Beyond Puree™: Pure Pleasure for Seniors with Eating Challenges

Seniors who have difficulty chewing or swallowing food may need to switch to pureed foods as their main diet. These are cooked foods turned into a paste form through blending or grinding. Although pureed foods can help seniors get the nutrition and calories they need each day, these soft foods have traditionally fallen short on taste, texture, and visual appeal. Instead of stimulating appetite, they’ve often had the opposite effect. 

Turning the tables

 

A pureed diet doesn’t need to be bland or unattractive. Chefs at senior living communities are turning the tables on soft-food preparation – creating pureed meals made from fresh ingredients and serving them in an appealing display.

A community at the forefront of this trend is StoneGate Senior Living, a leading provider of senior living services in Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado. StoneGate introduced the “Beyond Puree” program in 2011. Cheryl Korbuly, a registered dietitian nutritionist, licensed dietitian, and vice president of nutrition services at StoneGate, describes the program as “an appetizing way to promote healthy eating for residents who can no longer eat solid foods. Seniors shouldn’t have to give up the food they love so they can swallow safely.” She estimates 11 percent of residents at StoneGate communities require a soft-food diet.

 

Maximizing the dining experience

 

 “Appearance and texture have a direct impact on our appetite, so it’s important to make sure pureed foods don’t sacrifice on eye appeal and taste,” Korbuly says. “Beyond Puree uses only fresh ingredients. Our pureed creations look, smell, and taste great. Spices, seasonings, and garnishes further enhance the flavor.”

 

With a variety of food molds, StoneGate chefs create pureed meals to look like their original form. All features on the breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus – from eggs Benedict to old-fashioned meatloaf, lemon pie to strawberry shortcake – are also available in puree. For example, if the regular dinner menu features roasted chicken and cream corn, those items are blended separately and placed in molds to create the pureed versions. The blended chicken is put in a mold that looks like a chicken breast, while the pureed corn goes into a mold with kernel imprints. The molds are then put in a steamer, which helps the pureed items retain their shape and form.

 

Residents who are in the Beyond Puree program are often more engaged and social at mealtimes. “The food on their plate looks ‘normal’ – not mashed, scooped, and weird,” Cheryl says. “When they’re dining with other residents and guests, it’s hard to tell who’s having the pureed food. The natural form and the pureed version are both the ‘real deal’!” 

 

Gaining interest, gaining weight

 

More than half of residents in the Beyond Puree program have gained weight since starting their new soft diets. For example, after developing dementia, Jessie Sims, age 86, lost interest altogether in eating. He was being cared for at home by his daughter, Veronica Haggerty, and her husband. When they admitted Sims to the Pine Grove Nursing Facility, a StoneGate community in Center, Texas, his weight loss was a major concern. “Dad’s eating again, because the pureed food looks and tastes so good,” Haggerty says. “He’s gained more than seven pounds in two months. Although he needs assistance with eating, he dines at the table with other residents, and I think that social contact has helped him tremendously.”

 

Another resident, Gloria Pettigrew, age 82, was rapidly losing weight in her home environment. When she was admitted to Pine Grove with several clinical conditions, the nutrition services manager, Kevin Parker, recommended to Gloria’s family that she try pureed food.

 

“The family was reluctant at first,” Parker says. “They didn’t want to serve their loved one ‘baby food.’ But when I presented a plate of pureed cuisine – formed, colorful, and flavorful – all were amazed at the presentation and taste. Gloria began to eat her meals and snacks without difficulty. In a year’s time, she’s gained 30 pounds, her blood sugar and blood pressure have stabilized, and she’s had no hospital stays.”

 

Enhancing quality of life

 

“Part of StoneGate’s service philosophy is to deliver an enhanced dining experience to all our residents, regardless of their prescribed diet,” says Brittanee Williams, a registered dietician at Pine Grove. “For those with eating challenges, Beyond Puree opens the door to renewing pleasure in eating and enhancing quality of life. It’s one more way we show our residents – one delicious meal at a time – how much we truly care.”