Bringing back the love of food to patients and caregivers
Technical considerations for enriching comfort foods to meet patients wishes as well as their dietary goals.
12 February 2020
Encouraging the consumption of a patient’s comfort food is a key way to improve intake. Fortifying this comfort food can lead to better health outcomes and achievement of dietary goals for better healing.
Recipes can be tailored to an individual’s flavour and texture preferences and cover all meal occasions to allow medical beverage consumption to be spread throughout the day.
Medical beverage supplements are generally creamy and slightly thicker than cream. They can, however, replace milk or cream to fortify the energy, protein and vitamins and minerals in a variety of cold and hot meals, snacks and desserts. The addition of a supplement can impact the food positively in terms of flavour and texture, to give a richer, creamier, thicker and tastier food.
Medical nutrition supplements provide:
- High protein
- High energy
- A variety of vitamins and minerals
Successful supplement use in recipes depends on:
- Heat stability
- Acid stability
- Desirable taste and texture that is stable over time
Fortified recipes generally must be developed to replace part of or all the milk or cream. This contributes to a richer, creamier product which may be a positive or negative outcome, depending on the patient's individual experience and preferences.
These supplements perform well in cold foods, from fridge-chilled desserts to frozen delights such as ice cream. A variety of cold options also allow for patients with ulcers or sensitive skin and mouths to enjoy fortified foods that they enjoy. Milk can be substituted in instant packet desserts providing an easy at-home or bulk catering, high protein option. Texture and thickness can be modified by adding more or less of the product and managing any sticky, or coagulated textures. The quality and functionality of the protein in these supplements are directly linked to how well the recipe performs, and therefore how delicious the end product is.
An important consideration for patients is flavour. In cancer patients, chemotherapy can cause metallic or bitter tastes when eating, which impacts their ability to enjoy some flavours. Recipes with extensive flavour options such as savoury gravy, comforting chocolate, rich berry and refreshing citrus, allow for individually tailored desserts to account for these deviations and help find a flavour that suits.
In hot foods, the unique properties of heat-stable proteins in supplements allow for high-temperature cooking, however, this could destroy some of the heat-sensitive vitamins or alter the taste or texture. Hot foods that are warmed without reaching boiling points such as soups, sauces, custards, porridge, fritters or hot drinks are ideal choices to preserve the protein integrity as well as the presence of key vitamins.
An unflavoured or lightly flavoured nutrition supplement allows for the fortification of savoury meals using base ingredients of tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots and many other vegetables. Flavours can be enhanced and balanced with the addition of herbs, spices and seasoning to taste.
For acidic foods with a low pH such as citrus ice creams, tomato minestrone soups, and coffee or fruit beverages, acid-stable proteins are required to incorporate effectively without curdling or coagulation. Retaining the texture and flavour profile of patient’s comfort food is an easy way to ensure people are getting the best out of each bite that they eat.
Incorporating functional, heat and acid-stable proteins in a beverage or a powder format can be an effective way to improve intake for patients, however only if the supplement maintains or enriches the flavour and textures. The patient experience needs to come first with producing fortified recipes, as well as considering the patient or caregivers ability to make them without complex equipment. Optimising the patient journey and improving nutrition in an acceptable way can improve quality of life significantly, therefore remains a key focus in developing creative options for patients to meet their nutritional needs.
 Taste alteration in breast cancer patients treated with taxane chemotherapy: experience, effect, and coping strategies. 2013. RM Speck. Supportive care in Cancer (21)2;549-555