Swallowing issues, known as dysphagia, occur due to a range of health conditions – from stroke to Parkinson’s disease. Even the process of aging can weaken the throat muscles, making it difficult to get food and drink down sometimes.
If you have dysphagia or are caring for someone who does, your doctor has probably put you on a diet of soft (perhaps even puréed) foods. But regular meals of applesauce and oatmeal can get old fast! Below we’re passing along a few tips to make those mushy meals more appetizing, as shared by Diane Wolff, the author of a series of dysphagia cookbooks, in an article in U.S. News & World Report:
- Use the senses. If you have to purée food for someone you love, show them the food before it hits the food processor. Enjoying the sight and scents of the food in its original state will likely stimulate their appetite.
- Add flavor back in. Puréeing causes foods to lose much of their flavor, but sauces can help you add that taste back in. If the sauce liquifies the food too much (there’s a fine line between thin enough and too thin, which can also present an aspiration hazard), simply use a commercial thickener to get the consistency just right.
- Consider cooking methods. The way you cook your food affects how it retains flavor and nutrition. For example, steaming veggies and pressure-cooking rice help these foods stay delicious if you have to blend them down to a softer consistency. With these cooking methods, you also won’t cook the nutrients out.
- Layer, don’t blend. Dishes like banana cream pie, with distinct elements, can sometimes lose their appeal when all mixed together. Try keeping those elements intact (layer pudding, whipped cream and pureed crust) to better simulate the real thing.
- Remove the crunch. If your loved one suffers from moderate dysphagia, removing skin and seeds from fruits and then baking or stewing can turn a crisp apple or pear into a soft, easy-to-swallow treat.
With a little creativity, you can appetizingly soften or purée just about anything! Check out one of Wolff’s cookbooks here.