Special Menus at Carillon Assisted Living Facilities Spotlighted During National Nutrition Month
With March designated as National Nutrition Month, special dishes like Chicken Marsala prepared with fresh mushrooms will be served in many residences. So will such side items as low sodium black-eyed peas, low sodium pinto beans, and low sodium green beans.
Whether it’s a treat for St. Patrick’s Day, a dessert made with sugar-free Splenda to allow everyone to dive in, or a favorite dish at each facility’s Family Night, award-winning executive chef Bill Furnas says this month helps spotlight Carillon’s goal of serving both delicious and nutritious meals.
For example, Furnas selected Chicken Marsala for the menu because it is a great protein source, is low in carbohydrates and sodium, and is a wonderful source of vitamin A. This vitamin is important for vision and helps the heart, lungs and kidneys.
“For seniors the most important thing is protein and calcium,” says Furnas, Carillon’s Regional Director of Dining Services. “After serving eggs for breakfast, we generally have 14 meals a week that offer a high protein source. That’s things like tuna, beef, pork, chicken, turkey, peas, and kidney beans.
“In North Carolina, we’re also required to offer milk twice a day to residents. Not everyone is a milk drinker, though. Women don’t seem to care for it like men do.”
National Nutrition Month emphasizes the necessity of a healthy diet, which is of special concern to seniors. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says that as adults age they need fewer calories (15 percent less for men and 10 percent for women), but more nutrients—especially protein, calcium and B-vitamins.
The academy says seniors should eat more beans, eggs and milk, whether they drink it, cook with it, or add a spoonful of dry milk powder to soups and mashed potatoes. Older men in particular need more calcium, vitamin D, fiber, potassium and healthy fats. The latter can be found in such foods as walnuts, almonds, avocadoes, and extra-virgin olive oil.
“The golden years are definitely not the time for extreme diets or drastic weight loss,” says one academy advisory. “Your goal should be to eat better while eating less.”
While that may be true, past habits and childhood memories can work against healthy eating habits. The menu items most in demand from Carillon residents fit in the “comfort food” category, topped by pot roast.
“They are known as the meat-and-potatoes generation,” says Furnas, who oversees cooks and dining staff at all 20 Carillon residences. “There are some vegans and people wanting to see other items, but it’s primarily meat and potatoes. The most requested item is hot dogs; they’re not on the menu much and people like to see them.”
To offer balance and meet nutritional needs, the dining services director seeks to limit the use of salt. One of his secrets is the use of Lawry’s® Salt-Free 17 Seasoning, which in place of sodium relies on 17 spices, such as bay leaves, basil, oregano, and black pepper.
“The recipe we use for canned and frozen green beans includes Salt-Free 17 and everyone talks about it,” Furnas says. “When we calculate our daily nutrition counts we make it work. We serve beef stew over half a biscuit because there’s less sodium in half a biscuit.”
The nutrition staff also seeks to add “super foods” to the menu, which refer to anything with lots of color. Not only are they popular, they are known as brain boosters because they help enhance memory.
The perfect super food is blueberries; another is salmon, which hits the menu the last week of every month. Strawberries are there twice a month, while roasted squash makes a regular appearance alongside a main entree.
“We always look for color,” Furnas says. “These foods can enhance your life and nutrition. I worked at a hospital for a dozen years, which is where I got involved in nutrition.
“We’ve had seven quarters of increased dining satisfaction lately and all we’re done is listen to residents. When they said, ‘We wish you’d have something besides fried fish,’ we added baked. I recommend our chefs talk to residents every day. Being visible is worth its weight in gold.”
Posted in Sage Stories on March 13, 2017