Pureed Foods Solutions for Seniors with Dysphagia
Find Your Local Team

font size:

A A

If a senior in your life needs a soft food diet, you’re far from alone. The fact is, medical conditions and frailty explain why millions of elderly people face issues swallowing their food.

If you’re the head chef for a loved one, you may be challenged to prepare pureed foods that are safe, satisfying and nutritionally sound. With a little preparation and the right recipes, you can puree nourishing foods that can properly be termed gourmet meals.

By following a few basic guidelines and learning the tools and ingredients to use, you can take any meal and make it work for just about anyone who must eat a diet of soft foods. Once understood, let your imagination fly and create beautiful meals that contribute to the happiness, health and longevity of your loved one.

What is Dysphagia?

According to the National Institutes of Health, dysphagia combines the Greek words dis (difficulty) and phagia (to eat). Simply put, it’s medical terminology applied to people who have trouble swallowing. It describes the uncomfortable feeling that food is being held up on its journey from the mouth to the stomach.

Dysphagia may create difficulties when trying to swallow particular kinds of foods and even liquids. Those coping with the disorder may also cough or choke while eating or drinking. They may feel as though food is caught in their chest or throat. Long-term effects might include chest infections and loss of weight.

What Causes Dysphagia?

Older people are prone to dysphagia as the result of living with multiple health problems — especially acid reflux disease and weight problems. It can also be caused by stroke, an injury to the head, dementia, and mouth or esophageal cancer. With so many of us living longer, the risks for developing swallowing problems are only increasing.

Tools of the Pureed Food Trade

The two most popular tools for people who require a puréed diet are a food processor and a blender. Some home chefs prefer the compact size of a mini-food processor, although a standard size unit can help you prepare larger portions for freezing. Blenders are especially handy if you’re making smoothies and need crushed ice, although they can double as food processors if you keep things simple.

The Right Ingredients

Thickening agents are a central consideration for purée chefs. Traditionally, professional chefs often make vegetable purées that are fairly thick and use them as a garnish or condiment. For making soups, they are diluted with a liquid. Certain vegetables which are too watery to give a sufficiently thick puree are thickened with a binding agent like potato puree, cornstarch, potato starch or a thick béchamel sauce.

Additionally, there are instant, off the shelf thickeners that provide a honey or nectar thickened consistency by simply adding some water to the suggested amount of thickener. The ingredients of these products vary. Many are gluten and wheat-free. These products have been formulated specifically for people who have dysphagia.

A large variety of vegetables lend themselves beautifully to purées. With various thickening agents at your fingertips, just about anything is fair game. The following vegetables may easily be puréed with minimal need for thickening:

  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Eggplant
  • Beets
  • Carrots and other root vegetables
  • Celery
  • Mushrooms
  • Endive
  • Cauliflower
  • Zucchini
  • Chicory
  • Spinach
  • Fava beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Chestnuts
  • Split peas
  • Green peas
  • Potato
  • Pumpkin

Don’t Forget the Condiments

Flavorful condiments include puréed garlic, watercress, and tarragon. Purées of meat or fish are also prepared and traditionally mixed with a brown or white sauce and are classically used as fillings.

They could fill vol-au-vent, bouchées, or barquettes (all forms of puff pastry and pastry shells) or as a stuffing for artichoke hearts or pancakes. Using this same method allows you to include your loved one in special family feasts.

By simply taking a portion size of meat and placing it in the food processor with a little broth or stock and thickener of your liking, you can create a flavorful version of the main course.

Winning Plate Appeal for Pureed Entrees and Side Dishes

Plate your pureed foods like a pro with these three easy tips:

  1. Consistency. A consistent texture helps diners chew and swallow. It also enhances the visual appeal of the meal. Go for a consistency that resembles pudding. It should be free of lumps and bumps and never runny.
  2. Spacing. Give each individual pureed portion a space of its own on the plate.
  3. Molds and piping. Molds can be used to make the pureed food appear to be the original dish. You can also pour your pureed food into a plastic piping bag and use a piping tip to create an eye-pleasing plate!

Foods to Avoid with a Dysphagia Diet

People with dysphagia find certain foods are particularly hard to swallow. It’s best to steer clear of:

  • Foods with husks. Many fruits, seeds and grains are covered with a dry outer layer, or husk. Multi-grains breads and vegetables such as corn are best avoided.
  • Foods with multiple textures. Foods that have a mixed consistency can be difficult to manage for dysphagia patients. Things that many of us do without thinking – like dunking a piece of bread into a bowl of soup – are not recommended for folks who have trouble swallowing.
  • Stringy beans (and other fibrous foods). Certain types of melted cheese, celery stalks as well as pineapple slices and string beans could get stuck on the way down.
  • Crumby outcomes. Baked goods including crackers, potato chips and toast – or any food that’s crunchy or crumbly – should be left out of the diet plan.
  • Hard or dense foods. This includes hard candy, meat that isn’t tender, and many kinds of nuts and seeds.
  • Bread. This may or may not be okay for your loved one. Consult with a speech and language pathologist.

Easy Pureed Meals for Adults with Dysphagia

If you are looking after a loved one with dysphagia, you might want to work on your mindset regarding pureed foods.

  1. First: Pureed food is still food. It doesn’t have to be bland and tasteless. Some of the world’s great chefs use pureeing. Don’t be disheartened. Instead, get creative!
  2. Second: People living with dysphagia have the same needs for balanced meals as everyone else does. With these factors in mind, let’s kick-start your thought process with some simple approaches to pureed dishes that are also delicious.

Breakfast: Coping with dysphagia doesn’t mean we don’t still have active tastebuds! Here are a few ideas to keep in mind:

  • If mom or dad loves eggs, prepare pureed eggs – scrambled or poached
  • Mashed bananas are really quite tasty
  • Prepared with care, cooked cereal is a hearty and satisfying option
  • Depending on the patient’s overall health, a glass of fruit juice or cup of coffee can round out a morning meal.
  • For a mid-morning boost, give yogurt or applesauce a whirl

Lunch: Midday presents another opportunity for tasty, nutritious foods.

  • Try pureed versions of chicken or tuna salad
  • Pureed, canned veggies make a great side
  • Scoop some cooked grains and fruit into your food processor and serve up some healthy fiber and carbs
  • Soup is a hearty go-to addition, before a meal or served alongside it.

Dinner: Again, think about what you’d like on a plate. Very often, a pureed version can be just moments away. Think about the following:

  • Build a pureed combo platter featuring your loved one’s favorite meat, mashed potatoes, and one or two veggies
  • Many casserole dishes, stews and quiches can be processed and presented in a bowl
  • Add an appropriate accompaniment, like pureed mixed fruit on the side

Appetizing Solutions for Dysphagia Patients

Ready to relieve discomfort of dysphagia while awakening the taste buds? Follow the guidelines above. Then be sure to about preparing soups and smoothies. You’ll be well on your way to becoming a pureed food gourmet — and your loved one will thank you for it.



Resources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3999993

https://eatrightct.wordpress.com/2017/05/22/5-reminders-to-create-the-perfect-puree-plate/

Dysphagia (swallowing problems)

Foods to Avoid with Dysphagia

Ideas for a Pureed Diet

If a senior in your life needs a soft food diet, you’re far from alone. Fact is, medical conditions and frailty explain why millions of elderly people face issues swallowing their food. If you’re the head chef for a loved one, you may be challenged to prepare pureed foods that are safe, satisfying and nutritionally sound. But with a little preparation and the right recipes, you can puree nourishing foods that can properly be termed “gourmet meals.”

By following a few basic guidelines and learning the tools and ingredients to use, you can take any meal and make it work for just about anyone who must eat a diet of soft foods. Once understood, let your imagination fly and create beautiful meals that contribute to the happiness, health and longevity of your loved one.

What is Dysphagia and Why is it Common?

According to the National Institutes of Health, dysphagia combines the Greek words dis (difficulty) and phagia (to eat). Dysphagia describes the uncomfortable feeling that food is being held up on its journey from the mouth to the stomach.

Older people are prone to dysphagia as the result of living with multiple health problems — especially acid reflux disease and weight problems. And with so many of us living longer, the risks for developing swallowing problems are only increasing. Older adults have different nutritional needs, and need more protein, just when it it becomes harder to chew and digest.

Read: 8 Useful Nutritional Tips for Alzheimer's and Dementia

Tools of the Pureed Food Trade

The two most popular tools for people who require a pureed diet are a food processor and a blender. Some home chefs prefer the compact size of a mini-food processor, although a standard size unit can help you prepare larger portions for freezing. Blenders are especially handy if you’re making smoothies and need crushed ice, although they can double as food processors if you keep things simple.

Photo: eggplant, carrots, zuchinni

The Right Ingredients

Thickening agents are a central consideration for puree chefs. Traditionally, professional chefs often make vegetable purees that are fairly thick and use them as a garnish or condiment. For making soups, they are diluted with a liquid. Certain vegetables which are too watery to give a sufficiently thick puree are thickened with a binding agent like potato puree, cornstarch, potato starch or a thick bechamel sauce.

Additionally, there are instant, off the shelf thickeners that provide a honey or nectar thickened consistency by simply adding some water to the suggested amount of thickener. The ingredients of these products vary. Many are gluten and wheat free. These products have been formulated specifically for people who have dysphagia.

A large variety of vegetables lend themselves beautifully to purees. With various thickening agents at your fingertips, just about anything is fair game when it comes to being pureed.

These vegetables are easily pureed with minimal thickening:

  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Eggplant
  • Beets
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Mushrooms
  • Endive
  • Cauliflower
  • Zucchini
  • Chicory
  • Spinach
  • Fava beans
  • Navy or kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Chestnuts
  • Split peas
  • Green peas
  • Potato
  • Pumpkin

Don’t Forget the Condiments

Flavorful condiments include pureed garlic, watercress, and tarragon. Purees of meat, game or fish are also prepared and traditionally mixed with a brown or white sauce and are classically used as fillings for vol-au-vent, bouchees, or barquettes, all are forms of puff pastry and pastry shells or as a stuffing for artichoke hearts or pancakes. Using this same method allows you to include your loved one in special family feasts.

In place of salt, try one of the many varieties of Mrs. Dash seasoning.

By simply taking a portion size of meat and placing it in the food processor with a small amount broth or stock and thickener of your liking, you can create a flavorful version of the main course. The key is to add only a small bit of liquid at a time, to keep a thick consistency (unless you are aiming for a soupy consistency).

Photo: pureed potato cream soup

Winning Plate Appeal for Pureed Entrees and Side Dishes

Plate your pureed foods like a pro with these three easy tips that make pureed food more appetizing.

  • Consistency. A consistent texture helps diners chew and swallow. But it also enhances the visual appeal of the meal. Go for a consistency that resembles pudding — free of lumps and bumps and never runny.
  • Spacing. Give each individual pureed portion a space of its own on the plate.
  • Molds and piping. Molds can be used to make the pureed food appear to be the original dish. Or pour your pureed food into a plastic piping bag and use a piping tip to create an eye-pleasing plate.

Ready to make the discomfort of dysphagia a bit easier to swallow? Follow the guidelines above. Then be sure to watch this video about preparing soups and smoothies. You’ll be well on your way to becoming a pureed food gourmet — and your loved one will thank you for it.

Resources

Dysphagia in the Elderly

Learn about Home Care Assistance's elderly, in-home care by reading here.

About the Author(s)

With over 20 years of experience writing for leading healthcare providers, Rob is passionate about bringing awareness to the issues surrounding our aging society. As a former caretaker for his parents and his aunt, Rob understands first-hand the experiences and challenges of caring for an aging loved. Long an advocate for caregiver self-care, his favorite activities include walking on the beach, hiking in the coastal hills of Southern California and listening to music.

Are You Ready To Get Started?

Home Care Assistance can help you or a loved one today. Contact us now for your complimentary in-home assessment.

Call Your Local Team
Sign-Up for the Latest News

Sign-up to receive our Caregiving Collection E-Newsletter, filled with educational articles, tips and advice on aging and wellness.

Recognized as an Industry Leader

Success! Thank you for joining!