Unidine, the food dining and management services company, has whipped up some fresh bites for memory care patients.
“We heard from our senior living clients that weight loss and the inability to eat independently was often a catalyst for dementia disease progression,” says Unidine CEO and founder Richard B. Schenkel in a press release. “We began working on a solution that would increase nutritional intake and provide a more dignified approach to dining for memory care patients.”
Unidine chefs spent 18 months in the kitchen transforming standard menu items into finger food that can be eaten easily without the need for utensils. The company will start serving Fresh Bites, a comprehensive nutrition program, in early 2016.
Fresh Bites incorporates ingredients into dishes that research suggests may improve cognitive function, including broccoli, cabbage, green tea, blueberries, dark chocolate and the spice turmeric. Diet and nutrition is thought to limit inflammation, which could prevent or even reverse degenerative diseases.
“Before Fresh Bites, menu choices for memory care were often limited to sandwiches and chicken fingers or facilities would cut up regular menu item foods,” Schenkel says. “We found that miniature versions of foods are more stable and our clients have told us that the variety in our menu cycle changes the whole experience.”
Food is prepared in portions and shapes that are big enough to pick up but small enough to eat in one bite. The temperature is controlled so food is cool enough to hold but still warm. Chefs eliminated dry fillings since they often fall apart and boiled vegetables because they can be too slippery. Rice paper, polenta, potato cups and cucumber slices are used to to make vessels and wraps.
"We can leverage the science of nutrition and our culinary talent so memory care patients can dine with dignity and have an enhanced quality of life," he said.
The company is working with clients on visual menus, enticing aromas, brightly colored serving plates and techniques to help maintain the natural reflex of self-feeding.