A growing number of elderly people are choosing to eat soft food or are placed on a soft food diet by medical professionals.
This is often because they have difficulty chewing solid food due to dysphagia, partially missing or complete loss of teeth, poor dental hygiene, reduced sense of taste or smell, and a host of digestive and other medical conditions.
Here are the reasons why soft foods can be good for older adults along with 31 easy to make ideas for soft meals and snacks plus some high protein and high calorie options too.
Why Do Some Elderly People Need Soft Foods?
Fortunately, there are many benefits to eating soft food for the elderly. Some of the benefits include:
It Reduces Risk of Falls and Injuries
Soft food is less likely to cause falls and injuries because it is often easier to prepare and doesn’t require hours on your feet cooking at a stove. Most soft foods can even be prepared in your microwave oven. So, for elderly people with mobility or balance problems, less time on their feet is a good thing.
It Reduces Risk of Malnutrition and Weight Loss
Soft food is often high in nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are important for a healthy diet. It can also help reduce the risk of malnutrition and weight loss in seniors, since they may not be able to eat as many solid nutritious foods as they used to due to health conditions or age-related issues.
It Improves Hydration
One of the most important is that soft food can help keep the elderly hydrated. Soft foods often have more water content than hard foods, so they help to keep the elderly hydrated.
Many Soft Foods Have Fewer Calories
Eating soft food can help to reduce the caloric intake of seniors. This is because the best soft foods often have a lower calorie content than hard foods. This can be helpful for people who are trying to lose weight, since they will be eating fewer calories overall.
They Are Easier to Process and Digest
Additionally, soft food is often easier to digest, which can improve overall health and well-being. And, of course, it is easier to chew and can even be consumed by seniors who are missing teeth or have no teeth at all.
It’s Comfort Food!
Many of the softer foods that we all enjoy are often comfort foods too which can help relieve stress and anxiety. Examples are mac and cheese, ice cream and puddings.
How to Choose the Right Soft Food for the Elderly
When it comes to choosing the right soft food for the elderly, there are a few things to keep in mind.
It Should Be Easy to Eat and Digest.
Many seniors have difficulty eating due to dysphagia, missing or lack of teeth, and other medical conditions. Soft foods that are easy to eat and digest will help to improve their quality of life. If it isn’t, they won’t eat it and then won’t get the nutritional benefits they need.
It Should Be Low in Sugar and High in Fiber.
The elderly are more prone to digestive problems, such as constipation and diarrhea. To help with these issues, it is important that their food is low in sugar and high in fiber.
Seniors should not consume much sugar because it can lead to problems such as obesity and diabetes and is considered to contain “empty calories”. Fiber is also important because it helps to.
A diet high in fiber keeps the intestines moving, helps with digestion, and regulates bowel movements. Soft foods that contain a high amount of water and fiber can help keep you full, prevent cravings, and reduce snacking.
It Should Contain Calcium and Protein.
Additionally, the food they consume should contain nutrients such as calcium and be a good source of protein. Calcium is important for the development and function of the bones, while protein is necessary for muscle growth and repair.
Not all soft food products contain these nutrients, so read the nutritional labels. Some of the best sources of these nutrients include: yogurt, cottage cheese, oatmeal, applesauce, and puddings.
Make sure that the elderly person is getting enough protein and vitamins, as these nutrients can help support overall health.
It Should Be Low in Fat and Calories.
Find foods that are low in fat and calories. Seniors should not eat a lot of fat because it can increase the risk of heart disease, negatively affects digestion, and increases the risk of obesity.
Some good choices for low-fat foods include: fruit, vegetables, yogurt, oatmeal, low-fat cottage cheese, and low-fat puddings. Choose foods with healthy fats instead.
Variety is Key!
Finally, elderly people should have a variety of softer foods to choose from. Provide them with a range of flavors and textures that can appeal to different taste buds. This way, they can find something that they enjoy and that will provide them with the nutritional benefits that they need.
Plus, variety is the spice of life, right?
Soft Food Meals for the Elderly
People eating a soft food diet often struggle to come up with complete, nutritious meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Here is a list of the best soft foods that can make a complete delicious meal that people without teeth can easily eat:
1. Macaroni and Cheese
Mac and Cheese is a favorite for many people and it can be dressed up by adding small pieces of meats and vegetables to it. Macaroni and cheese can also be made with a variety of different cheeses and dairy products. Watch the fat and calories, though.
There are all types of soups to choose from. They are readily available at the grocery store or can be made at home from scratch. Some good examples are chicken noodle soup, beef vegetable soup, and tomato bisque.
3. Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes are the easiest type of potato for people without teeth to eat but they can also eat baked potatoes without skins, scalloped potatoes, hash browns, and even sweet potatoes for variety. White rice can be a great option.
4. Pureed Foods
Many firmer foods can be cooked until soft and then put in a food processor or pureed to make them easier to eat. Check out my guide to making pureed food for seniors here for more information.
5. Steamed Soft Vegetables
Steaming vegetables softens them up without reducing their nutritional content or flavor like boiling will. People with tooth loss can choose from a wide array of raw vegetables, just make sure that they are cooked until soft. They can be pureed as well.
6. Flaky Fish
Most types of fish can be eaten without teeth – just make sure that they are cooked until the flesh flakes easily with a fork. Flaky fish can also be pureed if you like.
7. Lean Meats
Finely chopped or pureed lean meats can be a good choice. They are easy to eat and can be made with a variety of different meats. Adding soft steamed vegetables can make a complete meal.
8. Fresh Fruits
Bananas in particular are a great source of potassium and other nutrients, like vitamin C, that are beneficial for people without teeth. They can also help to keep your blood pressure in check and provide you with some essential vitamins and minerals.
Other soft fresh fruits that seniors may want to try include kiwi, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, applesauce, melons, and chopped up grapes.
Fresh fruit can be eaten for breakfast or added to any meal to up the nutritional content or add some sweetness.
9. Scrambled Eggs
Most people love scrambled eggs and they are a healthy food for people with no teeth. They can also eat an omelet with small pieces of veggies or other ingredients like onions, olives, and more.
Oatmeal is easy and quick to prepare and a comfort food for many people. It comes in a variety of flavors and is another favorite for breakfast meals. You can stir in finely chopped fruits and berries or lots of spices to suit your own tastes.
Don’t like oatmeal? Try some cream of wheat!
11. Chili Con Carne
Chili con carne is another soft food that is easy to prepare and can be enjoyed with a variety of toppings. Find an easy recipe on the internet and add shredded cheese, diced onions, sour cream, or anything else you like. Just make sure it is cooked until very soft or you could leave the meat out and just use beans.
12. Spaghetti and Meatballs
Spaghetti and meatballs is another soft food that is easy to make and can be flavored to your preference. Make sure the meatballs are small and extremely soft. There are also lots of canned varieties of spaghetti and meatballs available at your local grocery store.
13. Chicken and Dumplings
Many older adults grew up eating chicken and dumplings. They are a simple and easy dish and you can add gravy, chopped up onions, or even mashed potatoes to the dumplings to change them up a little.
14. Shepherd’s Pie
Shepherd’s Pie is made of a variety of meats and vegetables that are cooked in a pie crust and topped with mashed potatoes. Chop the meat and veggies up into small bits and cook the entire dish until everything is very soft.
15. Beef Stroganoff
Beef Stroganoff is a great soft food choice because it is a hearty dish that comes in a creamy sauce consisting of sour cream, mushrooms, and beef.
16. Soft Tortillas and Quesadillas
A variety of soft Mexican dishes can be made with soft tortillas, beans, ground meats, and cheese. Some common dishes include quesadillas, burritos, soft tacos, and enchiladas.
17. Baked Beans
Baked beans are a classic soft food that can be made at home or bought at the store canned and ready to heat. They can be flavored with your choice of spices. Add a little salt, pepper, and sugar (very little!) to the beans before you bake them in the oven.
18. Egg Salad Sandwiches
Egg salad is a great, quick snack idea for the elderly. It is really easy to make and can be bought ready to eat from the store too. And there is very little chewing required to consume this nutritional treat! Eggs contain protein plus omega and healthy fats.
However, the yolks are high in cholesterol so it is recommended to remove some or all of the yolk when making an egg salad. Eggs also contain a good dose of both Vitamin A and the B-complex vitamins.
19. Crustless Quiche
This is the ultimate, soft meal that can double as a soft snack too plus it can either be made in one big pie or in mini form.
Quiche contains all the goodness of eggs plus more benefits from other ingredients that are added to the mix. Spinach is also a good source of fiber to help with digestion. They check just about all the boxes for nutritional value.
High-Calorie Soft Foods for Elderly People
For seniors and the elderly who have trouble maintaining their weight, there are plenty of high-calorie soft foods that elderly people will want to have for their use. Stock up on these types of foods so that they will get the proper nutrition that elderly people with no teeth need.
20. Energy Drinks
Elderly people may wish to get their calories from energy drinks. These are made specifically to include the vitamins and minerals that will keep them healthy as well as provide a good calorie intake too. (Click here for my list of the best energy drinks for the elderly)
21. Smoothies and Smoothie Bowls
Smoothies are a great way to use up any food that you might have lying around. They’re perfect for fruits, vegetables, greens (and even meats) that are high in calories and taste great too! Smoothie bowls are another great option.
For a ready made option, check out Kate Farms Nutritional Shakes. I use them myself and can tell you they are nutritious and delicious.
22. Baby Foods
There are many baby foods to choose from on the market including meats that contain protein. Since baby food is already soft, they do not need to worry about preparing them differently.
23. Other Soft, High Calorie Foods
More high calorie foods that are soft and nutritious foods to include yogurt, hummus, peanut butter (or other nut butters), dark chocolate brownies, soft granola bars, and whole grain waffles.
Soft Snacks for Elderly People
People love to have snack foods on hand and those on soft diets are no exception. Not only do they taste good but they fill up your stomach between meals. The key is to find nutritious, healthy foods and try to stay away from junk foods.
Here are some great options of soft snack foods that the elderly and people without teeth will enjoy:
24. Puddings and Custards
People will find lots of options with puddings from homemade custards to quick fix puddings to ready to eat options. They all come in different flavors and they taste good too!
Jell-O is another favorite snack item for people without teeth. You’ll find that there are all types of gelatins to choose from and they can include all types of finely cut-up fruits too.
26. Soft Cakes and Brownies
There are many different soft snack cakes to choose from. Avoid nuts in the cakes unless they are chopped up very finely. Otherwise, there is a big variety to choose from.
27. Ice Cream and Sherbet
Ice cream and sherbet are both delicious and refreshing options that can be enjoyed by the elderly. Both have options that are lower in sugar and calories. Both ice cream and sherbet are versatile and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, making them a great option for any senior snacker.
Yogurt is a great soft food option for people who have trouble chewing solid foods. Yogurt can be enjoyed with small bits of granola, fruit or nuts as toppings. It is also high in a good source of protein which is beneficial for seniors.
29. Soft, Chewy Granola Bars
For those who are looking for a healthy snack option, granola bars may be a good fit. Soft and chewy granola bars are easy to digest and provide plenty of nutritional value. Some of the best soft, chewy granola bars include those made with oats and soft fruits.
Applesauce and other cooked fresh fruits are soft and easy to eat, making them a good choice for seniors. Applesauce is also high in nutrients and can be enjoyed as a snack or even as part of a meal.
31. Soft Cookies
There are lots of soft cookie options out there like chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies, ladyfingers, and oatmeal cookies. These are all easy to eat and provide a nice snack or dessert option for the elderly.
These soft foods for elderly people were chosen because they are easy to make, readily available and provide lots of nutrition. There are even a few guilty pleasures that made the list.
Making sure that seniors and the elderly eat well is extremely important. Using the options and tips above, elderly people – even those with no teeth at all – will find that they can eat a lot of foods that will make them happy and keep them healthy.
Tell me your other ideas for soft snacks for elderly people in the comments below!