Research Institute for Aging
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Bringing culture to the table

Feb 26, 2024 | Food & Nutrition

The food we eat is often tied to our culture or where we come from. If our meals don’t match the smells and tastes we know and love, we might not eat or drink enough. This can affect quality of life and overall health. As the population of older adults grows and becomes more diverse, it’s important for long-term care homes to offer a variety of foods that everyone can enjoy.

That’s why Safura Syed, registered dietitian and University of Waterloo PhD student, is leading a study focused on culturally inclusive food in long-term care homes.

“Not serving food that aligns with an older adults’ cultural background can make them feel left out,” explains Syed, a member of Heather Keller’s Nutrition and Aging Lab. “Food is important because it’s part of who we are and where we come from.”

In her study, Syed is researching the challenges and supports food service managers and dietitians face in creating diverse menus.

Syed is also talking to residents and their families about how being served food from their culture affects their sense of belonging and makes them feel more at home. She’s using what she learns to help figure out the best way for LTC homes to include foods from all cultures in their meals.

Syed has found that personalized menus, acknowledging various holidays and religious days, and giving residents a chance to share their input, all help meet residents’ cultural preferences.

“Eating food that tastes like home can make people eat better and stay healthier,” says Syed. “By making sure everyone has food they enjoy and are familiar with, we can help everyone feel better and respected.”


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