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Difficulty swallowing

Making the most of a soft diet - tips for people who have difficulty swallowing.

If you need to eat a soft diet, it can be difficult to eat the right variety of food. You need to have enough calories to stay healthy and keep your weight up.

A food processor or liquidiser are a great help. Hand blenders are particularly quick and easy to use.

Soft diet tips

These tips can help you make the most of a soft diet.

Eat slowly, chew food thoroughly and drink when eating

  • Avoid foods that need a lot of chewing and are hard to swallow - such as nuts, raw vegetables, dry biscuits, tough meat.
  • Have plenty to drink during and after meals to soften your food and prevent blockages.

Eat ‘little and often’

  • Having small frequent meals with snacks in between is often easier to cope with and will increase your nutritional intake each day.

Try soft foods

  • Eat more stews and casseroles - long, slow cooking softens meat and vegetables.
  • Use more sauces, gravies, cream, butter, milk or custard to soften foods - moist food is easier to swallow than dry. Try fish with a parsley sauce - or sponge cake with custard or cream.
  • Make milkshakes (banana, chocolate, strawberry) and add ice cream for extra calories.
  • Eat cereals such as porridge and other soft cereals.

Use a blender to process solid foods

  • You can eat most of your favourite foods this way, with a few changes here and there.
  • Mince meat or finely chop meat and vegetables in a food processor before or after cooking.
  • Blend meat or vegetable casseroles or curries to make tasty soups.
  • Try pureeing vegetables and mashed potatoes.

If you are trying to put on weight

  • Use milk or cream instead of water when mashing or blending foods.
  • Have plenty of high calorie drinks.

Have your food at the right temperature

  • Let very hot meals or drinks cool before you eat or drink them - warm foods may be more soothing.
  • Cold foods can be soothing too - for example, ice cream, yoghurt, mousse or jelly.
Last reviewed: 
25 Feb 2014
  • Nutrition and Cancer
    Edited by Clare Shaw
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2011

  • Symptom management in advanced cancer (4th edition)
    Twycross R, Wilcock A and Toller S
    Radcliffe Medical Press Ltd, 2009

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance
    Quality standard for nutrition support in adults (QS24) – November 2012

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance
    Nutrition support for adults – 2006

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