Would it surprise you to learn that between preparation and cooking, nutrient thieves can rob foods of over half their nutrients? Pretty surprising, isn’t it? The culprits of this thievery are water, air, light, heat and pH levels. So, what can you do to keep these nutrient robbers at bay? When preparing food, take the following steps to preserve nutrients as much as possible.
Culprit 1: Water
When food is soaked in water, water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C, thiamine, and folate can leach into water. To combat this:
- Use as small amount of water as possible
- Use leftover cooking liquid in soup or in another product
- Steam in small batches for best quality
Culprit 2: Air
Some vitamins such as antioxidants are affected by exposure to air.
- Serve fruits and vegetables raw when possible
- Prepare food as close to serving time as possible
- Cut and cook in pieces that are as large as possible
- Store food with airtight covers
Culprit 3: Light
Nutrients such as riboflavin and vitamin A in milk can be lost by exposure to light.
- Use a light-obstructing container, such as opaque plastic or cardboard
- Store away from light
Culprit 4: Heat
Heating food causes nutrient loss, especially vitamin C, thiamine and folate.
- Avoid prolonged overcooking. Cook until “just tender” or steam lightly
- Avoid holding cooked foods at prolonged temperatures. Cook in small batches. Over holding is a huge problem. Some senior care centers keep the soup plugged in from before lunch until after dinner…… not cooking, just holding.
Culprit 5: pH Balance
Too much acid (lemon juice) or base (soda) can break down nutrients sensitive to pH levels.
- Put lemon juice on food just before serving to flavor the dish.
These are many of the considerations that help the food you serve to your diners retain its nutritional value. To help you boost the nutritional intake of your residents, we want to offer you a FREE guide to steps of providing enriched food selections for your residents.