Professional Comment

Foods to Ease Home Visits

By Jane Clarke BSc (Hons) SRD DSc, Dietitian and founder of

The new Government guidance that residents can leave care settings to visit their families at home is much welcomed, as we know how difficult these past months of separation have been for so many and the impact it has had on health and wellbeing. But we mustn’t forget that this sudden immersion into a new environment may be unsettling for anyone used to the familiar routine and steady rhythm of their care home. Relatives, too, may worry about what food and drink to give their loved one, particularly if they have an eating challenge they know is well catered for in their care setting.

The following tips will help take the pressure off a home visit. Do share them with relatives to help give them more confidence, so they can focus on the pleasure of having their loved one with them again.

Pack a lunch Provide a small lunch with familiar foods you know a resident is happy to eat. The ideal is that they will be able to share a meal or snack with their loved ones, but this is a useful standby if they’d prefer their usual foods and means they won’t go hungry and run out of energy on their day out.

Discuss the menu in advance It can be disappointing for everyone if a much-anticipated meal goes uneaten. Chat with relatives and highlight any eating challenges their loved one may have, then you can discuss ways a meal might be adapted to make it easier to swallow, for example.

Remember to pack any adapted cutlery or tableware they prefer to eat with.

Go for a picnic Sitting down to a big meal at the dinner table and being served a plateful of food can feel overwhelming for someone used to eat- ing in the dining room in their care setting, or even on a tray in their room. A picnic or buffet can be less pressure, allowing them to pick and choose their preferred options in smaller portions. You may find they actually eat more this way, as they graze the tempting tastes on offer. Just be sure that the foods are those everyone can enjoy – cut crusts off finger sandwiches if chewing is difficult; watch out for ingredients that may cause choking, such as nuts; and include protein-rich foods such as hummus and mackerel pate, plus chopped salads and fresh fruit, for a balanced plate of nourishment.

Stroll down memory lane With loved ones who have a poor appetite, or whose eating may be affected by a condition such as dementia, rekindling memories of favourite dishes or special family occasions can help to tempt the appetite. Bring out photographs and recipe books (especially handwritten recipes handed down through generations), talk about foods you remember them loving and incorporate familiar tastes and ingredients in the dishes served.

Don’t forget drinks Staying hydrated is very important, as lack of fluids will result in loss of energy, poor digestion and potentially cause constipation and even confusion once the visit is over. Ask relatives or friends to offer beverages and ensure they have any straw or special cup the individual may need to help them drink. Having one or two meal supplement drinks on hand, such as my all-natural Nourish Drinks, is a great way to guarantee both nourishment and hydration on a day out.


Hummus is a real favourite for a picnic tea. While the traditional chickpea- based hummus is delicious, broad beans feel lighter on the gut and the pistachios provide a great source of protein.



1kg (21⁄4 lb) frozen broad beans 2 tbsp shelled pistachio nuts
leaves from 2 fresh basil sprigs
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra if necessary
juice of half a lemon
ground black pepper

1. Steam the broad beans for 2 minutes until they’re cooked but not mushy.
2.Rinse and cool thoroughly under cold water and remove the skins by
squeezing the bean at one end – the bright green centre should just pop out.
3.Toast the pistachio nuts in a dry pan for 2 minutes over a gentle heat, being careful not to let them burn.
4.Put them into a food processor or blender and blend to a fine nut powder.
5.Add the beans and the basil, oil and lemon juice, and whiz to a mash.
6.You can add a little extra oil or lemon juice, if you like, depending on how smooth and tart you want the hummus to be.
7.Season with pepper.


Serve as a sandwich filling, or on jacket potatoes or pasta. Or make a delicious salad with romaine lettuce leaves, new crisp baby carrots and sliced raw vegetables, which you can dunk into the hummus.


Trout is very rich in omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which benefit heart and circulatory health. This pate is fabulous slathered on toast or used as a dip with crudités.


400g smoked trout fillet
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
pinch of freshly ground black pepper 100g ricotta cheese or cream cheese 100ml crème fraîche
juice of 1 lemon
large handful of dill

1. Remove the skin from the trout fillets and check that there are no remaining bones.
2.Place in a food processor with the mustard, black pepper, ricotta, crème fraîche and lemon juice and process until smooth. If you don’t have a food processor, you can mash with a fork, but the consistency won’t be as smooth.
3.Adjust the seasoning to taste and serve.