Many seniors have difficulty swallowing food or liquids. This condition is called dysphagia and can cause serious issues like aspiration pneumonia, dehydration, or malnutrition. Jess McLean shares her 10 delicious and easy-to-make dysphagia diet recipes that will encourage your older adult to eat. Her mom, who has dysphagia, loves them! Plus, these good-for-you meals and desserts will keep your older adult safe, satisfied, and healthy.
Are you looking for fast, nutritious dysphagia meals for your older adult? When it comes to dealing swallowing problems, the task can seem challenging – from making just the right consistency of food to actually helping your older adult eat.
In my case, my mother has advanced stages of primary progressive MS as well as brain damage from years of seizures. Feeding her is a trial. She can rarely be fed with a spoon anymore, but reacts better to drinking everything out of bottles.
If I do spoon feed her, I have to trick her to open her mouth so I can get anything in; for example, I ask her to say “Hola!” and then she keeps her mouth open for a bite.
What makes a huge difference is when she eats something that is simply so delicious her brain says “Hello! Give me more!”
Over our time managing dysphagia, we’ve nailed down several recipes that are quick, don’t require artificial thickeners, are packed with nutrients, and best of all, are delicious! Here are 10 of our favorites.
10 easy recipes for a dysphagia diet: 5 ingredients or less
1. Coconut Mango Puree
This one is a true island treat and so easy! Blend ripe mango together with coconut milk or coconut cream out of a can – that’s it!
The sugar of the mango is more than enough sweetness to flavor this dessert and the subtle coconut in the background is just dreamy.
2. Acorn Squash Banana Milkshake
You heard that right – squash and bananas, say what?! Turns out acorn squash has just the right amount of sweet and nutty that it pairs perfectly with banana and vanilla ice cream.
I roast the acorn squash until tender and then let it cool before blending (peeling off the skin, of course)
3. Avo-cocoa Pudding
Now this one sounds out of this world, but trust me, it’s incredible!
A rather healthy take on chocolate pudding, all you need to do for this sweet treat is blend together a banana, ripe avocado, milk, and a teaspoon or two of cocoa powder (add honey for sweetness).
4. Savory Beet Puree
This delish dish will shock you with how vibrant and purple it is, but it simply can’t be ‘beet’!
Roast your beet until tender, chop it up into cubes, and blend with plain greek yogurt, a pinch of dried dill weed (or fresh dill), a dash of garlic powder, and veggie broth to thin out.
5. Strawberry Spinach Applesauce
That’s right, sneak in some dark leafy greens to make this applesauce even healthier!
Cook down sliced strawberries with a pinch of sugar, toss in loads of spinach to wilt, and then blend with enough applesauce to make it nice and smooth.
6. Tomato Basil Soup
Roast whole tomatoes and then simmer for 10 minutes with canned diced tomatoes, garlic, as much basil as you can stand, and a little cream.
Blend until creamy (add a dash of sugar if they prefer foods to be a little sweeter).
7. Green Goddess Puree
This take on a familiar dessert/dressing is wonderfully herby. Blend together an avocado, plain greek yogurt, drizzle of olive oil, dash of lemon juice, and all the leafy herbs you can get your hands on – basil, parsley, cilantro, mint – whatever you have in the kitchen.
8. Cheesecake Mousse
Ditch the blender and opt for the mixer on this one! In one bowl mix cream cheese and sugar together. In another whip cocoa and espresso powder with coconut milk (or half and half).
Combine with heavy cream (ok, this one has six ingredients!) and whip on high until it has a smooth mousse consistency.
9. Chia Seed Pudding
This one takes a little longer to set, but the omega-3-rich chia seeds are worth it!
Mix a good amount of chia seeds in coconut milk with a splash of vanilla and maple syrup and then let set in the fridge for about an hour to thicken. Blend and serve cold!
10. Monkey Nut Milkshake
Another banana milkshake but this time use coffee ice cream and add peanut butter. Blend with milk to get to preferred consistency and serve cold. This shake offers yummy flavors and a little caffeine to put some pep in your loved one’s step!
Thickness: you’re the best judge
You may be wondering why there are no measurements and no exact quantities. Because with dysphagia, it all comes down to your older adult’s individual needs.
What works for my mother might not work for your older adult. Plus, all blenders are different, and if you are managing dysphagia, you’ll have an eye for what is the right smoothness and thickness for your older adult.
When in doubt, always avoid adding too much liquid right away since it is always easier to thin something out than re-thicken it. I have found that water, broths, and milks (cow’s, almond, coconut, etc.) are the best for thinning out food as you blend it.
Safety note about ice cream
If you are a well-informed dysphagia caregiver, than you know ice cream on its own is a no-no because it can melt in the mouth and potentially cause your loved one to aspirate.
What I have found when ice cream is blended on high speed with other foods like in the “milkshakes” listed above, it thickens and transforms into a whipped consistency that is more like soft serve and is safe for someone with dysphagia to swallow.
Let your creativity flow!
If you don’t follow these recipes exactly, who cares! The hope is that it gives you some ideas and lets other caregivers see that feeding our loved ones with dysphagia whole, healthy foods doesn’t have to be hard. Happy cooking!
Recommended for you:
- 7 Helpful Tips for Seniors and Caregivers Managing Dysphagia
- Why Do Seniors Lose Their Appetites?
- Why Do Seniors Have Trouble Swallowing?
Guest contributor: Jess McLean is a full-time caregiver for her Mom who has Primary Progressive MS and Epilepsy. Moonlighting as a freelance writer with a passion for cooking, Jess lives in Austin, TX with her wonderful husband and Mom. You can find her blogging about caregiving tips, ideas, and solutions at Givea.Care.
Image: Home Care Assistance
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