Dysphagia is caused by an inability to swallow, which requires a modification to diet. With this modification, dysphagia patients can eat and drink without worry of choking on their food or aspiration (breathing food into the airway).
Changing your diet to a dysphagia diet is an adjustment, but with the right knowledge and patience, you can create a diet for easier eating that still includes the nutrients and calories you need. In this article, we look at tips and tricks for a dysphagia diet.
Not all dysphagia is the same, meaning some people find it easier to swallow pureed food, while others need their food thick to avoid aspiration. The dysphagia diet is therefore split into 4 different levels, which your doctor will tell you during diagnosis. Level 1 is the most restricted and is pureed foods only, such as hummus, pudding, or pureed soups.
Level 2 is the mechanical soft diet, which can include pureed foods, as well as soft, mashed, or well-cooked foods. This can include foods like canned fruits, scrambled eggs, and pate. Level 3 is an advanced level, where foods can be solid but shouldn’t be hard or tough. This includes foods like tuna, boneless meat, and well-cooked pasta. The last level, 4 is a regular diet with nothing off limits.
The easiest way to eat food when you have dysphagia is by turning it into a liquid that is smooth and thick enough to be swallowed. During food preparation, this means chopping into fine bits before blending or mashing any food that could cause aspiration. A thickening agent such as SimplyThick in nectar flavor is a great addition for preparing dysphagia-ready foods.
A few specific tips and tricks for preparing food for dysphagia include:
- Avoid foods with raisins, olives, nuts, or seeds
- Avoid foods with a crusty or crunchy texture
- Cook vegetables or fruits until they are soft and always remove the skin
- Blend or mash when in doubt
- Finely chop all foods and moisten with a sauce for easier swallowing
To ensure that people with dysphagia get the nutrients and vitamins they require, it’s essential to create a meal plan. The more you plan meals, the more easily you will be able to make something quick in the kitchen. The best thing to keep in mind here is that people with dysphagia can still eat what others are eating, as long as they are prepared to have it pureed, mashed, or blended. Some foods work better than others this way, so it’s a case of trial and error based on personal taste and preference.
Some of the easiest dysphagia-friendly meals include:
- Soft casseroles
- Pureed vegetables with small pieces of soft meat
- Yogurt with pureed or soft fruit
A dysphagia diet may take a little time to get used to, but preparing dysphagia-friendly meals doesn’t need to be difficult. By understanding the dysphagia diet levels, correct preparation, and weekly meal planning, you will be well on your way to creating nutritious and tasty meals for yourself or a loved one with dysphagia.