Fresh-picked ingredients. Locally sourced plates. Diverse meal choices. These trends are building excitement across the senior living industry as more and more dining programs focus on boosting excellence, variety, and service.

Of course, such improvements translate to more flavorful and nutritious dishes, plus an overall dining experience that rivals that of top restaurants.

Make these three shifts to enhance the dining experience:

Let your chefs shine.

Cooking is an art. By investing in fresh, premium foods, senior living communities give their culinary teams the necessary ingredients to deliver their passion for the craft.

Team members can put their culinary school-talents and techniques to work. Braising, sautéing and poaching can deliver mouthwatering meals instead of going through the motions of thawing, reheating and steaming. With choice ingredients, including locally sourced seasonal fare, team members can collaborate on dishes, learn from each other and let their creative juices flow.

For instance, for a side salad, forget basic garden greens with sliced tomatoes. Instead, opt for beautiful local, farm-ripe heirloom tomatoes in a fresh Caprese-style salad that packs a punch of flavor. It’s a simple recipe where fresh, seasonal ingredients make all the difference in adding variety and enhancing taste.

Remember, variety the spice of life

Let’s face it: eating the same thing day after day is no fun. Neither is cooking it. Freshness means that foods are easier and more rewarding to work with. As an added bonus, they give culinary teams the freedom to try new recipes and offer more diverse menu options, including multicultural dishes.

Fresh foods, especially proteins like poultry, fish, and beef, are far more versatile than their frozen, prepackaged counterparts, which often are then overcooked and doused with additive-laden sauces.

The ability to cook a wider range of dishes also matches the evolving tastes of today’s senior living residents. The generational change equals more residents who are well-traveled and highly educated. They’ve probably visited foreign countries or dined out regularly at upscale, ethnic or farm-to-table restaurants. Baby boomers demand an array of entrees and meal options, including international cuisines – a demand that fresh food products are better equipped to meet.

Attract foodies

The shift to freshness supports the ongoing migration of established executive chefs from restaurants and hotels to senior living communities. Top-notch culinary professionals are coming to the industry for various reasons, including better work-life balance and more predictable hours. The chance to continue creating meals using premium ingredients only strengthens the case for careers in senior dining.

The addition of highly skilled chefs has a dual impact. First, they mentor younger cooks, who learn from them, grow professionally, hone their skills and become personally invested in the profession. Second, they become ambassadors of the community and important parts of its marketing success. There is a strong trend of high-caliber executive chefs turning their dining programs into sought-after commodities in the senior living marketplace.

The bottom line is that every aspect of a senior living community is connected. Healthier, more flavorful food can make the difference in creating a positive atmosphere that touches every member of the community. A fulfilled and proficient culinary team creates better meals, leading to more satisfied residents. Happier residents praise the staff, instilling a sense of pride and motivation to continue performing at the top of their ability.

At the end of the day, enhancing a resident’s dining experience can improve the work atmosphere and raise the overall quality of life in a senior living community.