At a certain time of life, you discover you need to eat softer foods. Maybe your teeth have gone the distance for many decades, and now they need some help. Maybe you just find it hard to swallow more fibrous foods. You need ideas for soft foods for elderly loved ones, or maybe for yourself.
You might be taking care of someone who does not chew as well as before. This article can guide you through your choices to still provide nutritious meals.
Who Needs Soft Foods?
Here are some reasons why you or your loved one may need foods that require less chewing and are easier to swallow.
Missing or Damaged Teeth
This is an obvious reason why it is difficult to chew. And yet it still doesn’t always click that an elderly person can have painful or missing teeth. He or she might be keeping this to themselves, out of embarrassment or fear of a trip to the dentist.
If you notice your loved one is taking a long time to eat, or isn’t eating certain foods, this could be the first thing to check.
The technical name for dry mouth is xerostomia. If someone is dehydrated, a common condition for the elderly, their mouth will be dry.
Xerostomia can also be caused by medications. Antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure meds and antidepressants are just a few of the medicines that can cause dry mouth.
Besides making it difficult to swallow food, dry mouth can progress to sore throat, tooth decay and trouble swallowing.
Difficulty swallowing is called dysphagia. Again, there can be many reasons for this disability. It is a common condition in older people. One reason for this is weak muscles or muscle spasms in the esophagus.
A person who has trouble swallowing should be evaluated by a doctor and / or a speech pathologist.
Balancing a Soft Food Diet
It may be tempting to go for the easy things like yogurt, pudding and applesauce. However, a person eating a soft food diet still needs a variety of foods, covering all the major food groups.
A balanced meal will have a good protein food, a grain and at least two vegetables and / or fruits. Try to get as many colors on your plate as possible.
Soft Vegetables and Fruits
These foods should be soft enough that they can easily be pierced with a fork and mashed.
Here are some vegetables that work well for a soft diet:
- Mashed potatoes, both white and sweet
- Steamed or boiled carrots
- Roasted eggplant and tomatoes
- Broccoli or cauliflower well steamed or roasted
- Any type of squash, roasted
- Green peas
- Steamed or sauteed spinach
- Sauteed or roasted chopped mushrooms
- Mashed parsnips and turnips
- Roasted or boiled rutabaga
Here are some fruits that work well for a soft diet:
- Stewed mangoes
- Canned or stewed peaches, pears or other soft canned fruits
- Ripe boiled or fried plantains
Dried fruits and fresh fruits with skins are more difficult to chew and swallow.
Soft Protein Foods
Here are some soft protein foods:
- Cottage cheese
- Chicken livers
- Protein shakes and smoothies
- Tuna or chicken salad minced very fine or pureed
- Soft, flaky fish without bones
- Soft cheese or cheese spread
- Nut butters
- Finely minced ground meat in a chili or stew
- Refried beans
Many grains can be cooked down with extra water into a very soft consistency. Ideas include oats, millet, quinoa, rice, cream of wheat, grits, polenta, couscous and soft-cooked pasta.
There are many reasons that an older person might need to have softer foods. They might have missing or painful teeth. Their mouth could be dry, or there may be difficulty swallowing.
There are still many choices of healthy foods so that they can get the nutrition that they need. Even a soft food meal can have protein, vegetables, fruits and grains. You can still provide a colorful plate with a variety of foods.