This article is written by Grace Gan, a Speech Therapist and Co-founder of Health Food Matters. Grace worked as a speech therapist who specialised in swallowing impairments. During her clinical practice, she encountered many who had dietary restrictions due to their illnesses and were unable to find suitable food options. This inspired her to search for solutions abroad and bring them back to Singapore. Through Health Food Matters, Grace hopes to help people with medical conditions rediscover the joy of eating by providing food products that cater to their special needs.
Did you know that 1 in 3 Singaporean elderly are malnourished? Many elderly have special nutritional needs which are often overlooked. This can be dangerous as malnutrition leads to other health problems such as pressure ulcers, muscle wasting and falls.
What Causes Malnutrition?
Many elderly have small appetites. Some may also have a short attention span due to dementia. This means that mealtimes need to be kept very short as well. Similarly, people with cancer might experience lethargy and nausea, often finding it difficult to eat a large volume of food in one sitting. With tiny appetites and shortened mealtimes, you run the risk of not consuming enough nutrition.
Swallowing difficulty also known dysphagia is another common problem that puts the elderly at risk of malnutrition. Individuals with swallowing difficulty dislike drinking water because it needs to be thickened, and they dislike soft and mushy food – an unfortunate necessity for safe swallowing. Over time, this rejection of food and water leads to malnutrition and dehydration. In fact, it is a well-researched fact that people with swallowing difficulty are at a much higher risk of malnutrition than regular adults.
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As a Speech Therapist, my job involved assessing a person’s risk of choking, and prescribing the safest texture of food and drinks. In severe cases, I would have to inform the patient that he could no longer eat or drink and would need to be fed through a tube. It was heartbreaking. Firstly, texture-modified meals were visually unappealing and with no options available off the shelf, Caregivers had to cook everything from scratch. The trouble was that Caregivers had little idea of what to prepare and as a result, my patients ended up eating the same foods everyday- porridge, minced meat, steamed egg/fish, and oatmeal. Over time, I noticed that many of my patients no longer found any joy in eating and were losing weight. They often said to me, “Grace, if this is all I can eat for the rest of my life, then this life is not worth living”.
That was when it hit me - I might have been able to prevent my patients from choking but in doing so, I was taking away one of their greatest joys in life, and along with it, their dignity and will to live. Upon realising this, I began searching for solutions from all around the world. During my search, I was very fortunate to have found a team of partners from the healthcare industry who shared the same dream - to help those with special dietary needs rediscover the joy of eating. The rest is history.
That is why the team at Health Food Matters set out with a goal to provide suitable food products for the aging population.
Health Food Matters provides food products for the elderly and people with medical conditions. For example, some individuals might have special nutritional needs such as high- or low-protein, high-calorie, and additional hydration. Our products fulfill these needs.
We also carry products that fulfil the texture requirements of people with swallowing difficulties. These individuals are unable to consume “regular” food and require texture-modification. For example, every item on the plate needs to be minced into tiny pieces or blended until smooth in order to prevent choking. Previously, there were no options available off the shelf other than baby food, which is nutritionally-insufficient for adults.
Health Food Matters Products Differ From Regular Food
Most of our products are soft and moist, requiring minimal to no chewing at all. They are suitable for the elderly who have no teeth or people with swallowing difficulty. By offering varied options for this group of people, we enhance the variety and quality of their meals. We also carry hydration jellies which serve as alternatives to thickened fluids.
- Nutritional value
Many of our products contain a high level of nutrients per serving. This is to help those with poor appetite obtain the nutrition they require in fewer bites. For example, to consume 130 calories, you would need to consume a large bowl of porridge. But with our delicious snacks and desserts, you can achieve this with just a few bites.
You can use our snacks, side dishes, and condiments to add variety and boost the nutritional value of home cooked meals.
We recently conducted a workshop for cancer patients and their Caregivers. Many of these patients had gone through months of gruelling cancer treatment and lost a lot of weight because they were unable to obtain enough nutrition through home-cooked meals. Additionally, a lot of them also suffered from swallowing difficulty due to radiation treatment of the neck muscles.
When they found out about our products that were suitable in terms of texture and were also high in nutritional value, they were thrilled! Many have made repeat orders and shared that their loved ones are gaining weight with each passing day. Most importantly, they now look forward to mealtimes instead of refusing to eat. We’re always very heartened to know that we’re making a difference every single day and we feel very honoured to be a part of our customers’ recovery journey.
Check out Health Food Matters website to purchase. There is no minimum order required and we offer a $7 flat rate delivery no matter how large your order size is.
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