Health and Wellness

Chef's secrets for delicious special diets for seniors

Our professional culinary teams cater to seniors’ unique needs in retirement living with fresh, healthy choices.

The culinary teams at Amica are professionals at meeting seniors’ special dietary needs in a way that meets both the exacting nutritional standards of dietitians and the discerning palates of our residents and chefs. But what if you’re a senior with dietary restrictions due to health, religious or ethical reasons, or foods you avoid due to personal preference? Personalized service is our specialty, so you can rest assured your meals and dining service will be individualized to accommodate your wishes, health needs and taste buds.

Chef putting the finishing touches to a plated meal 

In this article, you’ll learn how chefs at Amica cater to common specialty diets for seniors including:

  • Heart-healthy, low fat or low sodium
  • Diabetic diet
  • Vegetarian diet
  • Food allergies or food intolerances (dairy free, or gluten free for people with celiac disease)
  • Texture modified diet

Healthy eating for seniors

Amica residents and chefs have at least one thing in common: a passion for excellent cuisine. Amica residents dine on excellent food that’s made fresh daily by in-house Red Seal chefs who’ve cooked in top restaurants, hotels and resorts. We also ensure that we meet seniors’ nutritional needs. In fact, before any dish graduates to our seasonal menu, it has to meet the high nutritional standards of several registered dietitians and a taste test by Chef Gary McBlain, Amica’s National Director of Culinary Services, who has collaborated with Top Chef Canada’s Mark McEwan on a menu for Amica residences. “We know that when we make nutritious food that’s also flavourful, people are going to enjoy eating the meals and be healthier for it,” says Chef McBlain.

Each dish is analyzed to ensure that our weekly menu meets nutritional guidelines for seniors requirements, including calories, minerals, vitamins and macronutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, etc. Recipes are also analyzed by a third-party network of registered dietitians to ensure the menu follows Canada’s Food Guide for healthy eating, including whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables, limiting foods high in sodium, sugar and saturated fat. Some residences also provide individual nutrition counseling.

Heart-healthy foods

Healthy food is at the heart of our menu at Amica. If you like healthy eating, you’ll appreciate that every lunch and dinner menu offers a variety of healthy choices specially marked with a heart icon. These nutritionally balanced dishes are good for seniors with cardiovascular disease or those who wish to eat the best foods for heart health. Amica’s healthy choice menu items include a selection of daily salads, dishes made with a rainbow of fresh vegetables, lean protein, fish that’s rich in heart-friendly omega-3 fatty acids, fibre-rich whole grains, dishes low in sodium and fat, and even healthy desserts. “Instead of deep-frying, the kitchen will saute unprocessed chicken in a small amount of olive oil to bring a lot of flavour without adding sodium or unhealthy fat,” says McBlain. Instead of fat or salt, chefs use fresh herbs, citrus juice or spice rubs to add flavour.

Diabetic diet

McBlain says most seniors who are diabetic know how to manage their blood glucose. The culinary team helps by serving fruits on the lower end of the glycemic index or reducing portions to control carbohydrates. If a resident on a Type 2 diabetes diet feels like eating ice cream, we support them by offering half a scoop. Type 1 diabetic residents can request carbohydrate content for each dish to help them manage insulin doses.

Vegetarian diet

For a variety of reasons, some seniors choose the benefits of a healthy vegetarian diet and our chefs are on board. Our culinary teams prepare nourishing, healthy and delicious vegetarian fare ranging from soups, stews and salads to sandwiches and power bowls. Dishes are packed with fresh, seasonal vegetables while additional protein comes from legumes, such as lentils, beans or chickpeas; eggs; or whole grains and grain blends made with quinoa, barley or couscous.

Food allergies or intolerances including lactose-free or gluten-free diets

  • Allergies: We take special care with seniors’ food allergies. Besides communicating food allergies to all kitchen and serving staff and ensuring every seniors’ food is safe, we take care in the dining room. For example, one residence features a designated peanut-free table to support the health and comfort of a resident with a peanut allergy.
  • Gluten-free foods: We’re happy to accommodate residents on a gluten-free diet. Our kitchen ensures we have a variety of gluten-free bread, cookies, muffins and pastas for seniors with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. We can thicken soups and sauces with potato starch or cornstarch instead of a flour-based roux. Plus, seniors who are eating gluten free will also have a choice of dishes that do not contain wheat, such as a Cobb salad or grilled steak with potatoes if one of the daily specials is beef pot pie.
  • Lactose-free: Seniors who avoid dairy due to an allergy, intolerance or preference are offered soups made with broth instead of milk or cream, as well as lactose-free milk or milk beverages.

Texture modified diet

When seniors have difficulty swallowing due to illness, treatment, health conditions or cognitive changes, we support them with texture-modified diets using nutrient dense foods to make sure they get the most nutrition possible from every bite. Following dietary guidelines from a doctor or registered dietitian, our culinary staff can thicken liquids to make them easier to swallow. When residents need minced food or a pureed diet, our trained chefs have the flexibility and skill to texture-modify a suitable item from our menu to create a dish that’s both healthy and appetizing. (Whereas some long-term care facilities must modify the day’s menu item no matter what. With limited choices to begin with, that could mean seniors on texture modified diets are served something unappealing, such as a pureed turkey sandwich and salad.)

Find out how residents are enjoying great amenities, activities, flexible dining and personalized service at Amica residences. Schedule a private tour today.