How to Tailor Senior Meal Program Menus to Your Residents’ Preferences and Ethnic Backgrounds


Honoring the ethnic and cultural diversity in your nursing home or assisted living community can be as simple as diversifying your meal program

Offering a diversified menu that includes traditional ethnic dishes (representing your community’s population) not only provides variety in meals but can create fond memories and unity through the exploration of other cultures.

The first step is to explore your residents’ food preferences

In order to make that happen for your senior nutrition program, you need to make it easy for residents to discuss what they want to eat and share ideas for making dishes from their cultures and traditions. To adjust your assisted living menus to make this happen, you need documents that lay the groundwork for just such a discussion. One of the documents that we created is called “It’s Your Choice: Resident Council Survey for Menu Preferences.” This document provides residents with the opportunity to have their voices heard when it comes to what, when and where they want to eat as a group. People can discuss what they want for breakfast, lunch and dinner, menu preferences based on religious observations, what foods they want and don’t want, and recommendations of mealtime favorite that other folks might want to try.  “What are your Favorite Meals?” is the area of the survey that encourages people to list meals that may have an ethnic origin such a Ropa Vieja or Brisket with Potato Latkes. The great thing about this process is that your residents can celebrate culture in a fun and interesting way.

Another helpful document that we use when trying to diversify assisted living menus is simply called Dining Preferences. This records a person’s individual dining choices including religious, cultural and ethnic foods that they prefer. Using this form in combination with the resident council survey may yield a number of ethnic and cultural menu choices that can be served to bond a community using food as the glue. Such meals are the great uniter and should be added to your toolkit to help forge a tight knit community composed of people of all faiths, ethnicity, and cultures.

To get you started on your path to a more inclusive, varied menu, we would like to offer you a free copy of our Dining Preferences form. Remember, it is our differences along with our similarities that make a community unique.

About Gail Douglas

Gail joined BSN Solutions as a Regional Director in March of 2013. Her role is to promote the adoption of the new dining standards and person-centered dining throughout the communities serviced by BSN Solutions. She also recruits, coordinates placement of, and supports the dietitian consultants who work with BSN Solutions in its client communities. Gail has a vast 30+ year background in long-term care, having worked within skilled nursing and rehab centers in clinical and management capacities. She holds a Master’s degree in Healthcare Administration as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Nutrition.
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