What is a soft food diet?
People prescribed with soft food diets are those who cannot tolerate normally textured or highly seasoned foods. It consists of soft and easily digestible foods.
Soft food diets are usually used to treat swallowing disorders which are also known as dysphagia. The condition is common in older adults and those with neurological disorders and neurodegenerative diseases
What is dysphagia?
Dysphagia can be defined as a swallowing disorder. Three phases of swallowing when dysphagia can occur are:
- Oral cavity dysphagia: The problem is in the mouth. The condition is normally caused by tongue weakness after a stroke, difficulty chewing food or neuromuscular problems.
- Oropharyngeal dysphagia: The problem is in the throat. It is usually the aftermath of a neurological or muscular problem.
- Oesophagal dysphagia: This is a problem of the oesophagus. This happens when something blocks or compresses the oesophagus, there is a muscular disorder or there are pouches in the oesophagus.
Dysphagia is typically observed in stroke survivors and can disrupt the oral and/or pharyngeal phase of swallowing. In attempting to swallow saliva, liquids, or food, the patient may cough or choke.
A speech-language pathologist will be brought in to assess a patient’s ability to swallow. This is important in order to calculate the risk of aspiration, (food or liquid going into the lungs) which potentially may cause lung infection or pneumonia.
Stroke survivors have a greater risk of silent aspiration. Silent aspiration is when food and liquid enter into the lungs without any coughing or choking. These patients do not show any outward signs or symptoms of a swallowing problem.
Who needs a soft food diet?
Soft food diets are usually prescribed by healthcare practitioners to post-surgery patients and people with certain medical conditions.
Soft food diets are common in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and even at home. Usually, soft food diets have to be followed for short periods of a few days to a few weeks. But in some circumstances the diet may need to be followed for a longer period or for patients with dysphagia, a soft food diet will become their only option.
Seniors who suffer from dysphagia often have to start a soft food diet. Commonly referred to as dysphagia diet, every meal must be prepared in ways that will prevent any choking incident and ensure they are comfortable enough to consume full meals.
But not all dysphagia diets are equal. In fact, there are four diet levels for seniors. Each level has different restrictions depending on the medical recommendations.
- Level 1 — Dysphagia-Puréed: uniform texture, pudding-like, requires a minimal chewing ability
- Level 2 — Dysphagia-Mechanically Altered: cohesive, moist, semisolid foods, requires some chewing
- Level 3 — Dysphagia-Advanced: soft foods that require more chewing ability
- Regular: all foods allowed
Preparing meals for your loved one can be quite challenging, especially since dysphagia diet food must include essential nutrients and taste delicious too. Experts in senior care have encouraged a “food first” mindset, which means it is best to get nutrients from real foods instead of going heavy on supplements.
Being restricted to a soft food diet or dysphagia diet post-surgery or due to medical conditions might sound difficult but it is surprisingly easy and there is no need to compromise on taste at all. All it takes is a little bit of creativity and planning.
Just try to include all of the major food groups and for post-surgery patients, protein is crucial to speed up the healing process.
Turkey and dumpling soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 celery ribs, chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
1-1/2 pounds red potatoes (about 5 medium), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3-1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (about 16 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cartons (32 ounces each) reduced-sodium chicken broth
2-1/2 cups coarsely shredded cooked turkey or chicken
2 cups biscuit/baking mix
2/3 cup 2 per cent milk
- In a 6-qt. stockpot, heat oil over medium heat; saute celery and onion until tender, 3-4 minutes. Stir in potatoes, mixed vegetables, seasonings and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook, covered, until potatoes are almost tender, 8-10 minutes. Add turkey; bring mixture to a simmer.
- Meanwhile, stir baking mix and milk until a soft dough forms; drop by tablespoonfuls on top of simmering soup. Cook, covered, on low heat until a toothpick inserted in dumplings comes out clean, 8-10 minutes.
Macaroni and cheese
1-1/2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
5 tablespoons butter, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1-1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 ounces cubed cheese
2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
- Cook macaroni according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth. Gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat. Add the cheeses, stirring until the cheese is melted. Drain macaroni.
- Transfer macaroni to a greased 1-1/2-qt. baking dish. Pour cheese sauce over macaroni; mix well. Melt the remaining butter; add the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over top. Bake, uncovered, at 375 deg C for 30 minutes or until heated through and topping is golden brown
Cold-day chicken noodle soup
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
8 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 cups uncooked whole-wheat egg noodles (about 4 ounces)
3 cups coarsely chopped rotisserie chicken
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
- In a 6-qt. stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add celery, carrots and onion; cook and stir for 5-7 minutes or until tender.
- Add broth, basil and pepper; bring to a boil. Stir in noodles; cook for 12-14 minutes or until al dente. Stir in chicken and parsley; heat through.
Mashed potatoes with cheddar
3 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 6 cups)
1 to 1-1/4 cups half-and-half cream
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
- Place potatoes in a 6-qt. stockpot; add water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook, uncovered, 15-20 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat cream, butter and salt until butter is melted, stirring occasionally.
- Drain potatoes; return to pot. Mash potatoes, gradually adding the cream mixture. Stir in cheese.
Chocolate Avocado Pudding
2 large ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and cubed
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup coconut milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 pinch ground cinnamon
- Blend avocados, cocoa powder, brown sugar, coconut milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon in a blender until smooth.
- Refrigerate pudding until chilled, approximately 30 minutes
2 110g tubs unsweetened apple puree
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup quick oats
¾ cup water
Extra cinnamon and brown sugar
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Place oats and water in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir. Microwave again for 50 seconds. Remove from the microwave and cool. Transfer to a blender and blend for 1minute on high or until smooth.
- Place apple puree into 2 ramekins. Mix ½ tsp cinnamon into each ramekin.
- Cover the apple with 2 tbsp oat mixture. Sprinkle with the desired amount of cinnamon and brown sugar.
- Bake for 8–10 minutes.
- Dust with cinnamon and brown sugar if desired then serve.
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2½ cups of milk
nutmeg or cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 160°C (140°C fan-forced).
- Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla together lightly.
- Gently warm milk over the stove, before adding gradually to the egg mixture, stirring constantly.
- Pour mixture into a shallow ovenproof dish, and sprinkle with nutmeg and/or cinnamon.
- Place the dish in a water bath, with enough water to come halfway up the sides of the dish.
- Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, before reducing the heat to 140°C (120°C fan-forced) for a further 20–30 minutes until set .
Maple sweet carrot puree
5 cups fresh, canned, or frozen carrots
1/8th cup butter and ¼ cup maple syrup
salt to taste
- Place carrots in 1 cup salted water, cover the pot and bring to a boil
- Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until fork tender (able to mash with tines of a fork)
- Drain carrots
- Blend warm carrots with butter and maple syrup until the texture is smooth
Pumpkin brownie puree
1 box brownie mix
¼ cup pumpkin puree
Milk, approximately 3 t per brownie
- Preheat oven to 350 ° F
- Grease 9×9 pan
- In a bowl, mix the brownie mix and pumpkin puree until smooth
- Spread into greased pan and bake 20-25 minutes
- Allow brownies to cool
- Place the desired amount of brownie into the blender. Add milk 1 t at a time and blend until a smooth texture is achieved.
- If brownie becomes too runny, add a little bit more brownie and blend to thicken
Meat loaf puree
3 oz meatloaf
1 small boiled potato
1 small boiled carrot
2 tbsp brown gravy
1 cube beef bouillon
- Cut meatloaf, potato, and carrots into cubes
- Place all ingredients in a blender
- Blend until smooth
It takes a little getting used to but preparing meals for a senior with dysphagia is not that hard. With all these easy-to-make recipes, you are set to become the personal chef for your loved one who suffers from dysphagia.
Eating and feeding tips
Always eat in smaller bites and chew food thoroughly. Special thickening powder might need to be added to drinks since watery liquids can be difficult to swallow.
Sitting upright while eating will reduce the risk of choking. Patients can also learn to tilt the head to make swallowing easier. These techniques reduce the risk of liquid getting into the airway (aspiration).
Clearing the throat with a little cough if liquid or a small piece of food gets stuck.
Homage has all the resources on senior health that you might have been looking for. Read further for more information on dysphagia as well as all the expert tips on senior diets, caregiving, activities of daily living (ADL) and more.
This article was first published in Homage.