Sitting down at the table to eat a huge meal filled with your favorite foods probably isn’t something that you give much thought or concern to. For those with dysphagia, however, it’s an entirely different story as those foods may be difficult, if not impossible, to swallow. This cause a fair amount of stress, and anxiety and may run the risk of them choking while trying to swallow. Dysphagia is a swallowing disorder that means it takes a person more time to move liquids and foods from their mouth to their stomach. It may be so severe that it becomes impossible to swallow safely and be very painful.
Let’s take a look at the dos and don’ts of the dysphagia-friendly diet so that if you or someone you know has been diagnosed, you can start to develop a safer meal plan.
Speak to Your Health Care Provider
Before you start to create a dysphagia-safe diet, it’s very important to talk to your healthcare provider. There are different types of dysphagia, and the type can help determine what foods/liquids you can and can’t consume. Your healthcare provider may be able to provide you with a basic meal plan that you can follow and build upon as you feel comfortable. They may even send you to a speech pathologist who can help with swallowing tips and techniques.
Learn the Different Food Texture Levels
A key eating/drinking tip for those with dysphagia is to learn how to group each food and drink. They will fall into one of three levels. Level one items are pureed which means you don’t need to chew them. Level two foods are easy to chew and are moist and soft. Then level three includes easy to chew small pieces (1/2” pieces) that are also soft.
Depending on the type and severity of your dysphagia, you will probably be advised to stick to a particular level of food. This is why it’s so important to speak to your healthcare provider.
Some examples of foods that fit into the different levels include:
- Cream of wheat
- Baby food
- Mashed potatoes
- Cottage cheese
- Ground meat
- Baked potatoes
- Well-cooked fish
- Well-cooked vegetables
- Soft cookies
- Soft bread
- French fries
Consider Using a Liquid Thickener
For those who have trouble swallowing thin liquids such as juice, water, milk, soda, coffee and tea, a liquid thickener can be the answer. A product such as SimplyThick can be added to adjust the consistency and thicken it up, which then gives more control when swallowing. A thicker liquid moves slower, which is safer for someone with dysphagia.
Using a liquid thickener means you may not need to give up the drinks you love but can’t drink in their natural, thin form. Ideally, you want to take that thin liquid and turn it into a nectar-like consistency, something like fruit nectar, tomato juice or buttermilk.
While it may seem like a lot to learn and take in, for those with dysphagia, learning the proper diet tips is not only helpful but necessary for their health.