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Pre-moulded minced and pureed food delivers greater patient satisfaction

Texture modified food is a necessity for many patients in health and aged care, but its unappetising nature as traditionally presented may soon be a thing of the past. A number of hospitals are now serving minced and pureed food which has been moulded and frozen into a replica of its natural state – and reporting greater patient satisfaction as a result.

An example is Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital, which caters for around 950 patients, with around 30 texture modified meals required per service. Acting Foodservice Team Leader Christine Eadeh explains to us the impetus for the initiative:

“With traditional minced and pureed meals there’s generally a high wastage – you might get 10 serves in a packet and if you need 11, then you’ll open another packet and end up wasting the other nine. But now we’re utilising frozen moulded meals which are individually portioned, which allows us to take them out and defrost as needed.”

The meals typically consist of a protein component plus selection of two vegetables, all of which have been placed into a special mould to replicate their non-pureed appearance, then frozen into position. They are plated while frozen, covered and then put into an oven with Glad Wrap around them to retain moisture while heating. At the point of service a hot sauce or gravy is typically added along with a starch such as mashed potato prior to delivery to the patient.

“The patients like them because they look like normal food, and not only do they look better, they also taste a lot better,” Christine tells us. “As a consumer or patient it’s much more appetising if you’re eating broccoli that looks like broccoli instead of a blob of green. Otherwise it’s green and brown mush at lunch and dinner and it can get a bit monotonous.”

The new system has also provided patients with more food choice: “they now have the option or sirloin steak or tuna pie, cottage pie, lentil spinach ravioli, sausages, and nice sauces like bearnaise or honey mustard,” Christine says.

The need for pureed food can be a result of age or various clinical conditions – “Sometimes when you’re unwell your muscles aren’t quick to fire, and chewing and swallowing actually takes a lot of work,” Christine explains. “People with a head injury, trauma to the face or stroke are often in the situation where they’re not able to swallow effectively, so a minced or pureed diet is important for safe swallow rehabilitation.”

While the concept of moulded frozen food itself is not new, the initiative is a new one for the hospital – it’s only been serving this style of pureed food since July. The new approach also allows for both pureed and minced vegetables for those patients with different needs. “Previously all the vegies were pureed regardless of the patient’s food texture requirement, but now we’re able to serve minced vegies to those patients who can tolerate them, as opposed to having to buy in pureed vegies in bulk and serve them to everyone,” Christine says. “This is better from a clinical perspective because it means patients are consistently having the food texture they’re supposed to have.”

As a result of the new system, food safety has been substantially improved thanks to the ability to be able to maintain hot meals at optimum temperatures. “Keeping the pre-plated moulded meals in an oven ensures they are substantially warmer than previously. We ask our patients to complete a general foodservice satisfaction survey annually and we’ve had high scores in the areas of accuracy and sensory for those requiring the texture modified meals.” Out of the patients assessed, 95 per cent reported the moulded meals either met or exceeded expectations, with above average ratings for most items.

Staff have also responded well to the new approach. “Our cooks had reservations at the beginning about how it would all work, but it’s been a nice outcome for them and they’re happy with the results. Everyone wants to be proud of the meals they prepare and serve, and when patients report greater satisfaction, that’s more satisfying for our foodservice staff as well.”