By Kiarra Martindale, Lead Dietitian (APD) & Allied Health Manager, Oscar Care Group

Providing culturally appropriate food in aged care homes is essential to respecting residents’ diverse backgrounds, fostering a sense of belonging, and promoting both physical health and emotional wellbeing.

Culture represents one’s identity and way of life, inclusive of one’s beliefs, religion, traditions, rituals, and values.

Culture plays a significant role in food preferences and requirements, and it is important for aged care homes to offer culturally inclusive food options to boost the independence and emotional wellbeing of residents.

Careful menu planning is essential to enhance the nutritional value of food and to encourage residents to eat.

The menu needs to be culturally appropriate to the residents in each home, meeting their preferences, and offering variety and suitable options for those on texture-modified diets.

A culturally appropriate menu that offers options in line with religious and cultural customs, such as Kosher, Halal, vegetarian and vegan, greatly influences food intake.

Catering for periods of fasting and other days of significance, such as Easter and Diwali, also fosters a sense of belonging. The lack of culturally appropriate options may negatively impact mental health, reduce oral intake, and lead to weight loss and malnutrition.

This is especially concerning considering up to 68% of people in aged care homes are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition.

To provide the best support, aged care homes should consider consulting a dietitian, who will develop an eating plan that caters to residents’ health, tradition and cultural habits by assessing and taking into account eating patterns and dietary needs, as well as the eating utensils available.

Here are some tips on how to create a multicultural menu for aged care providers:

  • Use a co-design approach by seeking and implementing feedback through surveys and meetings with residents, ensuring translations are available for feedback.
  • Display in-language menus with pictures.
  • Offer dishes featuring all five food groups and incorporate multicultural ingredients and recipes.
  • Organise a menu and mealtime quality assessment by an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

OSCAR Care Group dietitians and chefs have created multicultural recipes, starting with the top 20 languages spoken in Australian aged care homes.

The team is developing more dietitian-approved recipes everyday based on demand and have collected over 300 recipes in the OSCAR Care Group Recipe Book, which includes information about allergens, food groups, nutrition and texture modification suitability for a serving of 50 adults.

To find free recipes and learn more about the Aged Care Recipe Book, visit OSCAR Care’s website.

This article was published in the
Autumn 2024
edition of Golden Years.