How to Make Pureed Food for the Elderly
Pureed food has a bad reputation. The idea of it conjures up images of sloppy puddles of strange colored liquids that don’t smell like any kind of real food. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With the right recipes and the right tools, you can make pureed food for the elderly and seniors that both looks and tastes good. This is essential if you want to whet an uncertain appetite as well as satisfy all your nutritional requirements.
When to Puree
Pureed food is softer and easier to swallow. For people who have trouble chewing or swallowing, it can be the only option if you want to avoid more invasive ways to get the nutrition you need. Some seniors and elderly have trouble eating normal food for a number of reasons, including dental problems, diseases processes or just lack of strength. Pureed food can be a safer option for people with these kinds of issues, reducing the danger of choking or malnutrition. The Ohio Department of Aging has a good guide about choking and how to deal with it.
Sometimes, people with dementia are put on pureed food diets. Because seniors with dementia often eat less, it is important that the right foods be added to their purees. That way, they will get the maximum nutrition if they eat only small amounts.
How to Puree
Learning to make a good puree takes practice. When you are done you should have a thick, smooth paste that has no lumps. The easiest way to prepare foods for the blender or food processor is to cook all foods until tender. Then blend them together. Just make sure that your blender is strong enough to completely pulverize the foods you put in it. To stay safe throughout the process, allow foods to cool slightly after cooking and before blending. If the mix is put in the blender too hot it can blow the lid off, which could result in a mess, or even in serious burns.
A Note on Appearance
One of the primary problems with pureed food is its appearance. No matter how well you cook the food. Or how good it smells. If it’s a shapeless puddle on your plate it won’t be appetizing at all. For seniors who don’t have much of an appetite in the first place, this can be disastrous. That’s why there is a variety of products and molds you can use to shape the food and make it look more like recognizable meals or products. You can use these to shape pureed proteins to look like steak, to create pureed carrots, and even make strings of spaghetti.
Good Foods to Puree
Most foods can be pureed including meats, vegetables, fruits, and grains. The trick is to add enough liquid to make the mixture smooth and creamy without allowing it to become watery. You don’t always have to add water to the mix either. You can experiment with gravy for the main meal or with ice cream or yogurt for desserts. These will create some great tasting food, enough to tempt even a small appetite.
Bad Foods to Puree
If the food is tough to puree, has skin that can’t be removed, or is very dry, then it doesn’t work very well in a puree. Some examples of food that you should avoid putting in your purees unless you like doing a lot of extra work are below.
- Celery: It’s stringy and difficult to prepare properly in a puree.
- Nuts and Seeds: They can easily get missed by the blender blades and cause choking.
- Dried Fruit: These can swell when they get wet, causing lumps, and are very difficult to blend completely.
- Beans: They have tough skins that don’t cook down soft.
- Hard cheeses
Tips for Pureeing Vegetables
Always make sure the vegetables are fully cooked before you attempt to blend them. A simple microwave can help with this. This will help create a smooth and creamy puree without any fibrous threads. However, if they are overcooked they will lose their natural color and turn gray and tasteless, so try to cook things evenly without overcooking. Also, remove all the seeds and skins before blending so there are no lumps in the mash. Finally, try to avoid putting potatoes or other starchy root vegetables into the blender or food processor as the spinning process will turn them into a sticky mess.
How to Puree Meat
You must always cook meat well before you try to puree it. Most types of meat will puree well including chicken, beef or pork. Choose tender cuts of meat where possible, and use a cooking method that keeps the meat moist such as boiling, steaming or stewing. Let the meat cool and cut it up into small pieces before blending. Remember to add spices such as chili, garlic, salt or pepper to suit your tastes and preferences.
Main Meal Recipes
Macaroni and Cheese
- Cook 1 cup of macaroni and cheese as normal.
- Add one cup of milk and blend in the microwave
- Boil the cauliflower until very tender. Save half a cup of the cooking liquid when it’s done.
- Put the cauliflower in the blender with the cooking water.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add a small amount of butter to taste.
- Blend until smooth.
- Cook four ounces of beef until soft.
- Boil favourite vegetables such as carrots and peas until tender.
- Add half a cup of beef broth or gravy
- Blend together until you have the desired consistency.
Maple Sweet Potato
- Boil one sweet potato until soft and cut into chunks.
- Add 1 tablespoon of cream, 2 teaspoons of maple syrup, two teaspoons of butter and a pinch of cinnamon.
- Blend well.
Peaches and Cream
- Strain one jar of baby peaches
- Add one cup of ice cream, a pinch of nutmeg and 1/8 of a teaspoon vanilla extract.
- Blend until smooth
As you get older, changes in your body may make eating more difficult. This is dangerous for the elderly and can lead to malnutrition. But, even faced with that reality, some people refuse to transition to pureed foods in the belief that they taste and look bad.
Pureed food doesn’t have to be that much different from solid foods. Just cook many of your favorite meals as normal and enjoy them in a blended form. Use high walled or partitioned plates to keep foods from running together. If the elderly person has difficulty using normal utensils, check out these easy to use forks and spoons. Liquid foods can be drank from adult-sized sippy cups.
So if you struggle to eat normal foods, for whatever reason, don’t be afraid to try pureed foods. With a little bit of practice and the right techniques, you can create nutritious pureed food that looks, smells and tastes great.
Tell me about your experiences with pureed foods for the elderly. Do you have any techniques you have learned that will help others? How about any favorite recipes? Let me know in the comments below!
Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®
About This Site
Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS Founder / Editor
My name is Scott Grant and I work daily with seniors as a custom wheelchair specialist at a home medical equipment company. I see these people struggle as they lose their independence. I watch their families try to help them but most don't even know where to start. Few are even aware of their options. I'm here to help!
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