By Susan Saldibar

Could food be the medicine that gets us through this pandemic?

I recently spoke with Traci Miller, Senior Director of Nutrition and Wellness, and Adam Grafton, VP of Culinary for Morrison Living (a Senior Living Foresight partner).

We talked about this amazing opportunity communities have right now to use the food they prepare for residents to support their immunity levels and keep them healthy as we fight our way through this pandemic.

The Power of Food

If ever there was a time to develop “geekish” knowledge of the medicinal qualities of food, this is it. And, since that is a big part of what Morrison Living does, they are well-positioned to guide communities towards understanding the potential power of every ounce of food and beverage you serve to your residents and staff, as well as how to reach out to your broader community and share what you know.

As Traci explains, the Morrison nutrition and wellness experts play an active role in promoting health and wellbeing for residents. By working closely with their culinary teams, they can help guide residents towards a healthier diet.

Morrison Living has developed several initiatives to calibrate ingredients and recipes to keep residents and staff operating at peak performance levels and increase their ability to help fight off, not only physical illness, but cognitive decline as well.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Support Immunity & Promote Physical and Cognitive Health

Morrison Living uses the MIND diet as a base for many of its culinary programs. MIND, as you may know, combines the best of the Mediterranean diet with the DASH diet. MIND not only focuses on brain health but also heart and digestive health. It also emphasizes foods that are rich in fiber, Vitamin E, monounsaturated fat, and antioxidants, which may help keep residents healthier, especially in the era of COVID. (Read more about it here.)

They also encourage the use of healthy replacement foods. “We’ve been really innovative,” Adam says. “Each month we introduce a new culinary trend, centered around a healthy food. A lot of us are even doing this at home. For instance, my wife and daughter love potato gnocchi. But we now make it with sweet potatoes. My grandfather used to make a great oxtail soup. I now make it with healthier ingredients.”

Traci is also a big proponent of healthy replacements. “Cauliflower is my new love. It’s high in fiber, low in carbs,” Traci says.  And there is a lot of other good stuff in it. But it’s very neutral, so you can do anything with it. Plus, it has high water content. All you need to do is to add in some protein and flavor.” Many Morrison Living communities have replaced wraps and pizza crusts with cauliflower-based recipes. And the residents love it.  For Traci and Adam it’s about, not only the food value, but how the food looks and tastes. Food presentation is key to encouraging residents to eat it. “Remember that residents eat with their eyes,” Traci says. “So take extra care with packaging. Even if it’s disposable, it must look good.”

Morrison Living’s PUREé program, Adam points out, is designed to make even pureed food look and taste great. “Equal emphasis is a guiding principle in our PUREé program,” he explains. “Our textured menu items receive the same attention to details relating to plating, quality, flavor, and choices as offered to residents dining in other venues.” 

Virtual Teaching Kitchens

How do you engage your residents, staff, families, and the broader community with foods that fight inflammation and get them excited about new recipes? How do you make it easy to start cooking with anti-inflammatory foods?

Morrison Living has several programs designed to do this. One that has become really popular is their series of Virtual Teaching Kitchen videos with celebrity chef, Bal Arneson. Each recipe features a key ingredient packed with nutritional and health benefits. And they focus on ‘eating smart’; one of the six pillars of cognitive health. 

Among the great immune-boosting ingredients Morrison Living recommends are: citrus, Greek yogurt, turmeric, and ginger. 

The video below is part of Morrison Living’s Virtual Teaching Kitchen with Chef Bal Arneson. In this video, she shares a recipe for ginger lemon tea. Ginger is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, and helps boost immunity, something really important these days. You can follow along with the entire series at Morrison Living’s YouTube channel.

“Communities are using our videos with Bal Arneson to engage the greater community,” Adam says. “You can do Q&A sessions and share what’s going on in your community. And it gives you a good segue into other areas, such as talking about safety; how you have protocols in place and put the spotlight on infection control.” 

Traci mentioned Morrison’s “Move Your Mind” interactive, cognitive health series. “It’s easy to follow,” she says. “You can use it for virtual ‘lunch and learns’ and push it out to the greater community. 90% of our residents in the Move Your Mind pilot reported adding one positive lifestyle change that could improve cognitive health.”

There is a lot more to all of this, much of it available to everyone to share. You can find out more about these and other programs, as well as how to partner with Morrison Living here.