The first menu planning and food service guideline for care homes for older adults launches

26 Jun 2024

Today, the Food Services Specialist Group and Older People Specialist Group of the British Dietetic Association (BDA) launch the Care Home Digest, in collaboration with the National Association of Care Catering (NACC).

The Care Home Digest is the first of its kind, providing menu planning and food service guidelines to support care homes, to provide high quality food and drink services for residents. No such resource currently exists in England and this document should complement existing dietetic guidelines available in the other nations of the UK.

The overall food and dining experience can have a huge impact on quality of life for residents and is often one of the highlights of the daily routine. Undernutrition, dehydration and other nutrition related health concerns, which often impact those living in care or residential homes, mean that providing appropriate and appetising meals that meet nutritional requirements can be more challenging.

With many care homes unable to access a food service dietitian service, the Care Home Digest allows homes to access the information to support them to plan nutritionally balanced and appropriate menus to meet both the nutritional needs and preferences of their residents.

By having a clear set of standards and guidance that provides consistency and clarity in the approach for eating and drinking in care homes, managers, nurses, care and support staff and caterers will better understand what they should be providing as part of their overall food service.

Helen Ream, Healthcare and Food Service Dietitian at Compass Group UK & Ireland and Vice-Chair of the BDA’s Food Services Specialist Group says, “It has been a privilege to chair the working group of dietitians and NACC colleagues to develop these guidelines. I hope they will be the ‘go to’ resource for care home teams to support them to understand what their food services and menus should include to support residents to have a great mealtime experience whilst also meeting their nutritional needs.”

Mealtimes play an essential role in the wellbeing of some residents. They allow residents to connect with each other, as well as with carers and family members and give moments of happiness or reflection when there are cultural or religious celebrations.

Chapters in the Digest include delivering a positive mealtime experience, menu planning and design and catering for special diets.

Helen, who is also a member of the NACC, says, “The Care Home Digest builds on the work of the BDA’s Nutrition and Hydration Digest, a resource for all those involved in the provision of food and drink services in hospitals and which forms part of the National Standards for Healthcare Food and Drink. Until now, no similar national food service standards have existed to support care homes for older adults to meet the nutritional needs of their residents. We hope these guidelines will be widely used and become a nationally trusted resource in the same way.”

The information and checklists within the guidelines are intended to support care homes to review their services to understand what they are already doing well and where improvements could be considered and made.

Neel Radia, National Chair of the NACC says, “The National Association of Care Catering is proud to have been working in collaboration with the BDA for this unique Care Home Digest.

“This document is a welcome and necessary publication to enable consistency across the care home sector. A multidisciplinary team bringing hospitality and nutrition together is the best solution for an all-encompassing approach to meeting residents nutritional needs. This is a must-have document for all catering teams in care homes, from induction through to ongoing reference and review. No care home for the elderly should operate without this.

“Thank you to Helen Ream and the entire team who have worked so hard in putting this together and I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone in the care sector.” 

It is hoped this document will also support the Care Quality Commission and other nations’ inspectorates to know what they should be assessing and checking for during their visits to care homes and further influence the development of improved standards in such a vital aspect of care.


For more information, photos from the launch event or to speak with someone involved, please contact Kate Godber [email protected] 

British Dietetic Association

  • The British Dietetic Association (BDA), founded in 1936, is the professional association and trade union for dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with over 11,400 members.
  • Dietitians are highly qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems at an individual and wider public health level. They are statutorily regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), alongside other Allied Health Professions.
  • Dietitians use the most up to date public health and scientific research on food, health and disease, which they translate into practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices. They work in the NHS, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media and government. Their advice influences food and health policy across the spectrum from government and global industry to local communities and individuals. / @BDA_Dietitians



The National Association of Care Catering (NACC) unites, supports and represents everyone working in and associated with catering in the UK care sector. It is recognised as a respected source of information and opinion for the dynamic and growing area of care catering.

For more than 30 years, it has been committed to raising standards of care catering and championing the positive impact nutrition, hydration and mealtimes have on the physical and emotional health and wellbeing of older and vulnerable people in care settings.

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