Mealtime Partners, Inc.

Specializing in Assistive Dining and Drinking Equipment

October 2016 Independent Eating and Drinking Newsletter

Independent Eating...   is a Wonderful Thing

October Topics:

  • The Changing Seasons

  • The Science of Snack Food

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Please come and see Mealtime Partners eating and drinking products at booth 312 at the Closing The Gap 34th Annual Conference, which is being held at the Double Tree by Hilton Bloomington, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The conference will be held October 18th through 21st. The exhibit hall will be open from 5:00 – 7:30 p.m. on October 18th, 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on October 19th and 20th, and 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on October 21st. Catherine Wyatt, Research Director for Mealtime Partners, will also present “An Overview of Assistive Technology That Facilitates Independent Eating” on October 19, at 11:00 a.m. in Verandas 7&8 at the conference.

 The Changing Seasons

October typically brings all of the changes associated with autumn. The leaves change colors, the evenings get dark earlier and the night time temperatures become chilly. With the change of the season several things should be remembered, for ourselves, and for those we provide care for:

There are many changes with the onset of winter and preparing for them ahead of time makes dealing with cold temperatures easier and more enjoyable.


Assistive Dining at its Very Best
The Mealtime Partner Dining System provides the means to eat independently for those who are unable to feed themselves in the traditional way. Because of its flexible design it can be configured to meet the needs of almost any user and will allow a relaxed, enjoyable meal that is under the control of the person eating. They are free to take a bite of food when they want, and to pause between bites for as long as they choose. Thus they are empowered to eat exactly how they want without their meal being controlled by anyone else.

Because the Mealtime Partner has three different mounting systems, as well as it being placed directly on a table for use, it can be positioned to meet the need of a diverse range of users. The Support Arm allows the spoon to be positioned to deliver food very close to the user’s lips. A small forward movement of the head can access the food on the spoon. The Support Arm is suitable for individuals who have very limited head and/or trunk control because it can be fine tuned to the necessary position to provide access for them.

The Mounting Shafts provide comfortable positioning of the Mealtime Partner for those who sit close to a table but are unable to put their knees under the table because they are restricted by their wheelchair or for any other reason. The Shafts allow the device to pivot away from the table to allow easy access for users. Shafts come in five different heights.

Mealtime Partner on Support Arm

The Mealtime Partner Assistive Dining Device Mounted on the Support Arm

Mealtime Partner on Shaft

The Mealtime Partner Mounted on a 8-Inch Shaft

For those users who are able to sit at a table with their knees under it to eat, the Mealtime Partner can be mounted on legs. The legs position the device at the appropriate height for each user. Legs are supplied in three different heights.

For additional information, please call us at
800-996-8607, or email our staff for assistance by clicking here.
Mealtime Partner On Legs
The Mealtime Partner Mounted on 6-Inch Legs
The Mealtime Partner Assistive Dining Device is available directly from Mealtime Partners, Inc. or Select Dealers.


The Science of Snack Food

Almost everyone likes snack foods despite most of us knowing that they aren’t very good for us. We are especially likely to eat extra snacks during the holiday season and so this article is offered as “food for thought” before starting our holiday preparations. Most snack foods are high in fat, sugar or salt, or a combination of all three. What most of us don’t know is the amount of engineering that goes into the development of these treats. Food scientists from the “big food” industry (companies like Nestles, Kraft, Nabisco, General Mills, Coca Cola, etc.) work constantly to develop foods that will be irresistible to the consumer. The goal is to develop foods that when eaten are, as Goldilocks said in the Three Bears, “Just Right”. They have the perfect combination of ingredients that when they are put in the mouth, they are not too sweet or salty, and have enough fat in them to not be bland. When eaten, they have the optimum flavor for the majority of individuals. This is known in the food industry as the “bliss point”. It is the optimum balance! And, if more sugar, salt or fat were to be added, the enjoyment of eating it would decrease. For example, people reach a point of satiation or fullness quite rapidly when eating chocolate. This is described as “sensory-specific satiety”. Their taste buds, brain and stomach are aware of the chocolate that has been eaten because it is dense in both fat and sugar, and the ingredients are of high impact and you sense you have had enough. However, Cheetos Cheese Puffs ingredients are combined in such a way that they do not over stimulate the taste buds but provide ongoing pleasure with each bite; they dissolve quickly enough that the brain and stomach do not acknowledge that they have been eaten.

Once the bliss point is achieved, the engineering challenge is to make the food dissolve quickly enough in the mouth to trick the brain into thinking that no calories have been consumed. Thus people will go on eating bite after bite just like the potato chip advertisement that challenged the consumer “I bet you can’t eat just one.” This phenomenon is described as “vanishing caloric density”. Food stimulates the taste buds because it has lots of flavor but it does not satiate the appetite. Thus it is easy to over eat.

More information on this topic can be found in a New York Times article written by Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Michael Moss: The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food. The Times article is adapted from Michael Moss’s book: “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us,” which was on the New York Times Best Seller List in 2013.

However, the phenomena of the bliss point and vanishing caloric density can be of advantage when helping someone to become an independent eater. It should be noted that eating this type of food on a regular basis is not recommended, but it can be a very useful teaching tool as it is a highly motivating food and encourages participation when teaching self-feeding. Offering food that is high in flavor promotes a desire to eat the food. In many cases it is perceived as a treat. Thus the student is motivated to take a bite. Once the food is in the mouth, it does not require a substantial amount of chewing, but dissolves relatively quickly in the mouth and can be swallowed easily. Because the brain does not recognize that calories are being consumed, the student will eat more during the training session, motivated by the flavor that is engineered to promote extended eating. The most popular snack food in Mealtime Partners experience is Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Not only do they provide flavor that is desirable, but the hotness of the snacks allows them to be “felt” in the mouth by the taste buds as well as literally being felt by the tissue in the mouth. For some people who have poor oral sensation, this effect is extremely helpful in allowing them to know where food is in their mouth.

Snack foods that have high taste impact are a good motivator but should only be used in the early stages of teaching independent eating. Healthful food should be introduced as quickly as possible and the “junk” food discontinued once it has served its purpose.

It should be noted that the Mealtime Partner Dining System can serve snack foods like Cheetos and potato chips once they are broken into bite size pieces. And, it can also serve a wide variety of standard table foods, as well as pureed or minced food. Its versatility allows a wide range of user’s needs to be met and empowers them to be independent. For more information, or to play a video of the Mealtime Partner serving food, click here.

NOTE: Remember when offering someone “junk” food that it contains a wide variety of chemicals, and it is wise to check on food allergies prior to offering anything to eat.

Did You Know? Did you know that the rapid growth of new neurons that are added to the hippocampus in children around the age of 3, is the cause of us not remembering much of what we experienced prior to that age. The hippocampus is a significant part of the brain that plays an important roles in the merging of information from short-term memory to long-term memory and also for spatial navigation. As we get older the neurons develop more slowly and even though we forget things, we retain more than in early infancy. Strangely, we do not forget skills that we acquire in early life (like walking and talking); however, we do forget how we learned to perform them. Our brain “forgets” or abandons unimportant information while retaining most of what is important. This phenomenon is known as Infantile Amnesia. (Source of information: July/August 2016 Discover magazine.)

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