We all eat with our eyes whenever we consume food. If the food doesn’t look good, we don’t want to eat it. Attaining the highest food quality is so essential in long term care. There are many residents who may have poor appetites or intakes. Attractive food helps to stimulate their appetite. Remember that the resident is our customer and we are responsible for providing exceptional food for them at every meal.

What affects the food quality? The freshness of the ingredients is key in food quality. We need to use raw fruits/vegetables at the peak of their ripeness. Don’t use overripe foods which could make the quality suffer significantly. Make sure canned or frozen food items are rotated using the first in first out (FIFO) inventory system. Proper refrigeration and freezer storage of foods is also important.

When preparing food make sure standardized recipes are utilized to provide consistent food quality. It shouldn’t matter which cook is cooking, the food should always taste the same and look the same. Make sure food items are properly cooked at the correct temperature. Eliminate burned, tough, mushy or dried out foods which are very unappealing.

The finished product must have an attractive appearance which would make anyone want to dig in. The color of the food is important. Meat should be evenly browned, lettuce crisp, no rust or wilt. Make sure the vegetables have a uniform shape and rice or noodles are not overcooked. Are cake slices cut evenly? Small details like cutting things the same makes a big difference in appeal so make sure all portions are the same.

Cold food is one of the top complaints when residents or family members discuss food service. The hot food should be hot and the cold food needs to be cold. There no better way to lose your appetite when the hot food is cold and the cold food is warm. The food must be served at the proper temperature to meet the regulatory guidelines as well. If you are receiving complaints of cold food, don’t ignore it, find out which meal or meals are having the problems. Is there an issue with equipment, service or is the food not the proper temperature in the steam table? Do a test tray at the end of the meal and sample the food yourself to determine what the problem is.  Be proactive with keeping temperatures at the proper and safe range.

By making sure you purchase the highest quality ingredients, cook food items properly and serve the food in an attractive manner you can help to assure an adequate intake for the re