Why do I need a soft diet?
At some point in our lives we may face issues with dining. Whether it be swallowing or chewing problems caused by a condition, or following tooth extraction, the challenges presented by dysphagia can make it difficult to get the nutrition needed – let alone enjoy meal times. If you are struggling to swallow food, you may be advised to eat a texture modified (often referred to as ‘soft’) diet. The following guide should help you understand more about how a texture modified diet might benefit you.
You may have heard the terms ’soft diet’ or ‘soft food diet’, however at Wiltshire Farm Foods we prefer to use the terminology adopted by the NHS. Broadly, texture modified food can sit under the following categories, or ‘Levels’:
A texture modified diet is commonly required for those living with dysphagia, the medical term for swallowing difficulties. There are two types of dysphagia, oropharyngeal, generally the result of a problem with the mouth or throat, and oesophageal - which arises due to problems with the oesophagus – the tube that takes food from your mouth to your stomach.
In most cases, dysphagia is caused by another health condition such as stroke, cancer or dementia. You can learn more about dysphagia and its associated conditions here.
A texture modified diet may only be a temporary requirement, for example following a tooth extraction. You can read more about what dietary options are available to you following dental treatment here.
Someone who is experiencing swallowing difficulties may show the following signs:
- Problems swallowing certain foods or liquids; or inability to swallow at all.
- Discomfort or pain when swallowing.
- Coughing or choking when eating food or drinking liquids.
- Regurgitation of food, sometimes through the nose.
- A feeling that food is stuck in the throat or chest.
Treatment tends to vary depending on which kind of dysphagia the individual has, but in most cases a change in diet will be required. Following a diagnosis, a Speech and Language Therapist will recommend the changes you should make to your diet to make it safer for you to eat. Changing the texture of foods can make it easier to swallow and reduces the risk of choking or food and fluid going ‘down the wrong way’ and into your lungs (known as aspiration).
Food texture guidelines
Below are some descriptions of the guidelines for texture modified food. These have been adopted by the NHS and detail what properties a meal from each level should possess:
Level 4 – Puréed The food should be one consistent, smooth texture, with no lumps or separate liquids. The prongs of a fork should be able to make clear patterns on the surface. It does not require chewing and cannot be drunk from a cup.
Level 5 – Minced Food of this texture is soft and moist with no separate thin liquid, with small lumps visible within the food. These lumps should be equal or less than 4mm in width and no longer than 15mm in length. Minimal chewing is required.
Level 6 – Soft & Bite-Sized can be easily mashed or broken down using a fork, and is soft, tender and moist throughout with no separate liquids. The food should be in ‘bite-sized’ pieces no larger than 1.5cm which require chewing.
Achieving the correct texture at home that is safe to eat for someone with swallowing or chewing difficulties can be very challenging. Certain foods do not blend down well and it can be hard to get the right consistency, not to mention worrying about nutrition and the washing up!
How Wiltshire Farm Foods can help
Our Softer Foods range of Puréed, Minced and Soft & Bite-Sized meals are designed to bring the dignity and enjoyment back to dining. We have worked hard to ensure our delicious meals look as appetising as they taste, whilst also offering the correct texture to give you peace of mind.
With more than 80 pre-prepared dishes across three different textures, our award-winning Softer Foods range offers a safe and easy way to enjoy nutritious meals at the right texture for you. Our meals are placed directly into your freezer by one of our dedicated and friendly drivers, ready for you to pop in the microwave or oven whenever you like. Not only are our meals quick, easy and most importantly safe to eat, we have emphasised the nutrition in each mouthful to keep you well nourished.
For more information about our award-winning Softer Foods range, why not order a brochure today and explore our range of mains, snacks and desserts.
*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.