Dysphagia is a condition characterized by difficulty chewing and swallowing and sometimes pain. People with dysphagia may be unable to swallow at all or may have difficulty swallowing liquids, solids or saliva. You may require a modified diet to help you meet your nutritional needs and prevent aspiration. A doctor or speech therapist can help determine the appropriate diet consistency.
A pureed diet may be recommended if you have dysphagia. Pureed food should be smooth, homogeneous and cohesive, or pudding-like. To puree foods, use a blender or food processor and strain to remove any solid foods. Use appropriate liquids when pureeing foods, such as broth or gravy for meats, milk or cream for vegetables and starches and juice for fruits and desserts. Cook foods until soft and tender before pureeing. You may have difficulty meeting your nutritional needs with dysphagia and may benefit from eating several small meals a day versus three large meals. You may also want to add calorie boosters to your foods such as butter or sugar when appropriate.
Foods on a mechanical soft diet for dysphagia patients are chopped, ground or blended and prepared with added liquids to make swallowing easier. Foods allowed on a mechanical soft diet for dysphagia include bread, hot cereal, ready-to-eat cereal soaked in milk, canned fruit, soft cooked vegetables, juice, scrambled eggs, ground meat, cooked beans, cooked peas, cottage cheese, yogurt without fruit, custards, puddings, cream soups and noodles. Avoid tough meats, nuts, seeds, raw fruits and vegetables and dried fruit on a mechanical soft diet.
The soft diet for dysphagia eliminates all foods that may be difficult to chew, such as raw fruits or vegetables, tough meats and chewy, sticky breads. Foods allowed on the soft diet include soft cooked vegetables, soft and canned fruits, tender meats, ground meats, cooked beans, cooked peas, eggs, refined-flour breads, hot cooked cereals, refined-flour ready-to-eat cereals, crackers, soft cheeses, milk, soup, custard, ice cream, cake and cookies without nuts. Foods to avoid on the soft diet for dysphagia include hard fruits, nuts, seeds, skin, corn and hard vegetables.
In addition to having difficulty chewing and swallowing solid food, you may also have problems handling liquids with dysphagia and may require thickened liquids. Types of liquid thickness includes thin, nectar, honey and spoon-thick. Thin liquids include water, juice, coffee, tea, gelatin, ice cream and broth-based soups. Nectar thick liquids include fruit nectars, maple syrup, nutritional supplements, eggnog and cream-based soups. Thickening agents are required to make liquids honey and spoon-thick. A honey liquid consistency should flow like honey, while a spoon thick liquid should resemble pudding. A doctor or speech therapist can provide instructions on how to thicken liquids.
Is This an Emergency?
- University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics: Dysphagia: When Hard to Swallow is Hard to Manage
- National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders: Dysphagia
- University of Pittsburgh Medical Center: Pureed Diet
- Medical University of South Carolina: Mechanical Soft Diet
- Jackson-Siegelbaum Gastroenterology: Soft and Mechanical Soft Diets
- Ohio State Medical Center: Thickened Liquids