Aged care residents are not eating the recommended serving sizes and are therefore are not receiving adequate nutrients, according to a new study.

The Monash University research investigated the weight of foods served and consumed compared to the recommended serving size based on core food groups.

It also compared energy and protein intake with individual requirements.

The research involved 420 residents across four residential aged care facilities in Melbourne and  found the nutritional needs of residents are not being met, said lead researcher Lisa Sossen, a PhD student at Monash University.

“The menus might be acceptable and provide the nutrition, but the needs are not actually met by consumption because they’re not eating enough of the food,” Ms Sossen told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Lisa Sossen

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends a median serving for a main meal of 306 grams, however, residents were only receiving a median serving of 248 grams, Ms Sossen said.

This was due to the restrictions with the size of the plates used, she said.

Less than 10 per cent of the 420 participants completed the main meal, and they consumed a median serving of 157 grams, Ms Sossen said.

“They’re consuming half of what the recommended requirements are,” said Ms Sossen, who is also a dietitian.

When looking at the consumption of meat including chicken and fish, the study found the median serving was 78 grams, but residents only consumed a median of 62 grams. With vegetables, the median serving was 65 grams, but residents were only eating 29 grams, Ms Sossen said.

“They don’t eat a huge amount of vegetables, and there is a disparity between the guidelines and what they’re actually eating and serving,” she said.

At breakfast, residents ate 88 per cent of their meal, Ms Sossen said.

The study also found that residents ate snacks they were given, but the snacks were often very low in nutrition, Ms Sossen said.

“The [snacks] were more biscuits and cake more than anything else, so I think there is a lot to be said about menu planning,” she said.

The study also looked at meal consumption in relation to dining room size. It found that residents in a dining room with fewer than 15 residents ate more than residents in larger dining rooms.

“Residents that were in a dining room with under 15 residents ate 6,231 kilojoules and 54 grams of protein… whereas the residents in a larger dining room actually ate 5,046 kilojoules and 45 grams of protein,” she said.

She said malnutrition in aged care needed to be addressed.

“It’s one little step in the research field for aged care to say we know they actually don’t eat a lot of food, so how do we actually address malnutrition if they don’t eat a lot of food?”

“There is definitely a call for nutrient-dense meals, and some sort of standardisation of recipes where there is a bit more control over how much they’re getting,” Sossen said.

View the abstract here.

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