Wardipedia – 29. Food presentation

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The icing on the cake



“Patients being treated in hospital deserve tasty, attractive and nutritious food served at a time that suits them.” – Loyd Grossman

Not limited to five-star gourmet houses, distinguished a la carte menus or Michelin masters expertly skilled in the art of mise en place, well presented food can swiftly transform patients’ eating experiences. We’re instantly impacted by the appearance of our food before we even take the first bite, so how food looks really can influence our enjoyment of it. The presentation and taste of food are interlinked and this is important because it actually “flavours” our expectation of the taste, and can stimulate or suppress our appetite. We turn our noses up at lasagne that looks like a pile of mush or porridge that looks as if it could be used as wallpaper paste, and for all we know it could be the best we’ve ever tasted. The fact is we eat with our eyes. We get heaps more pleasure and satisfaction out of eating food that’s well presented and arranged on our plate. The more presentable it is, the more appetising it is. Spaghetti Arrabiata with just the right amount of cheese sprinkled on top, a dusting of coco powder accenting a luscious slice of chocolate cake, or a fresh slice of lemon perfectly placed on top of crisp battered cod…need we say more?

 So, how food is presented makes a big difference to patients’ experience of meals, and is very important in relation to eating, nutrition and health as well as making patients feel valued and looked after. Given how much care, time and hospital spending goes into providing food and drink for patients, putting a few finishing touches to meals and snacks is truly the icing on the cake. Here’s an ideas’ buffet to help you add pizazz in your pizzas and verve to your veg!

Ward examples

Puréed foods

  • Each dish is shaped to look like the original ingredients.  For example, puréed chicken can be thickened and shaped so that it looks like a chicken breast rather than brown mush. Purée moulds are available from here.
  • Herbs from the ward herb garden used to decorate the mash potato.

Enhancing the attractiveness

  •  A simple sprig of basil or parsley works wonders.
  •  Funky stencils are used along with cocoa powder or icing sugar or even paprika.
  •  Patients finish off their dish with a little garnish/flourish made in the cooking group.
  •  Classes on food art and garnishes delivered by the OT.
  •  Patients design their own pizzas, including recreating a tomato, cheese and dough version of their pet (or consultant?)

More examples

  • Each ward was entered into a Christmas cake competition.
  • Taste the difference? We eat with our eyes via the food’s colour, texture, shape, design, and presentation.
  • Baking cakes was one of the better things experienced.
  • Producing food means making food look good, as well as tasting good.
  • It means the placement, the color, texture, and temperatures have to be correct and functional.
  • Stencils – a fun and easy way to decorate food and make it look more attractive!
  • Edible rice paper – perfect for the next ward party
  • Edible printer ink!!! Why not print an image of the patient’s fave football team, pop star or consultant (maybe not) onto rice paper sheets!
  • Edible ink pens – patients can doodle on their homemade cakes, sausages….
  • Edible Wafer Flowers – lovely for making cakes (or fruit!) look instantly smart and delightful. Most large supermarkets have a great range of instant cake garnishes and flourishes.


Categories: Activities, Wardipedia