If your doctor orders you or a family member to stick to a pureed diet for more than a day or two, you may run out of ideas fast. Yet, creative combinations abound, from tasty smoothie options to gourmet puree recipes. These can keep you on the right track until you can move on to other foods.
If you’re told to stick to a “pureed diet” for a certain period, it can be hard to know what qualifies within this type of medical diet.
Pureed foods are somewhere between the liquid diet and the soft food diet, according to the Mayo Clinic — they shouldn’t have any solid chunks and should be the consistency of either a thick liquid or a paste-like solid.
Read more: What to Eat for an Irritated Esophagus
Bust Out the Blender
You'll need all the kitchen tools you can find to help make your pureed diet go the most smoothly, so to speak. A countertop blender is a great place to start, especially for milkshakes and other easily-blended foods. A food processor, with its larger blades and wider bowl, can take on larger amounts of chunkier foods than a blender can.
A basic, hand-held potato masher can make short work of cooked spuds — along with baked apples, poached pears, boiled plums, ripe avocados and a host of other fruits and veggies.
Don't forget the old-school standbys. If you have a trusty mixer, remember it can do more than make cake batter. It's also great for handling soft foods and incorporating liquids and softened fats.
Are you in it for the long haul? Investing in other processing equipment, or just scouring your shelves for forgotten tools, can help with those gourmet puree recipes. For example, a mortar and pestle will ground up your seasonings and aromatics. This action not only enhances flavor but makes the ingredients less chunky before you add them to your recipe.
To puree foods right in the pot or mixing bowl, an immersion blender is invaluable, especially when the food is hot. A smoothie maker is most convenient for when you only need one or two nutritious smoothie servings at a time.
Drum-shaped or conical sieves are especially good when you crave foods like raspberries or tomatoes, but can't tolerate the seeds. Additionally, an old-fashioned ricer or food mill can handle larger quantities of food.
Don’t Snub Grab ‘n’ Go
Even with a fully-stocked kitchen, there will inevitably be times when you don't feel like cooking and pureeing a smooth meal for yourself or loved one. That's especially true during a post-surgical period. When fatigue hits, there's nothing wrong with stocking up on healthy, smooth convenience foods.
Examples of foods that provide at least some nutrition without any kitchen prep include baby food jars of fruit, vegetables and meats. When your appetite returns, put more than one type on your plate for a meal with both more variety and a broader array of nutrients. Pre-made nutritional supplement drinks can also fill in the gap.
Other foods that you probably already eat in your "regular life" include plain or non-chunky flavored yogurt, kefir drinks, frozen yogurt or ice cream, smooth applesauce, tomato or vegetable juice and prepared hummus. Microwavable smooth foods like frozen or shelf-stable mashed potatoes, canned creamed soups and refried beans can warm you up with minimal effort on your part.
Getting Started With Smoothies
Smoothies can be more than milkshake clones. They're also a convenient method for combining a number of crucial nutrients into one easily-swallowed meal. Pureed food recipes involving smoothies are easily found, but it's important to use food group ingredients recommended by your doctor.
To get as complete a meal as possible, Harvard Medical School recommends using four basic in ingredient groups — healthy liquid, protein, vitamin-rich foods and flavor boosters. Use a chart like the one from Harvard Medical School or another medical institution for guidelines on the amounts for different ingredients.
Milk, vegan milk alternatives like almond and soy drinks and water are healthy options for the liquid base. Protein can come from nut butters, protein powder, Greek yogurt and tofu.
For your nutrient-rich category, chopped fruits and berries, fresh leafy greens and cooked vegetables provide crucial minerals and vitamins. Flavor enhancer ideas include almond or vanilla extract, spices, unsweetened cocoa and sweeteners like honey or maple syrup.
Introducing Simple Foods
Turning healthy, basic foods into pureed food recipes is simpler than you may think. Cottage cheese can be whirled in a food processor quickly, while canned cream of mushroom or chicken soups can be strained after they're heated.
When you want a warm meal in the mornings, process scrambled eggs in the food processor. Keep them on the runny side so they don't need extra liquids. Grits, cooked cereals, cream of wheat and oatmeal may also hit the spot. An immersion blender will take care of any extra lumps, if necessary.
Of course, there's only so much yogurt and oatmeal that you can eat without feeling homesick for your regular diet. Many of the same foods you already eat can be enjoyed on a pureed diet, with the help of a trusty kitchen appliance, points out the University of Virginia Health System. But be warned that some foods process better than others.
When it comes to meats, the ground types tend to puree best. Needless to say, any cuts of meat or fish should be free of bones or skin. Plus, many of your usual favorites, from casseroles to scrambled eggs or pasta, can also be incorporated into a pureed diet.
Foods with stringy bits that are difficult to puree even with a food processor, such as celery, are impediments to easy pureeing. Pitted and seeded fruits and vegetables will also get in the way of a simple puree, although straining after processing can help.
Matching Liquid to Foods
In a pinch, water or any potable liquids you have on hand will work in the puree process. But to create the tastiest pureed food recipes, pairing individual foods with a complementary food liquid will go a long way toward making the meal an enjoyable one for yourself or the person you're cooking for.
For eggy or cheesy foods, milk or cream can help retain the original foods' richness, without washing away the flavor or thickness. Use these liquids for foods like a crustless quiche, macaroni and cheese and rich casseroles. If you're avoiding dairy, blend your vegan meals with a liquid such as almond or soy milk.
Juice is the obvious choice when processing cooked fruit or pie filling. You may prefer to use the same fruits in both the juice and the food, such as cherry juice with cherry pie filling. Or mix things up by tossing baked apple chunks in a blender with cranberry juice.
For savory meals, canned or homemade broth and gravy are indispensable for both basic blends and gourmet puree recipes. Add them to the food processor to help break down poultry, chicken and beef, as well as cooked rice and root vegetables. Many of these foods, along with pasta-based dishes, also pair well with smooth tomato sauce.
Daily Menu Planning
The nutritionists at Memorial Sloan Kettering point out that each day's diet should contain a healthy mix of proteins, fats, fiber and other nutrients. While individual meal planning to entice the appetite is crucial, it also helps to plan a daily or weekly menu to make sure the patient receives a range of nutrients.
Breakfast, for example, could include pureed scrambled or poached eggs, mashed banana, cooked cereal and/or fruit juice. If your doctor gives the OK, coffee can round out the meal. Later in the morning, a snack of non-chunky yogurt or applesauce may be appreciated.
Lunch doesn't be a cooked meal in order to be nutritious and satisfying. Puree tuna or chicken salad, along with canned vegetables like peas or green beans. Round lunch out with a processed cooked grain and some fruit for healthy carbs. For hearty eaters, soup can precede the meal or be served on the side.
Cooked dinners can either feature a classic one-pot meal or an entree with sides, which all get the puree treatment. Process meat, mashed potatoes and one or two vegetables into three or four "scoops" of different colors on the plate. Or process a casserole, quiche or stew and serve in a bowl, with applesauce on the side.
Read more: Food for Gastric Pain
Tackle Gourmet Puree Recipes
Beating boredom on a pureed diet can be a challenge. If you anticipate needing to be on one for more than a couple of weeks, branching out from smoothies and mashed potatoes may keep you from "cheating" on your health plan. You'll find a wealth of gourmet puree recipes from both health-focused and fine dining resources.
The American Council on Exercise, for example, has no shortage of nutrient-rich gourmet puree recipes. These not only introduce unusual flavors just when you need them most, but they combine more nutrients in a single dish.
Instead of potatoes, experiment with root veggie options, such as roasted winter squash blended into smoothness with healthy canola oil. Or try combinations like parsnips with pears or celeriac, or vegetarian protein options like a legume spread of split peas tossed into a food processor with cooked onions, olive oil and lemon juice.
Eventually, you may encounter foods that don't break down very easily for a pureed diet. Dry starches like cookies, cornbread and sandwich bread tend to either turn into crumbs or mush, depending on how much liquid you put into the mix. So why bother?
The time may come when you simply want cake on your birthday or just don't have much else in the house to work with. In this case, making a special "slurry" can come to the rescue, according to the University of Virginia Health System.
Joining the “Big Kids” Table
Just because you or a family member has to be on a restricted meal plan doesn't mean that you can't all enjoy a meal together. Of course, sitting down with a smoothie or pureed soup while others eat a traditional meal is one option. But you can also incorporate pureed food recipes into the family meal plan.
The simplest way to avoid cooking two different meals for the same gathering is to make one of the sides a pureed one. Mashed root vegetables are familiar comfort foods for everyone (although they might have less texture than normal, or accommodate the patient's health needs). If you wish, add protein powder or Greek yogurt so that it's more of a complete meal for you or your family member having that one dish.
Other familiar sides or appetizers that the patient can also enjoy include bean dip or pureed chickpeas, smooth pates, creamy soups and applesauce. For dessert, serve yogurt or ice cream. If you wish, provide extra toppings like nuts, berries and sprinkles that guests can enjoy even when you can't — for now.
- Mayo Clinic: "Gastric Bypass - Gastric Bypass Diet"
- Memorial Sloan Kettering: "Eating Guide for Puréed and Mechanical Soft Diets"
- Harvard Health Publications: "Drink Your Fruits and Vegetables"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Diet for Gastroparesis"
- University of Virginia Health System: "Pureed Diet"
- American Council on Exercise: "Healthy Food Recipes"