We all appreciate how important good food is and how comforting our favourite meal can be. When we welcome new residents to our care homes, we want them to feel well taken care of and to settle in as quickly as possible. Finding out people’s preferences and needs is an important part of the moving in process.
We asked Catering Support Manager Ian Powell to explain how care home chefs cater for residents with differing dietary requirements and preferences. In this blog, we look at Dairy-Free Diets.
Ian explains: Food and diet are a very important part of helping people settle in with us, making sure we adhere to their dietary requirements is important and has a big impact on their well-being. We start by finding out about any allergens, specific dietary needs that may arise from different types of diabetes or religious beliefs. Our Hospitality Teams are trained to be vigilant and address these seriously.
The way we cater for a resident requiring a dairy-free diet depends on whether they are dairy free or lactose intolerant. If a person cannot consume any dairy at all this is called lactose intolerance, which means they cannot digest lactose—the natural sugar found in milk and other dairy products. People who cannot digest lactose have a shortage or deficiency of an enzyme called lactase. This is produced in the small intestine. People may also choose a dairy-free diet if they have issues with their skin or digestion, or even to lessen their impact on the environment and reduce their carbon footprint.
Many healthy foods can easily fit into a lactose-free diet, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. With this type of diet becoming more frequently requested, the demand for lactose free alternatives has increased. This increases the wide range of alternatives available to us.
If a resident is dairy-free, we would replace dairy products with plant-based foods such as soya or nuts and grains. Olive oil is a great butter alternative to cook with, but best to avoid baking! Avocados are very versatile, a very ripe one will spread like butter and the flavour dissipates leaving the creamy fatty texture. There are several ways to substitute dairy without compromising on flavour.
Our residents are very helpful when discovering new tips, tricks and alternatives. Each resident that has been on a dairy or lactose-free diet will have their own recipes that they are happy to share with the chefs. Understanding people’s preferences and favourite dishes is key to providing the person-centred care that we are striving for.
These are some of the dairy-free cakes that we make at one of our sites. The “butter” cream is made from a milk-free alternative and always goes down well.