Dish!Blog logo

Too Spicy? How to Manage Spice in Senior Living Foodservice

Amanda Marsh
Amanda Marsh | March 15, 2024

We want to live long and enjoy tasty food all the while! As spicy food becomes more prevalent in even our younger generations, we may find that even our older generations want that spice, too! And maybe even more so, since as we age, our tastebuds shrink and our sense of smell starts to diminish. Therefore, seniors may need spice to help them find the enjoyment from foods they loved in their younger days.

So, if you're hearing residents complain of bland food and reach for more salt or sugar, know that you can help! You don't want them adding too much sugar or salt, as it may complicate current health problems or increase the risk of negative health conditions. And you don't want them just dealing with the "bland food" they're tasting, as it may find them with unintentional weight loss as they eat less overall.

Instead - bring on the spice! The use of herbs and spices is the perfect way to turn up the flavor!

The world's most widely used spice? It’s pepper! Peppers can pack a powerful and spicy punch. The kick comes from the pepper’s seeds, which naturally contain a chemical called capsaicin. With over 4,000 different varieties of peppers, each variation of pepper contains different levels of capsaicin, which is why some peppers are spicier than others. When you eat a pepper, the capsaicin tricks your brain into thinking that your body is hot, causing you to sweat and your tongue to feel like it is on fire. Wow!

Why would seniors willingly want to eat any food that will cause their tongues to burn, their eyes to water and their bodies to think they are overheating, though?

While Baby Boomers may say that they want to jump on America’s spicy food trend, the food they eat tends to be more restrained. But eating spicy foods may actually be beneficial to the senior population, and as the Gen Xers come into senior living, they may be more inclined to eat those spicy foods.

Studies show that adding a little heat to food helps seniors eat more high-quality protein sources and enjoy them! Kicking up the heat also enhances the natural saltiness of food, meaning seniors are not reaching as often for that saltshaker at the table. And adding a bit of spice to foods served in the dining room may also improve hydration status since one of the natural responses of feeling overheated is a cold drink. In fact, a glass of cold milk will not only help alleviate any spicy sensations, but it is also a great source of protein and essential vitamins and minerals, too.

There are so many possibilities to bring the spicy food trend to your senior living community. You could provide samples of a new sauce, iconic dish or favorite recipe with a bit of heat in your dining room alongside of your classic food options. Offer spicy BBQ sauce or mustard next to the classic options for your diners to put on their favorite sandwiches or to use as a dipping option. Or try adding the heat in a traditional way, like morning eggs with different varieties of hot sauce, or providing ethnic dishes naturally featuring the spicy profile, such as tacos.

Just remember, you can always start small. Provide opportunities to add different levels of spice. Soon, you will notice your seniors having more excitement at their meals and their plates coming back empty!

Looking for some more "spicy" resources? Check out McCormick's foodservice website for some great information!


Questions or comments about this article? Feel free to contact us!


SideDish! for Martin Bros. Customers

SideDish! is delivered to your inbox every month and gives you access to tips and trends to make your business more efficient and profitable throughout the entire year. You'll learn from the experts specific to your industry including, healthcare, medical supplies, restaurant supply, janitorial supply, large kitchen equipment, restaurant marketing and more!

Become a Customer