Dieticians at Sheba Medical Center in Israel have sweetened the offerings for some of their older patients who require food supplements.

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, when no visitors were allowed in the hospital, Sheba dieticians observed that their geriatric patients were extremely depressed, in poor nutritional condition and barely eating.

“Our only option was to give them nutritional liquid supplements,” said Meital Benjamin, a registered dietitian at Sheba Medical Center. “In one small bottle, they get a full meal’s worth of nutrition—330 calories and 20 grams of protein.”

Because getting geriatric patients to take their supplements is often challenging, a creative solution was needed to administer them in the most accessible way possible.

“The mental state of our patients at Sheba is of the utmost importance,” said Dana Weiner, RD, director of the division of nutrition at Sheba who initiated the project together with Sheba’s Dr. Gilat Shenhav-Zaltzman. “Patients must be able to help themselves mentally to feel better. Beyond all the other medical treatments our patients receive, if they do not have the physical energy needed, which the nutritional food supplements provide, they will not be able to get better.”

A brand-new ice-cream-making machine was donated specifically for this purpose. The liquid supplements are poured into the machine and 45 minutes later, a nutritional supplement-based ice-cream is ready for consumption. It provides a healthy comfort-food option for geriatric patients, and according to the staff and patients, it tastes good, too.

Served between breakfast and lunch in special cups just like at an ice-cream parlor, the supplement formulas come in four flavors: vanilla, chocolate, cocoa and banana.

According to Benjamin, when taken in their standard liquid form, the formulas have an aftertaste due to the vitamins added. However, when served in frozen ice-cream form, the formula tastes like real ice-cream.

“The response has been amazing,” noted Benjamin, who runs the process together with fellow dietician Ayelet Gur-Arie. “It’s much better than having to tell patients to ‘drink this.’ And it’s tasty. In fact, it’s so good, all the patients have been asking for second helpings.”

Rachel Sasson, 78, who has been in treatment at Sheba for months, said “the last thing I expected to receive while being at the hospital was ice-cream. It’s a real treat. It tastes wonderful and warms my heart.”

Rachel Sasson, a 78-year-old patient at Sheba Medical Center in Israel. Credit: Courtesy.

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