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Tribune News Network

The food Nestl` developed for the pilots of Solar Impulse the first ever solar-powered plane to complete a round-the-world trip was the only 'fuel' on board during their epic adventure.
Although that fuel is spent, now that Bertrand Piccard and Andr` Borschberg have completed the final leg of their record-breaking trip, Nestl`'s journey doesn't stop there.
Nestl` wants to take the knowledge gained from designing the pilots' specially-tailored meals and use it to help people with specific nutritional needs.
Special requirements
This is not new for Nestl`: the company already offers specialised products for people with a range of different requirements, including those who have difficulty swallowing, or have lost their appetite, or are under-nourished.
Even so, developing the food for Solar Impulse was different. Physical stresses on the food and on the pilots, thanks to the dramatic changes in temperature and climatic conditions in an unpressurised cabin at almost 30,000 feet.
While these might sound like the kind of extreme circumstances only an adventurer would encounter, their effects on the body are actually very similar to those of the natural ageing process.
Changing tastes
Flying at high altitude for a long time decreases appetite, even though the body requires more energy to function normally. It also makes people prone to losing muscle mass.
Equally, as people get older, they may lose their appetite, as well as experience changes in their sense of taste and smell. This can limit the range of foods they eat.
Elderly people also often lose weight, particularly lean muscle mass, which in turn makes them frail. Many older adults have problems with mobility and find it difficult to go shopping, lift heavy items or open containers all of which makes preparing healthy, nutritious meals more challenging.
And while people tend to need fewer calories as they age, they still require just as many nutrients. This means it's important to eat more 'nutrient dense' foods, which contain a lot of vitamins, minerals, and other vital nutrients, but in a small number of calories.
In other words, elderly people have a greater need for convenient, highly nutritious food, which can be prepared with ease and minimum effort. This is where our research for Solar Impulse could help.
Locked-in goodness
Nestl` developed a new method of cooking and sterilising freshly prepared food, after it's been sealed in specially selected pouches. The process locks in freshness, helps to maintain the food's texture and preserves it for up to three months without the need for artificial ingredients.
As space was at a premium on board the plane, Bertrand and Andr` needed food that was easy to store and serve. The packaging we provided included pouches for soups and drinks to limit the risk of spillage, and self-heating bags to heat up the food contained in pouches.
The pilots were in an out-of-the-ordinary situation, but we are now looking at how this approach to food preparation could be used in more everyday settings.
Whether you're navigating the globe in a solar-powered plane, or taking your grandchildren for a walk in the park, you need the right fuel to set you on your way.
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