Menus for nursing homes are typically designed to feature a variety of nutrient-dense dietary proteins from both animal and plant sources, as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Protein provides energy, helps build and repair body tissues and is vital to many body processes, including vision, blood clotting and fluid balance.
However, not all sources of dietary protein are alike; each has a unique structure and different combination of amino acids. Proteins fall into one of three categories – complete, incomplete and complementary – based on how many of the essential amino acids they contain.
Here’s what you need to plan healthy, protein-packed menus for nursing homes.
Complete Dietary Proteins
Sources of dietary protein can be composed of twenty different amino acids. However, only nine are considered essential, as they cannot be produced by the body yet are required for normal body function.
Proteins that contain all nine of the essential amino acids are considered complete – and most complete proteins come from animal sources. Low-fat milk, yogurt, eggs, lean meat, fish, poultry and seafood are all commonly featured in nursing home menus.
Soy is the only complete plant-sourced protein.
Incomplete Dietary Proteins
Incomplete proteins are low or lacking in one or more of the nine essential amino acids. Most plant sources of dietary protein are considered incomplete – but this doesn’t mean that they’re not healthy.
Beans, peas, nuts, grains and seeds all have regular places on nursing home menus
Complementary Dietary Proteins
All nine of the essential amino acids don’t need to be included in the foods served at every single meal. The balance over a full day’s nursing home menu is more important.
That said, serving two complementary proteins together or during the same day can be beneficial. Complementary proteins are incomplete alone but, together, provide adequate amounts of the nine essential amino acids.
The options for combining incomplete proteins to form complete sources of dietary protein are endless for nursing home menus. Oatmeal with low-fat milk, macaroni and cheese, whole grain cereal with yogurt, brown rice and black bean casserole and whole wheat peanut butter sandwiches are just a few of the easiest protein-packed meals for older adults.
Do you need more ideas for incorporating a range of nutrient-dense dietary proteins in the menus for your nursing home or residential care facility? The Grove Menus food menu program – featuring hundreds of delicious, dietitian-approved recipes – makes it easy to plan protein-packed nursing home menus that are both flavorful and cost-effective.
Our suite of user-friendly food menu program tools allows you to meet the protein needs of your residents without forgoing flavor or exceeding your food service budget. Contact us today to schedule a co, no-pressure demonstration of our dietitian-approved menus for nursing homes.