Patients, seniors and children: three initiatives to encourage good eating habits

Some groups need special attention when it comes to their relationship with food. Elior is committed to a policy of constant innovation to stimulate the appetite of the most vulnerable in society, and improve the nutritional balance of the youngest.

Patients: happy sensations

Meals are key points in the day for hospital patients. Since 2017, the Institut Gustave Roussy (Europe's leading cancer center), Elior and Michelin 2-star Chef Alexandre Bourdas have been working together on developing meals that meet the needs of cancer patients, stimulate their appetite and heighten their sense of taste. 

Three times a week, the Elior kitchen teams prepare seasonal recipes designed and developed by Alexandre Bourdas. Developing enjoyable meals for these patients requires a thorough understanding the side effects of cancer therapies. These therapies can cause a loss of appetite, digestive problems, nausea, disturbed senses of taste and smell, mouth problems and difficulties with chewing. All of these constraints and more must be addressed in order to offer patients an appropriate diet built around traditional, homemade cuisine that uses organic and quality-labeled ingredients. 

I’ve used childhood memories and associations with travel as the basis for putting together flavor combinations that encourage positive memories that can help patients escape temporarily from the confines of the hospital. It’s not about discovering new flavors, but rather reconnecting people with flavors they associate with happy times,” explains chef Alexandre Bourdas. This goal aligns perfectly with the new direction in which the chef has taken his SaQuaNa restaurant in Honfleur, leaving the fine dining model behind in the fall of 2020 to introduce a more affordable, informal and sociable experience for diners.

Seniors: an intuitive idea

90% of people aged over 80 suffer from appetite-related disorders. But what if aromatic stimulation could give them back their appetites? That was the question that Serunion and a team of Spanish professionals set out to answer in their two-year Better Taste in Older Age study. “We recruited volunteers in residential care homes in Barcelona, Madrid and Cantabria. Almost every-one noticed that the presence of aromas improved their appetite,” explains Mireya Sanchez Martinez, Product Manager Social at Serunion.

The study analyzes the improvement in the food taste experience as a result of dual aromatic stimulation: a food flavoring that is neither salt nor a taste enhancer (e.g. sodium glutamate) in conjunction with an ambient aroma. In this case, the aroma of toasted bread was diffused every three minutes. “Food flavor has shown itself to be effective regardless of the appearance of the food served. We’ve seen improved perception of physical and emotional wellbeing among seniors as a result of improving their eating experience. Elderly people gradually lose the olfactory function largely responsible for the perception of taste. And actually, smell makes a much larger contribution to the way we perceive the taste of our food, than the actual taste alone. Smell acts as a kind of psychological preparation for eating: it stimulates appetite, at the same time as improving mood and self-perception.” 

On the basis of these positive results, our Spanish subsidiary plans to offer this dual aromatic stimulation option to those residential care homes that would like to try it in 2021.

Children: eat them all up!

Elior UK has been working with the Food Foundation on its Eat Them to Defeat Them campaign since 2019. Screened on the commercial channel ITV, the campaign enjoyed a second successful year in 2020 across all 350 participating elementary schools. Jade Glower, Promotions Manager - Education and Health, Care & Retirement Living at Elior UK, looks back on this original and highly motivational campaign.

Children are usually told to eat vegetables because they’re good for them. But our campaign slogan turns that on its head: you have to eat vegetables because they’re bad! The campaign highlights a seasonal vegetable every week, and we adapt our menus to include it during that week. The basic principle is to encourage children to taste a vegetable in many different forms by giving them small test pots of foods they might not have tasted before, such as carrot and coriander soup, for example. Even though the campaign had to be shortened by two weeks as a result of lockdown, our teams were even more closely involved than in the previous year, because they were in direct contact with the children. Talking face to face with them helped us to understand whether they preferred a particular vegetable cooked, raw or mashed up. The campaign also encourages our teams to be very creative, because they’re the ones responsible for setting up the testing sessions. So during the year, we ran a competition that asked schools to showcase vegetables as effectively as possible in their cafeterias. The result was an incredible level of friendly competition! Some made robot vegetables, we saw vegetables modeled into super heroes and vegetables in sports team colors. 

Some children even took the campaign home with them. Parents have written to us to tell us that their children now choose broccoli over spaghetti, which highlights just how effective this campaign is!”

Listen to Jade Glower's testimony


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