Cutlery-Free Dining – Inclusive Dining for Everyone
“By thinking differently, we can adapt most meals. We are only limited by our imagination.”
Simon Lawrence, Head of Culinary and Hospitality, Avery Healthcare.
Everyone should be able to enjoy nutritious and appetising meals, regardless of ability or disability. Avery’s cutlery-free dining approach focuses on supporting those who find cutlery a barrier to enjoying meals in a dignified way.
Our pioneering approach to food in care homes accommodates those with different needs, including swallowing difficulties, those with specific dietary requirements, or individuals who have difficulty using cutlery due to conditions or illnesses.
Foods can be adapted in many ways, whether that’s how something is cooked, cut, or presented – the possibilities are endless.
Adapting Meals for a Cutlery-Free Approach
When we say ‘cutlery-free’, we don’t mean traditional finger foods such as sandwiches, sausage rolls or other buffet-style items.
Although these kinds of foods are acceptable from time to time, reliance on them for main dietary intake increases the risk of undernourishment – due to the typically lower nutritional content.
As well as this style of food being less nutritionally beneficial, there’s also the obvious difference in the foods being served to those who can eat independently using a knife, fork, or spoon.
Adapting ordinary meals removes some of the stigma and differentiation involved, and allows individuals to enjoy nutritionally balanced, appetising, and varied meals, regardless of whether cutlery is used.
Who Could Benefit From the Cutlery-Free Dining Approach?
There are many people who could benefit from the cutlery-free dining approach to meals.
Conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, arthritis or a stroke can all affect how cutlery can be used, particularly if motor skills are heavily impacted.
Cognitive illnesses such as dementia can cause an individual to have difficulty processing their environment or cause problems with sequencing and co-ordinating actions.
The difficulty these individuals face when it comes to using cutlery can make mealtimes problematic and cause unnecessary stress.
Nutritional Value of Cutlery-Free Dining
As well as reducing the risk of stigmatisation and improving independence through the cutlery-free approach, another huge benefit is that as the food is merely adapted, there is no reduction of nutritional value.
By simply adapting the way meals and snacks are prepared, cooked, and presented, quality ingredients can still be used.
Quiche could be cut into bite-sized chunks, miniature versions of popular desserts could be created, and sauces can be decanted into dipping pots.
Cutlery-Free Dining – A Chef’s Viewpoint
With the cutlery-free initiative in mind, chefs across our Avery care homes have received training and support to produce delicious and accessible meals for residents with a whole variety of needs, including those who find manipulating cutlery a barrier.
Simon Lawrence, head of culinary and hospitality at Avery Healthcare gives his opinion on cutlery-free dining:
“As chefs working in the care sector, it is of fundamental importance that we continue to develop and innovate through our culinary teams.”
Finger foods have often been a misunderstood concept. A chef new to the sector asked to prepare it may visualise buffet items, an inaccurate perception. We have worked hard to develop strong guidance and comprehensive training that ensures that all our chefs can adapt everyday menu choices into Cutlery-Free meals.
Creating delicious and nutritious meals for those who have difficulty using cutlery is a simple process, and most meals can be adapted.
Get a taste of what cutlery-free meals are like with this tasty recipe example:
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Product: McDougall’s Plain Flour, Bisto Vegetable Bouillon Paste, Marvel Milk Powder
- 450g peeled potatoes
- 10g Bisto Vegetable Bouillon Paste
- 100g Marvel Milk Powder
- 100g onions, diced 20g fresh chives 2 medium eggs
- 50g McDougall’s Plain Flour
- 50ml olive oil
- Cook the potatoes in a pan of water for 15–20 minutes until soft. Drain well, then mash.
- Mix the mashed potatoes with the Bisto Vegetable Bouillon, Marvel Milk Powder, onion, chives, and egg.
Season with plenty of black pepper.
- Fold in the McDougall’s Plain Flour.
- Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat.
- Using a dessert spoon, scoop up the potato mixture, roll, and flatten slightly. Carefully add to the hot oil,
and fry for 2–3 minutes on each side until golden, topping up the pan with more oil, if needed. Serve warm.
Hints and tips – Potato cakes are great as an addition to a light snack or to have on their own; try adding smoked bacon and tomato as an alternative for a breakfast item.
Avery treats residents with dignity and respect in every aspect of their lives, with mealtimes being no exception. Learn more about care services in our insightful blog and view our portfolio of care homes today.