If you are finding it difficult to swallow food, we suggest the steps you should take and provide guidance on the best foods to eat.

Here at Wiltshire Farm Foods we like to share our nutritional expertise, whether that’s through our blog posts, interviews with our in-house Dietitian or by providing delicious meals from our Softer Foods range. If you are having swallowing problems, in particular trouble swallowing food, then we have put together this handy guide of where to seek help and some guidance on what foods you can safely eat depending on your level of swallowing difficulty, to help put your mind at ease.

What should I do if I am struggling to swallow?

Difficulty swallowing is known medically as dysphagia. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms of dysphagia, then you may want to request that your GP refers you to be seen by a Speech and Language Therapist.

Dysphagia symptoms to look out for according to the NHS include:

  • Being unable to chew food properly.
  • The sensation that food is stuck in your throat or chest.
  • Uncontrollable drooling of saliva.
  • Coughing or choking whilst eating or drinking.
  • A wet or “gurgly” sounding voice.

You can read more about the symptoms of dysphagia here.

If you do require a referral to a Speech and Language Therapist, during your first consultation they will likely assess the safety of your swallow. This is a routine assessment which usually involves drinking water whilst the therapist looks for any signs of weakness in your swallow reflex. You may be required to have further investigation through a Barium swallow test, which we have a complete guide of what to expect here.

If you have been seen by a Speech and Language Therapist and diagnosed with dysphagia, you may be recommended to modify the consistency of the food and drinks that you consume. Regarding food, you may be recommended one of the following:

  • Level 6 Soft & Bite-Sized Diet
  • Level 5 Minced & Moist Diet
  • Level 4 Puréed Diet

It is very important that you follow these recommendations to ensure that the food you are eating is safe to do so. If food or fluid is not the correct texture for you then there is a risk that you could either choke or aspirate (inhale food or fluid into your lungs).

Preparing texture modified meals at home

When trying to modify the texture of your food at home, it can be challenging to know where to begin. We have 4 useful tips to help point you in the right direction.

  1. Avoid foods that are particularly tough to blend or pose challenges when they are blended - These include tough meat, fruits and vegetables that are stringy or have skins such as apples, strawberries, peas, sweetcorn and celery.
  1. Have the right equipment - For full meals, a food processor or liquidiser will be very helpful and a sieve can be used to filter out lumps and ensure a smooth consistency.
  1. Use liquids to help the blending process when trying to achieve a puréed consistency - Liquids can help the blending process by loosening components, however adding water can dilute nutritional content. Where suitable, try to use cream, milk, cheese sauce, gravy or margarine to help fortify your meals.
  1. Avoid some foods altogether - These include hard, crunchy or crumbly foods and mixed consistency foods. To find out more, we have a full article that highlights foods to avoid with dysphagia here.

Managing a Level 6 Soft & Bite-Sized diet at home

A Soft & Bite-Sized diet should consist of bite-sized pieces that are roughly the size of a thumbnail (1.5cm x 1.5cm) and are very soft, tender and moist. There should be no separate thin liquids that drip from the food. These bite-sized pieces should be mashable with a fork or spoon. Some naturally ‘soft’ foods to eat that can fit these requirements include:

  • Bite-sized (1.5cm x 1.5cm) pieces of very tender meat or soft fish
  • Well boiled vegetables that are diced
  • Scrambled egg
  • Mashed Potato
  • Rice in a thick sauce

Once you have prepared a Level 6 Soft & Bite-Sized meal, you can check that it is safe by conducting some quick and easy tests using your cutlery. Click here to see a video of our Dietitian, Helen, showing you how to test your food at home to check it is safe for a Level  6 Soft & Bite-Sized diet.

If you are concerned about preparing Soft & Bite-Sized meals at home, Wiltshire Farm Foods provides a solution that not only gives you peace of mind but also exceptional convenience, not to mention great taste! Our expertly prepared range of Level 6 Soft & Bite-Sized meals features 10 classic meals including our tempting Beef Hotpot and warming Fish Pie.

 

 

Managing a Level 5 Minced diet at home

A Level 5 Minced diet should be soft, moist and require minimal chewing. Individual food pieces should not exceed 4mm in size. Sauces should be thick enough to combine with these pieces of food and not separate off. You should be able to scoop and shape food of this texture onto a plate.  Some naturally appropriate foods to eat that can fit these requirements include:

  • Porridge or instant porridge
  • Tender minced meat
  • Mashed fish such as tuna with mayonnaise
  • Mashed corned beef hash
  • Mashed vegetables such as carrot or swede
  • Rice pudding of an appropriate size
  • Rice in a thick sauce

Once you have prepared a Level 5 Minced meal, you can check that it is safe by conducting some quick and easy tests using your cutlery. Click here to see a video of our Dietitian, Helen, showing you how to test your food at home to check it is safe for a Level 5 Minced diet.

If preparing a Level 5 diet is proving challenging, Wiltshire Farm Foods can alleviate the stress with our Level 5 Minced range. Not only are our Level 5 Minced dishes safe and delicious, but they can be easily cooked in the microwave or oven at the push of a button. You don’t even have to pierce the film. Why not take a look at our Level 5 Minced range here.

 

Managing a Level 4 Puréed diet at home

To ensure you are eating the correct consistency for a Level 4 Puréed diet it should meet the following criteria:

  • No lumps.
  • Not sticky.
  • Should be one consistent texture; liquid should not separate from solids.
  • Cannot be poured or drunk from a cup.
  • Should fall off a spoon in a single mass when the spoon is tilted.

Some foods that may be naturally appropriate for a Level 4 Puréed diet include:

  • Instant porridge
  • Mashed potato (no lumps)
  • Smooth, thick yoghurt
  • Thick custard
  • Mousse
  • Thick, smooth soup (without chunks or croutons)

Some foods that can be more easily puréed include:

  • Stewed fruit without skins
  • Fully mashed banana
  • Avocado
  • Boiled carrots
  • Boiled cauliflower
  • Boiled broccoli
  • Boiled swede
  • Well cooked pasta (must be blended with a sauce)
  • Soft meat or fish in sauce or gravy

Once you have prepared a Level 4 Puréed meal, you can check that it is safe by conducting some quick and easy tests using cutlery. Click here to see a video of our in-house Dietitian, Helen, showing you how to test your food at home to check it is safe for a Level 4 Puréed diet.

How can Wiltshire Farm Foods help?

If you are concerned about having difficulty with blending and sieving your own meals at home, not to mention the washing up, then Wiltshire Farm Foods have an award-winning Level 4 Purée range for you. Our Purée dishes are expertly developed by our talented chefs to ensure the flavour and appearance are our best ever. With 18 dishes in our larger portion Purée Classic range and 20 dishes in our smaller portion Purée Petite range there are great options for every occasion.

Wiltshire Farm Foods also caringly prepare comforting favourites in our range of Purée snacks such as our delicious Hot Bacon Sandwich and Beans on Toast. For those of you with a sweet tooth, our Purée Desserts should hit the spot. From Sticky Toffee Pudding and Custard to Hot Chocolate Cake, there’s something for everyone. Click here to find out more about our Level 4 ranges.

 

*Wiltshire Farm Foods content does not replace the advice of any registered Healthcare Professional and you should always seek the advice of your General Practitioner when making changes to your diet. The guidelines in this article are for general healthy eating purposes and if you have any conditions that may require a specialised diet or fluid restriction then you must follow the advice of your dedicated Healthcare Professional. 

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