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Soft Foods For Elderly: 20 Nutritious Meals for Elderly
Dr. Shaina McQuilkie, DC

Fact Checked And Medically Reviewed By Edit Lepine, Certified Holistic Nutrition Practitioner

By Dr. Shaina McQuilkie, DC, Licensed Chiropractor

Last Updated on March 1st, 2024

Geriatric Nutrition

Soft Foods For Elderly: 20 Nutritious Meals for Elderly

Eating is one of the joys of life, but aging can make it challenging. You’re not alone if eating your favorite foods is tough due to swallowing difficulties. More than 20% of people over 501 and most people over 802 have problems swallowing. 

When the nerves and muscles involved in swallowing are not working correctly, it results in swallowing difficulties, a medical symptom known as dysphagia. It can negatively impact your health since it can cause dehydration, malnutrition, aspiration pneumonia, and, ultimately, decreased quality of life. 

Unfortunately, many conditions, including stroke, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, dementia, and dental issues, such as poorly fitting dentures and missing teeth, can lead to dysphagia. Therefore, older adults with health issues often struggle with swallowing difficulties.

The good news is you don’t have to give up your love of food. Adding soft foods to your diet can help you cope with swallowing difficulties while providing the nutrition you need to stay healthy.

In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of soft foods for seniors with swallowing issues. We will also give you food ideas and recipes to allow you to enjoy eating again and stay healthy as you age.

What are Soft Foods?

What are soft foods? Soft foods for the elderly are a dietary modification your doctor may recommend if you find swallowing difficult. They are easy to chew and swallow. They don’t irritate your throat or esophagus and are easy to digest. 

Soft foods are naturally soft. You can also cook, mash, puree, or blend foods to make them softer and easier to eat. Your doctor may recommend soft foods if you have difficulty swallowing or chewing to help you get the nutrition you need to stay healthy. 

Various other types of dietary modifications are available depending on your chewing and swallowing issues, including: 

  • Pureed foods – blending or processing foods to be smooth with no lumps. You can eat pureed foods with a straw or spoon. Doctors do not usually recommend pureed foods for severe swallowing or chewing issues.
Puree Food

  • Diced foods – dicing meat, fruits, and vegetables into pieces smaller than ½ inch.3 Diced foods can help if you have mild swallowing issues and can chew well. 
Diced Food

  • Moist and minced foods – mincing foods into very small pieces, smaller than ¼ inch,3 and moistening them with liquids, sauces, or gravies. These foods can help if you have moderate swallowing and chewing issues.
Moist Food

The Importance of Soft Foods for Elderly: Catering to Special Needs

Soft Foods for Seniors with Swallowing Issues

Swallowing issues affect your ability to eat and drink normally. As previously mentioned, you may have a medical condition that makes it difficult to swallow, for example, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, dementia, and dental issues, such as poorly fitting dentures or missing teeth.

Dysphagia can negatively impact your health. It can cause dehydration, malnutrition, aspiration pneumonia, and decreased quality of life. 

Soft foods for seniors with swallowing issues can improve health and well-being because there is less risk of choking and pulling (aspirating) this type of food into your lungs. 

Soft foods also help minimize pain or discomfort that occurs with eating, which helps to provide adequate nutrition.

Soft Foods for Seniors with No Teeth

Dental concerns are another common issue that can affect your ability to eat and drink normally. They can also cause pain, inflammation, and infection of your teeth and mouth.

Examples of dental concerns4 that can lead to difficulty chewing and swallowing include:

  • tooth decay
  • gum disease
  • tooth loss
  • denture problems 

Soft foods for older people with no teeth are beneficial because they require less chewing, are easy to swallow, and cause no damage or pain to your gums or mouth. 

Soft foods also help to maintain oral health and overall health and well-being by providing adequate nutrition and hydration, which keeps your immune system healthy and reduces your risk of infection.

Benefits of Soft Foods For Elderly

Soft foods are typically easier to digest6 and are more  nutrient-dense5 than harder foods. This makes soft foods an ideal option if you have swallowing issues or digestive health concerns such as constipation, acid reflux, or gastritis. 

6 Delicious and Nutritious Soft Foods for Seniors

Here are some examples of delicious and nutritious soft food options that are easy to chew and swallow and provide you with optimal nutrition:

  1. Creamy soups – pureeing your favorite vegetables and mixing them with milk or cream can make a delicious and nutritious creamy soup. If you want to add extra flavor, you can use a variety of herbs and spices. The nutritional value of creamy soups depends on the vegetables you use, but they can provide you with fiber and various vitamins and minerals. 
  1. Smoothies – blending your favorite fruits and vegetables with milk, yogurt, or juice can make a refreshing and nutritious drink. The nutritional value of smoothies also depends on the fruits and vegetables you use, but they can provide you with antioxidants, fiber, calcium, and protein.
  1. Mashed potatoes – you can mash potatoes with milk, butter, sour cream, or cheese to achieve a perfect flavor. If you want to change up the taste or look of your mashed potatoes, consider using sweet potatoes, as they provide a sweeter flavor. Mashed potatoes contain potassium, magnesium, and fiber. 
  1. Rice pudding – you can make sweet and savory rice pudding by changing the ingredients you cook your rice with. Cooking rice with milk, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon, or fruit provides a sweet option. On the other hand, cooking rice with cheese or eggs provides you with a savory option. Rice pudding provides you with protein, carbohydrates, calcium, and iron. 
  1. Custards and gelatin desserts – you can make custards by baking eggs with milk, sugar, and vanilla. You can make gelatin by dissolving gelatin powder in hot water and adding fruit juice or puree. The nutritional value of custards and gelatin depends on the ingredients that you use, but they often provide you with protein, calcium, vitamin C, and vitamin D.  
  1. Porridge – you can make porridge by mixing water or milk with foods like oats, rice, or cornmeal. Topping your porridge with fruits, honey, or cinnamon can make your porridge more flavorful. Porridge provides you with carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and iron. 

Recipe Corner: 3 Simple Soft Foods to Whip Up at Home

Below is a curated list of soft foods for elderly recipes that are tasty and nutritious. 

  1. Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal8 
Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3 ¾ cups water
  • 3 small sweet apples 
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon 
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • ¼ cup brown sugar (adjust to taste)
  • A teaspoon of butter for each serving

Instructions:

  • Combine the oats, water, apples, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium-sized saucepan. 
  • Bring to a boil over medium-high heat while stirring occasionally. 
  • Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer for a few minutes until the oats and apples are soft. 
  • Remove from heat and add brown sugar. 
  • Spoon into serving bowls and top with butter. 
  1. Cream of Mushroom Soup9
Cream Of Mushroom Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 cup medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup white button mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • 1 sprig of fresh parsley

Instructions:

  • Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  • Add onion and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes.
  • Add garlic and stir, cooking for 1 more minute.
  • Add mushrooms, salt, and pepper, and cook until they begin to turn golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  • Add flour and stir to coat the mushrooms.
  • Add white wine, stir, and cook for about 1 minute.
  • Add vegetable stock, stir, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Add heavy cream and stir to combine.
  • Blend the soup to your desired consistency using an immersion or standing blender.
  • Spoon into bowls and garnish with parsley.
  1. Creamy Egg Salad10

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces softened cream cheese
  • ¼ mayonnaise
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ cup green or sweet red pepper, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup celery, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup sweet pickle relish
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • 8 chopped hard-boiled eggs

Instructions:

  • Mix cream cheese, mayonnaise, salt, and pepper in a bowl until smooth.
  • Stir in green or red pepper, celery, relish, and parsley.
  • Fold in eggs.
  • Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Addressing Flavor: Keeping Soft Foods Exciting for Older Adults

One of the challenges of eating soft foods is that they may seem bland. However, you can make simple changes to soft foods to improve their flavor and texture, making them more appealing. Below, we show you some ways to do this.

  1. Use Herbs, Spices, and Safe Condiments

Herbs, spices, and safe condiments are delicious and an easy way to add flavor to your soft food. They also provide you with health benefits,7 including:

  • Decreasing pain and inflammation
  • Lowering blood sugar
  • Relieving nausea
  • Improving cardiovascular health

Safe condiments include yogurt, cheese, honey, maple syrup, sour cream, and mild sauces.

  1. Create Texture 

Another way to make soft food delicious and keep it interesting is to create texture combinations and contrasts. Texture combinations include multiple textures within a dish, such as moist and soft. Texture contrasts have different textures, such as soft and chewy, within the same dish. 

Being creative in the kitchen by playing with different textures can help keep your food interesting. 

Takeaway

If you have chewing or swallowing issues, your doctor may recommend soft foods to ensure you get proper nutrition. Soft foods may seem boring, but they can be varied, delicious, and nutritious with a little creativity. Using herbs, spices, and safe condiments can help improve flavors, and incorporating different textures can help to keep your food interesting. 

If you or a loved one have swallowing difficulties, you can prepare various soft foods to suit your dietary needs and preferences and explore the world of soft foods to ensure optimal nutrition and enjoyment. 

Sources

  1. Aging and swallowing. ENT Health. December 12, 2022. Accessed October 6, 2023. https://www.enthealth.org/conditions/aging-and-swallowing/.
  2. Leonard R. How aging affects our swallowing ability. National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders. Accessed October 6, 2023. https://swallowingdisorderfoundation.com/how-aging-affects-our-swallowing-ability/.
  3. Dysphagia Soft Diet – Alberta Health Services. Accessed October 8, 2023. https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/assets/info/nutrition/if-nfs-dysphagia-soft-diet.pdf.
  4. Bouzek A. 21 meals for elderly with no teeth. The Geriatric Dietitian. August 25, 2023. Accessed October 8, 2023. https://thegeriatricdietitian.com/meals-for-elderly-with-no-teeth/.
  5. Hess J, Rao G, Slavin J. The Nutrient Density of Snacks: A Comparison of Nutrient Profiles of Popular Snack Foods Using the Nutrient-Rich Foods Index. Glob Pediatr Health. 2017;4:2333794X17698525. Published 2017 Mar 30. doi:10.1177/2333794X17698525
  6. A soft food diet: Who should try it and what to eat. WebMD. Accessed October 8, 2023. https://www.webmd.com/diet/what-is-a-soft-food-diet.
  7. 5 spices with healthy benefits. Johns Hopkins Medicine. November 4, 2021. Accessed October 8, 2023. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/5-spices-with-healthy-benefits.
  8. Younkin M. Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal. Barefeet in the Kitchen. November 29, 2021. Accessed October 8, 2023. https://barefeetinthekitchen.com/apple-cinnamon-oatmeal/.
  9. O’Neal M. Cream of mushroom soup recipe by Tasty. tasty.co. June 9, 2019. Accessed October 8, 2023. https://tasty.co/recipe/the-only-cream-of-mushroom-soup-recipe-youll-ever-need.
  10. Creamy egg salad. Taste of Home. August 28, 2023. Accessed October 8, 2023. https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/creamy-egg-salad/
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Dr. Shaina McQuilkie, DC

Written By

Dr. Shaina McQuilkie, DC

Licensed Chiropractor

  • Dr. Shaina McQuilkie is a licensed chiropractor based in Stoney Creek, Ontario. She has a doctorate in chiropractic, a bachelor’s of kinesiology, and certification in writing. She is a practicing chiropractor and freelance medical writer with 12 years of writing experience in the healthcare industry. Shaina is passionate about writing and specializes in creating accurate, clear, and concise content for various audiences, including physicians, patients, and the general public. In addition to running a private practice, she is a freelance medical writer. Dr. McQuilkie has experience writing on various topics in the healthcare domain. You can reach out to her at (289)439-1606, shaina@formeclinic.ca

Comments (1)

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Nice post. I learn something totally new on Soft Foods For Elderly, thanks

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