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Elderly Care: Taking the "Ick" Factor Out of Pureed Diets

When your elderly parent or loved one suffers from swallowing disorders like dysphagia, preparing meals can become a real chore. Seniors may develop dysphagia for a multitude of reasons including: Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease, digestive problems, esophageal cancer, stroke and neurological diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Regardless of its cause, dysphagia can have serious consequences including impaired nutrition and hydration and often, diminished quality of life.

If you notice that your parent or other senior loved one is exhibiting signs of swallowing problems, consult with your physician for proper diagnosis before beginning any dietary changes. Treatment and diet will vary significantly depending on the degree of dysphagia present. For severe cases of dysphagia, a pureed diet will likely be prescribed to minimize the choking risk.

A visit with the dietitian may leave you with the impression that your loved one's diet will be forever reduced to mushy, unappealing, and bland options. Not necessarily so! With a small amount of effort and creativity, your elderly parent can look beyond baby foods and applesauce to more flavorful options. Tasty, appealing meals are critical in nutritional care and in keeping an elderly person interested in eating.

Tips for Nutritious, Appetizing Pureed Meals:

After pureeing meats like ham, beef or chicken, try wrapping the meat in parchment paper and freezing. When frozen, cut meat into cubes and use in main courses, like stews. The cubes maintain their shape and look very realistic. Keep a bag of frozen cubed meats on hand as a time saver.

When making meals, puree each food item separately. Most people prefer to eat the veggies separate from the main dish. Blending the items together might save preparation time but will likely result in some strange and unappealing flavor combinations.

Invest in some molds designed for use with pureed foods. These molds can make pureed food look like the real thing. Some of the results are incredible, capturing the shape and texture of various vegetables and meats. is good source for reasonably priced molds but there many other options available on the internet. Making pureed foods resemble their original form goes a long way in restoring dignity at meal time for dysphagia patients.

Experiment with other ways to create realistic shapes for pureed food. For example, chefs at assisted living facilities often use pastry bags to shape foods like pasta noodles and green beans. Tomato slices for sandwiches can be created by mixing unflavored gelatin and tomato juice, pouring into cups and freezing. Frozen juice can then be sliced to simulate a tomato slice. It will take practice to perfect but can be fun to try.

Spend some time perusing the large collection of puree recipes on There is something for everyone in their huge on-line cookbook. Variety is especially important to someone on a pureed diet.

Try perking up staple items with some easy, flavorful additions. Enhance, nutrient dense, plain Greek yogurt with fresh pureed fruit mixtures. Add brown sugar, molasses or pureed fruit to thinned Cream of Wheat or oatmeal. Don't forget spices when pureeing foods. Basics like salt (use sparingly), pepper, salad dressings, and smooth prepared sauces can be added to pureed mixtures to enhance flavor.

If not using molds to prepare foods, consider using garnishes to enhance presentation. Using colorful food combinations is also important in meal planning. Vibrant spice garnishes can improve the appearance of pureed foods. Even simple additions like paprika and parsley flakes can add visual interest. Sprinkling cinnamon on top of pureed apple can be a welcomed change. Offer varying sauces, relishes and condiments to spice things up. Use a fork to "fluff up" the pureed food and add texture before serving.

Consider putting strong smelling foods like fish or broccoli into a casseroles with other ingredients. The process of pureeing these foods can magnify the sometimes unpleasant odor.

A well made smoothie can be a great meal substitute for someone with a poor appetite. With so many recipe options, it's difficult to run out of ideas for great tasting, nutritious smoothies. The most important ingredient in a smoothie is the thickening agent. Use yogurt, pureed banana or frozen fruit as natural thickeners.

Preparing meals for a loved one on a pureed diet can be a bit challenging at first. Spending a little time experimenting with recipes created especially for those on a pureed diet is worth the investment. Putting a little thought into the presentation can also go a long way in maintaining appetite. Serving some "smooth textured" foods to the entire family such as hummus for an appetizer or mousse for desert can help to take some of the stigma and embarrassment out of consuming a pureed diet for your elderly parent.

Please let us know how these suggestions work for your family. Feel free to share your ideas with our readers, as well.

For more information go to: or call us at770-442-8664

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