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Food First

Food First

Sharing our specialist knowledge to empower others to make nutrition and hydration a priority

The Food First Team consists of Registered Dietitians, Assistant Practitioners and a Data Analyst striving to improve the identification and management of malnutrition and dehydration in older people care homes and the wider community of Luton and South Bedfordshire. 

The Food First Team aims to improve the identification and management of malnutrition and dehydration by:

  • Taking a food based approach first line where appropriate for the management of malnutrition.
  • Collaborating with primary care (e.g. GPs) and community teams to ensure the appropriate prescribing of oral nutritional supplements and specialist infant formulas. We also support with gluten free product prescribing in Luton only.
  • Providing a training and certification programme to support care homes to achieve and maintain high standards of nutritional care based on the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) Regulation 14: Meeting nutritional and hydration needs.
  • Providing one to one personalised dietetic support to individuals in care homes where expert input is beneficial
  • Advocating nutrition as a priority to all.

What is Malnutrition?

Malnutrition is defined as a state in which a deficiency of nutrients such as energy, protein, vitamins and minerals results in measurable adverse effects on body composition, function or clinical outcome.1 Malnutrition can affect anyone; however it is particularly common amongst older people, those living in care homes and people admitted to hospital.

Consequences of malnutrition include: increase risk of infections, increased risk of pressure ulcers, slower wound healing, low mood, increased risk of falls, reduced energy levels, increased chance of hospital admissions, longer hospital stay, muscle weakness and reduced strength1.

How to spot malnutrition?

Someone may be malnourished if they have3:

  • A body mass index (BMI) under 18.5kg/m2
  • Unintentionally lost >10% of their body weight within the last 6 months
  • A body mass index (BMI) under 20kg/m2 and lost 5-10% of their body weight within the last 6 months
  • Loose clothing, jewellery or dentures
  • Loss in muscle strength or functional ability


It is very important everyone keeps hydrated, especially in hot weather or when you exercise. Everyone should aim to have at least 1.6 – 2 litres4 (around 6 – 8 250mls glasses) of fluid per day. Staying hydrated can prevent or aid the treatment of constipation, low blood pressure, urinary tract infections (UTIs), pressure ulcers and falls.

Click on the links below for further advice if you or someone you know is underweight, experiencing unintentional weight loss or struggling to stay hydrated.

Food First Advice

The team encourage a personalised food based approach to manage those identified at risk of malnutrition. The three key principles are:

  1. Fortified diet: Adding extra energy and protein to meals/snacks to increase nutrient density without increasing the portion size.
  2. Nutrient dense snacks: For a little and often approach for those with a small appetite.
  3. Nourishing drinks: Nutrient dense drinks that are a good source of energy and protein and can tailored to meet individual preferences.

For more details and advice sheets please see our resources page.

We are unable to accept self-referrals. If you or someone you know may require support from a dietitian please discuss with your GP or other healthcare professional and if a resident in a care home with the care home staff.

Contact the Food First Team

Dunstable Health Centre
Tel: 01582 707629



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The staff are wonderful; the receptionists were polite and efficient, the nurses I have seen, were incredible.