Healthy cooking

LCB Chefs on Cooking Smart

September 22, 2016

We’ve talked a lot on these pages about the importance of seniors eating healthy for body and brain; this week, we thought we’d take a look inside some LCB communities to see how our own Culinary Services directors are putting this into practice. Joseph Vitanza at The Residence at Brookside in Avon, CT, and Jeff Muthersbaugh of The Lighthouse at Lincoln in Lincoln, RI sat down with us to talk menu design, bringing farm-to-table to LCB, and how they get sometimes creative with working healthy alternatives into their recipes:

Generally speaking, how do you approach incorporating brain-healthy foods into your overall menu design?

Joseph Vitanza:  As you may already know, many of LCB’s communities offer restaurant-style dining with seasonal menus for residents and guests to browse through. They typically feature two entrée specials that might include simple, healthy grilled chicken, salmon, shrimp or lean steak as choices. We’ll often pair these with side dishes that emphasize whole grains like quinoa and brown rice, along with leafy green salads and seasonal vegetables.

Jeff Muthersbaugh: At Lighthouse of Lincoln, we’re strictly Memory Care, and work closely with families and residents to tailor menu offerings to personal preferences as much as possible while still keeping them heart- and brain-healthy. So we’ll serve a popular comfort food like meatloaf, for example, but use ground turkey meat as a leaner alternative to beef. Or we’ll offer a favorite side dish like mashed potatoes, but use sweet potatoes instead of white to pump up the nutrients.

Do you write your own recipes? How do you balance both the health and flavor quotient?

Joseph Vitanza:  We enjoy drawing on our own experience in the food and hospitality industry to create menus ourselves; we’re constantly soliciting feedback from our community that helps us offer the healthy whole grains and nutrients we want to serve while giving them the flavors they love.

Jeff Muthersbaugh: At the Lighthouse we have partnered with a nutritionist to create menus tailored to the specific needs of our Memory Care residents. So typically I’ll write up some recipe ideas, send them to her, and she’ll come back with suggestions – like using skinless chicken, for example, or adding greens to a soup. It’s up to me to achieve those nutritional goals in a flavorful way – that’s where my culinary degree and her nutritionist credentials mesh really well.

Joseph Vitanza: We also design our dishes using cooking methods that maximize nutritional value – like being vigilant about not overcooking vegetables, for example, or pan-searing and baking proteins to avoid unnecessary fat.

Jeff Muthersbaugh: And we’re fortunate to have excellent local food purveyors like Sid Wainer and Son who make it easy to design farm-to-fork menus that keep our meals fresh and local wherever possible.

What’s a highlight of your day?

Joseph Vitanza: Knowing that we’re doing everything we can to keep our communities healthy and strong!

Jeff Muthersbaugh: Stepping out from behind the line to serve the residents – I love getting that instant gratification and feedback.