said:

“I like to know our residents’ nutritional needs are being met, making dishes that make them smile and creating things that remind them of their childhood. I love it when the residents come into the kitchen to help, this enables them to do something they love and at the same time feel useful.”

And what makes a good Head Chef?

“Patience and understanding, a sense of humour, organisation, being able to lead a successful team and making sure we deliver what the residents want to eat”.

Don’t just take our word for it:

“Sarah creates lovely, yummy meals and she includes my mum’s needs (diabetic) in any special occasions (cakes), so my mum doesn’t miss out. Thank you all”.

Facebook comment from Jennie Norris, April 2023.

“Thank you all for everything you do for the residents. Since being at Oaklands, Graham has taken part in more activities than he would at home. He couldn’t be in a better place even though he doesn’t appreciate it! Whenever I have had lunch with him, he has cleared his plate. Thank you, Sarah, for such tasty meals and for the wonderful cakes etc you make for special occasions.”

Facebook comment from Pamela Whyte, April 2023.

Diet and dementia

Receiving proper nutrition and eating a good diet is important to keep the body strong and healthy. This is particularly important for a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia, as poor nutrition may trigger behavioural symptoms and cause weight loss. During the later stages of dementia, a patient can become overwhelmed by food choices, forget to eat, or think they have already eaten. At all the Future Care Group homes, meals are prepared on site and served for residents, including those living with dementia. All residents can enjoy delicious, nutritious meals without worrying about what and when to eat or getting to the shops and cooking for themselves.

Our in-house chefs and catering teams are trained and supported in providing our residents with a nutritionally balanced diet on a round-the-clock basis. Our catering and lifestyle teams work together to improve the mealtime experience by collaborating with our chefs to improve the appearance of textured modified food and snacks to enhance the diets of our residents who have swallowing difficulties and other specific dietary requirements. For more dementia diet tips and a dementia-friendly recipe, click here.

The Future Care Group recently won The Care Home Nutrition Award at The Stars of Social Care Awards 2023. Team Leader, Mona Safaryan at our Hamilton Nursing Home in Surbiton who won the award said:

“Food is so much more than nutrition and hydration and we work hard to make meals a big part of our wellbeing strategy.  Our menu is always person centred and there is a big emphasis on customer feedback and suggestions”.

Mona works in partnership with the care team to ensure that meals preferences and dietary requirements are part of individual care plans and are regularly reviewed.

We love quizzing new residents about the food and drink they like to eat when conducting their pre-assessment. Residents are always surprised and delighted to find their favourite foods and drinks on the menu when they arrive for their stay with us. It helps to settle residents into their new environment and makes them feel at home – just one of the many examples of how our care team loves to go above and beyond.

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