Summary & Highlights
- Thinner isn’t always better. Choose soft foods that have an appropriate texture for your loved one’s condition.
- Some examples of easy to swallow foods are scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes with gravy, pureed soup, polenta, oatmeal, yogurt, a fruit smoothie, and some flaky fishes.
- Some options that improve the overall nutrition of meals are liquid supplements, soft chews, puddings and custards, smoothies, cereal bars, yogurt drinks, and thickened 100% fruit juices.
Providing easy to swallow foods to elderly patients is an important aspect of their care. Not being able to chew or swallow food makes it challenging to consume enough nutrition and stay healthy.
Foods that are easier to swallow (and chew) help people with swallowing difficulty get the nutrition they need while avoiding any potential choking hazards. Eating nutritious, easy to swallow foods can also help with overall well-being, increase energy levels, and improve mood.
Here are some excellent food ideas to consider serving to a loved one with problems safely swallowing their food.
Specific Foods That Are Easy to Swallow
1. Scrambled Eggs
Eggs are an excellent high protein food source for seniors. They’re also packed with healthy fats and contain nutrients that can fight diseases like lutein and zeaxanthin. Best of all, when scrambled, eggs are extremely soft and easy to swallow.
It’s easy to mix pureed vegetables with eggs to add additional nutrients and flavor.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-prepare and healthy breakfast that is easy to eat, eggs are an excellent option. While softer foods can be bland, eggs can be delicious when properly prepared.
2. Mashed Potatoes
Not all mashed potatoes are suitable for people with dysphagia. If you serve someone mashed potatoes that aren’t properly moistened, they could still have difficulty swallowing.
However, creamy and soft mashed potatoes are very easy to swallow. Mashed potatoes are a popular comfort food and an excellent alternative to pureed vegetables.
Adding gravy to the potatoes could actually make them easier to swallow. While pureed vegetables often feel similar to baby food, mashed potatoes can be a real treat.
3. Pureed Soup
Like mashed potatoes, soup isn’t appropriate for everyone that has a hard time swallowing. However, pureed soup can be a safe and delicious meal.
All kinds of pureed soup recipes are available so that seniors can have plenty of variety in their diets. From pureed vegetable soups to soups that are high in protein, you’ll find all kinds of soups to prepare.
A butternut squash soup can be a wonderful choice for fall, while a southwestern black bean soup can be a great way to add more protein to a diet.
With a blender, pureed soups are a breeze to make.
Polenta is a creamy dish that’s made from boiled cornmeal. The dish originated in Italy and can be prepared in many different ways.
Polenta can be combined with pureed vegetables or meats to make them more palatable, and it can be seasoned with ingredients like nutmeg and white pepper. You can also add soft cheeses to give the polenta a creamier texture.
Polenta is a breeze to prepare and can be customized in many ways.
If you’re cooking for someone that has difficulty swallowing, you’ll definitely want to learn how to make polenta. This is a dish you’ll find yourself returning to again and again. Even if you’re not an experienced cook, there are frozen polenta dishes that are effortless to prepare.
Oats are a wonderful source of vitamins and minerals like manganese, iron, copper, and zinc. Eating oatmeal in the morning can be an excellent way to correct deficiencies of these minerals and provide someone with all the essential nutrients they need.
When making oatmeal, it’s best to use rolled oats rather than instant oatmeal. It’s also important not to add too much sugar to the oatmeal.
If you’re preparing oatmeal for someone that prefers sweeter foods, you can sweeten oatmeal with maple syrup or agave.
Yogurt is soft, creamy, and easy to swallow, even for someone with a condition like dysphagia.
You can also find probiotics in yogurt, which are healthy bacteria that promote gut health. It’s common for seniors to suffer from digestive issues, but regularly eating yogurt can help to address that.
While some seniors suffer from lactose intolerance, there are plenty of dairy-free yogurts on the market today, including yogurts that are made from almonds, cashews, and oats.
Pre-packaged yogurt isn’t a replacement for a meal, but it can be an excellent, nutrient-rich snack. When serving a senior yogurt, it’s always important to pay attention to its amount of sugar.
Smoothies can be an excellent way to feed seniors nutrients that they’ll be able to swallow. You can pack a smoothie with fruits and vegetables and add other ingredients, like protein powder, as needed. Smoothies can easily be customized at home as a great nutritional drink for older adults.
Smoothies are very popular, so you’ll find plenty of different smoothie recipes you can try. This is also a popular option to find when on the go.
You can also reduce the cost of making smoothies by using frozen fruits and vegetables rather than fresh ones. Smoothies are a great meal replacement that can be particularly refreshing during hotter temperatures.
If you’d prefer a ready-made smoothie option, I highly recommend the nutritional shakes from Kate Farms. They are plant-based with organic pea protein and all-natural ingredients.
I personally use them, and they taste great too!
8. Flaky Fish
People with more severe dysphagia may be unable to eat softer fish varieties. With that said, seniors with milder cases of dysphagia should be able to swallow softer types of fish without any issues.
Examples of softer fish include cod and salmon. It’s best to avoid tougher types of fish, like mahi-mahi and swordfish.
It’s also important to prepare fish properly when you’re cooking for someone who has difficulty swallowing. Generally, you’ll want to bake or grill fish rather than fry it.
Fish can be a wonderful source of protein, and they’re a terrific way to add omega-3 fatty acids to a diet as well.
More Sources of Nutrition For a Complete Meal
To choose your own foods at home, here are some more general food categories to consider:
Liquid supplements are designed to be easy to swallow and contain many ingredients like protein, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. They come in various flavors and can be taken alone or mixed with other liquids.
Be careful, though. Some may need to be thickened before using with dysphagia.
Many medications and vitamin supplements are made with a chewable base that is easier to swallow than hard pills. Many are flavored for a more pleasant experience.
Puddings and Custards
Puddings and custards are thick and creamy, making them easier to swallow than solid foods. They are often fortified with minerals and vitamins to provide added nutrition.
You can also vary the thickness by adding more milk or other liquid if needed.
Smoothies blended with fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables create a naturally creamy texture. They are a great source of vitamins and minerals and can be tailored to meet specific dietary needs by altering the ingredients.
Cereal bars (not granola bars!) are made with softened grains and fruit fillings. Their portable nature means they are easy to take with you on the go.
Yogurt drinks made with real yogurt are a great source of calcium and other nutrients. Flavor them with fruits to make them more palatable.
Fruit juices are a great source of vitamins and minerals without eating solid food. There seems to be no end to the flavor choices too. Just watch the sugars and choose 100% juice when it’s available.
Tips for Choosing the Right Food
1. Consider the patient’s diet and health history.
A patient’s personal dietary needs, health history, and allergies or food sensitivities are major considerations when choosing easy to swallow foods.
For example, if the patient has a dairy allergy, use non-dairy options instead.
2. Look for fortified options.
Many pre-packaged softer foods are fortified with vitamins and minerals to provide added nutrition. Look for fortified products to ensure the patient gets the nutrients they need.
3. Choose soft, moist foods.
Soft, moist foods are generally easier to swallow than dry, hard foods. Adding sauces, gravies, and other liquids to foods to make them easier to swallow.
4. Avoid sharp edges and large pieces.
Avoid foods with sharp edges or large individual pieces that may be difficult to swallow. Try cutting food into small, bite-sized pieces to make it easier to eat.
5. Choose foods with texture.
Perhaps ironically, foods with some texture are easier to swallow than thin, watery foods. Some people get choked on liquids more easily.
Choose soft but easy to chew foods, such as mashed potatoes, oatmeal, and yogurt.
6. Avoid foods with added sugar.
Added sugar can increase the risk of cavities and other dental problems in elderly patients. Look for foods that are low in sugar and free from artificial sweeteners.
Dysphagia Diet and Swallowing Foods
Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, affects a large number of elderly patients and is caused by a variety of conditions, including stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia.
Difficulty swallowing leads to malnutrition, dehydration, and even aspiration pneumonia if food or liquids are inhaled.
Studies have shown that elderly patients on a dysphagia diet consume more calories and protein when offered soft, puréed, or minced foods.1 This can help to improve overall health and prevent malnutrition and dehydration. Additionally, providing easily swallowable foods can help maintain strength, energy levels, and overall quality of life.2
Ensuring elderly patients with dysphagia have access to food that is easier to swallow is essential for their health and well-being. So, providing adequate nutrition and hydration through easy-to-swallow foods to elderly patients is an essential aspect of their care.
Infographic: Easy to Swallow Foods for the Elderly
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Do you have other easy to swallow foods that you recommend? Tell me about them in the comments below!
- “Dysphagia in Elderly Patients: A Review of the Literature”. The Gerontologist. Volume 48, Issue 4, August 2008.
- “Nutrition and Aging: Eating Well As You Get Older”. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Volume 88, Issue 4, October 2008.
12 thoughts on “Easier Diet: Nutritious But Easy to Swallow Foods for the Elderly”
My brother is in stage 4 esophageal cancer and has beat it for two years. He has had a feeding tube put in but still desperately wants to eat. He loves shrimp and steak!!!! Any ideas on what I could possibly prepare for him? I make him shrimp scampi often but he is tired of that dish…but loves his shrimp, bacon, steak…all things meat. Any suggestions for very easy swallowing would be greatly appreciated. I have looked into the Muscular Dystrohpy swallowing exercises and am going to see if those help any. God bless you and hope you can help.
I’m curious if you found anything for your brother. My husband was diagnosed 4 1/2 yrs ago With stage 4 esophagus cancer, beat it and now has returned. He had to have a stent put in his esophagus earlier this week. He will likely be on soft foods the rest of his life. So I’m looking for the same ideas, if there are any. I would love any recipes or suggestions you may have.
When my mother was diagnosed as having dysphagia, I received some training from therapists. Mother loved cornbread with vegetables but the cornbread was potentially a problem. The solution was to use as much flour as meal to make it smoother and easier to swallow. For some of the vegetables like squash and tomatoes I had to remove all seeds and peelings. Many enticing dishes can be made using broths and egg noodles. In all liquids, a thickener may be needed to aid swallowing.
As long as possible, it is good to enjoy some favorite dishes adapted for easier swallowing.
My husband has dysphagia associated with Parkinson’s, and I’m constantly looking for something to feed him. I have found that applesauce is a nice treat, and our old family recipe for baked custard is an absolute favorite! Also, I’m thankful for the invention of the Instant Pot, which cooks foods really soft and moist in a short time. I use a small chopper to blend soft-cooked foods, like making refríes beans without having to mash them by hand.
My s-dad has Parkinson’s abd he also had a neck surgery. He just got released from the hospital he had Covid and double pnemonia. Because of all of his conditions he has to eat puréed foods now. He was mad because he couldn’t have a mc Donald’s cheese burger. I told him fine you can have it, but in milk shakes form. He said fine and that they were starving him. So I had his cg blend his burger and feed it to him that way. I mean it tastes the same. I’m currently looking for a things they can make him so he won’t feel starved.
I have trouble swallowing and have found egg and cheese quiche and soft guacamole is so good!
mom is 94 and is tired or don’t eat oatmeal, yogurt, doesn’t eat fresh vegetables like green beans, broccoli. she only eats chicken. The meat she likes stuffed peppers but won’t eat ground turkey meatloaf or meat loaf. no liver or steak. don’t like pier food. Having a lot of trouble. States potatoes make her head big. but she will eat FF. I give her eggs almost every morning. When I make french toast or pancakes she won’t eat. Tired of cooking when she doesn’t eat. You gave great recommendations do you have any more?
OATMEAL can get stuck in the back of the throat, the little oat pieces. Not a good idea unless absolutely pureed.
Eggs ditto the same situation. They can be made dry and chunky by the wrong caregiver. I’ve seen it. Not everyone has higher level critical thinking skills, ya know? I’ve seen careless caregivers and even RNS and LVNS giving elderly patients HOT food without a care in the world,, as they check their facebook….
PUREE the food rather than risk a piece of HARD yolk getting stuck in throat.
Thanks so much for sharing your personal experience! I have a guide to pureeing food for anyone who is interested in that option: https://www.grayingwithgrace.com/make-pureed-food-elderly/ -Scott
When my Daughter was wired shut after a major facial reconstruction. I blended her food with extra liquids..
I liquified Mc Donalds in warm beef broth
Pizza with warm water and extra sauce
She didnt like a hogie blended.. not at all.
Yogurt and fruit blended with milk
Spaghetti in a blender was great
Omelets with toast and warm Ketchup water worked great
Thinned Cream of wheat.. can add strawberry syrup, chocolate syrup, orange juice and vanilla extract… etc.
Can even add savory soups blended into cream of wheat.
My mom is 86 and was diagnosed with organic dementia and now she’s having trouble swallowing hard food. Thanks for sharing this I have learned so much from this article. And I’m going to start today.
Hi Luis – I am sorry to hear about your mother’s diagnosis. Thanks for letting me know that you found this information helpful! That’s why we work so hard to put out good information to help our elders. Good luck and God Bless!