Put the "Comfort" Back in Food

By  Beth Scholer, CC, CDM, CFPP

Meals are just one part of our daily routine.  For our clients, it may be the highlight of their day.  For many, food can be nostalgic, bringing back happy memories of meals shared with family or friends. It can be a part of their culture or other traditions. Caregivers can take this opportunity to earn their client’s esteem by cooking and serving their client’s favorite foods.  Caregivers can also get creative with meals for added nutrition or for those on special diets.

Comfort Food Favorites

Below is a list of comfort food favorites that every caregiver should know how to make.  Ask for the client’s input on their favorite recipe or preparation to make each meal truly personalized.

✓    Breakfast foods-French toast, pancakes and eggs cooked in a variety of ways.

✓    Hot cereals like oatmeal, grits or cream of wheat.  Boost the nutrition bycooking with milk instead of water. 

✓    Soup, whether it’s a hearty vegetable soup or creamy and comforting cream of chicken.

✓    Grilled cheese or other simple sandwiches.  Cut into bite-sized pieces for ease in eating.

✓    Macaroni and cheese, pasta and rice dishes.  Add extra sauce, vegetables or protein to boost calories and help maintain weight.

✓    Mashed potatoes and gravy or roasted potatoes.

✓    Tender and flavorful meats like roast beef, meatloaf and chicken

✓    Simple desserts like Jell-O, pudding or quick cakes and breads

 

Consider Culture and Traditions

Food is a part of one’s culture as much as their birthplace.  Many clients enjoy sharing stories about their younger years with their caregivers.  These conversations are a perfect opportunity for caregivers to learn more about the client’s food culture and history, too.  Some clients would even enjoy the opportunity to teach their caregiver how to prepare their favorite traditional foods “just like mom did”. 

Clients enjoy sharing stories of their younger years. Caregivers can use these conversations to learn about food traditions and preferences.

Collect Favorite Recipes

Consider putting together a personalized food journal for each client.  It can include food likes and dislikes and favorite recipes.  Include traditional family recipes to make it unique to each client and their family. Include special dietary concerns like food allergies or intolerances and if they require a special diet.  The food journal is a great resource for any caregiver who works with that client.

Emotional Memories

The taste, smell, texture and presentation of a food can be very reminiscent, bringing back memories of the places and events when the food was served.  Food can prompt deep memories, feelings and emotions, reminding elders of happy times in their life.

Mealtime is a great time for caregivers to connect with their clients.  Elders appreciate their caregivers making an effort to serve their favorite foods.   Caregivers can take pride in making mealtime an enjoyable experience for their client; strengthening the bond between client and caregiver. Encourage caregivers to think of meal time as more than just feeding the body, but also as food for the soul.

 

Chef Beth Scholer is certified by the American Culinary Federation and Association of Nutrition and Foodservice Professionals. She is a food scientist, culinary instructor, author and founder of Caregivers Kitchen. She can be reached at chefbeth@caregiverskitchen.net.

Scholer, B. (2015) Culinary Skills for Caregivers. Lakewood, CA.  Avid Readers Publishing Group

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