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Mechanical soft food diet: All you need to know

Have you ever had surgery or an illness where you have been asked to be on a soft food diet till you heal internally?

If your answer is yes, then you will find it easier to understand the lifestyle of a person who has been prescribed a mechanical soft diet.

A mechanical soft diet is meant for people with chewing and swallowing difficulties such as dysphagia.

People on this diet eat foods that have been broken down into smaller pieces or are softer, to make eating easier and safer.

If you’ve been prescribed a mechanical soft diet or know someone who has, or you just want to be in the know how of things, what it entails and whether it’s healthy and safe or who a mechanical soft diet is for, it’s benefits and safety conditions here’s the scoop —

 

What is a Mechanical Soft Diet?

A Mechanical Soft Diet is a texture-modified diet that restricts foods that are difficult to chew or swallow. Foods can be pureed, finely chopped, blended, or ground to make them smaller, softer, and easier to chew. It differs from a pureed diet, which includes foods that require no chewing at all. The goal of the diet is to make foods safer for swallowing and help a person meet their nutritional needs and not to promote weight loss. It is about consuming what ever you like eating in a form that is safely swallowed and avoiding the risk of choking.

As of 2015, the International Dysphagia Diet Standardization Initiative (IDDSI) offers guidelines that provide in-depth recommendations and levels based on various medical conditions and risk of choking.

  • Levels 1–3 (varying liquid consistencies)
  • Level 4 (pureed food)
  • Level 5 (minced and moist food)
  • Level 6 (soft and bite-size food)
  • Level 7 (easy-to-chew food)

According to the IDDSI guidelines, a mechanical soft diet would be considered level 5 (minced and moist)

 

Who is it for?

If you have undergone surgery of your mouth, throat or neck area

If you have had dental surgery (teeth removal, implants, poorly fitted dentures)

If you have difficulty chewing

If you have difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)

If you are undergoing radiation therapy for your head, neck, or stomach area, which may lead to digestive upset or pain in your mouth or throat area

If you have been on a liquid diet post a surgery or long-term illness and are reintroducing solid foods, it needs to be done gradually through a mechanical soft diet.

If you are recovering from a stroke that has left you having trouble moving portions of your mouth

 

Depending on your situation, always seek professional healthcare to prescribe temporary or permanent ways to deal with your condition and unless a healthcare professional recommends it, most people do not need to follow a mechanical soft diet.

 

Foods To Eat —

Simple rule of thumb — As long as a piece of food makes chewing and swallowing safer and easier, it can be included in the diet.

Let’s discuss in detail the various food groups and how to apply the mechanical soft diet to them —

  • Fruits and vegetables: likely to require peeling, fine chopping, mashing, cooking, and/or blending to be safe to eat, although some vegetables (such as avocado) are soft enough to eat as is.
  • Grains: hot cereals (oatmeal, porridge, sooji, nachni porridge), soft bread, finely cut pasta, over cooked rice, refined grains (pancakes).
  • Meat, poultry, fish: tender meats (ground beef), thinly shaved meat, and other meats that have been mechanically altered (but always remove the fat and gristle from meat cuts, since they may be difficult to chew and swallow) fish though always soft, be mindful of fine bones and scaly skin.
  • Dairy: milk, powdered milk, cottage cheese, soft cheeses, grated and shredded cheeses, yogurt, ice cream.
  • Eggs: most cooking methods are acceptable, just make sure the eggs are finely chopped, scrambled or mashed.
  • Plant-based proteins:tofu (silken, regular, firm), pureed beans, over cooked beans, soymilk, hummus, and peanut butter.
  • Fats: butter in moderation, margarine only if you must, and all plant-based oils (e.g., olive, sesame, coconut)
  • Desserts: any soft cake, pastry, cookie, or other gooey dessert (custard, ice cream, Jell-O) make sure they do not contain nuts, candy, fruit, or other hard pieces of food.
  • Other foods: protein powders (whey or plant-based), liquid supplements like Ensure, Protienx, Boost

Casseroles with minced fillings

Soups or broth without large pieces of meat,

Jams without seeds,

Gravy, sauces, condiments

  • Beverages: all beverages (including juices with pulp), except for any that contain solid food pieces.

Foods to avoid —

  • Fruits and vegetables: raw or stir-fried vegetables, fruit with seeds or pits, unpeeled fruit and vegetables, dried fruit (raisins, apricots), small sized whole fruits (grapes, olives), corn on the cob, raw coconut, and fried vegetables (pakora, French fries)
  • Grains: breads to avoid — sourdough, pumpernickel, rye, toast, buckwheat (kasha), French bread, crackers, taco shells, toast points, Pasta — egg noodles, al dente pasta, Cereals — granola, muesli, shredded wheat, popcorn,
  • Meats, poultry, fish: Hard cuts of meat — steak, jerky, pork chops, Meats or poultry with the bone  — chicken wings, hot dogs, sausage, shellfish, fried meat or fish
  • Dairy: hard cheeses (Cheddar, Parmesan, Swiss), soft cheeses with dried fruit or nuts
  • Plant-based proteins:nuts, seeds, extra-firm tofu, and crunchy peanut butter
  • Desserts:caramelized chips, pretzels, popcorn, hard cookies, candy, licorice, any sticky dessert (caramel. taffy), candied nuts, pie crust, jams with seeds, gum, marshmallows

 

Potential benefits of the Mechanical Soft Diet —

Most of the benefits of a mechanical soft diet come from the ability to safely consume food. People who have certain conditions or are unable to easily chew and swallow may not be able to meet their nutritional needs due to their troubles chewing and swallowing, a lack of energy, or other reasons

Thus, a mechanical soft diet can help a person eat healthy foods without the risk of choking. It is also helpful for people who are very weak, where chewing food is also cumbersome and the result is the person’s condition deteriorates causing malnutrition. A mechanical soft diet can help a person restore their health and act as a segue between a liquid and solid food diet while a person heals from illness or surgery.

 

General tips for following a Mechanical Soft Diet —

If you have been prescribed a mechanical soft diet, here are some helpful tips to help make the transition as smooth as possible.

 

Use the right tools

  • Sharp kitchen knives
  • A blender or mini blender — NutriBullet, Magic Bullet
  • An immersion blender
  • A food processor
  • A mesh strainer
  • A food grinder

Eat the right foods 

  • Foods should not be difficult to chew or easily get stuck in the teeth
  • For meat products, use moist-heat cooking methods like stewing, slow cooking, or boiling to increase tenderness.
  • Foods should be cut into pieces no larger than half an inch.

Eating out —

  • If you’re unsure if the food is the right consistency, ask a friend to try it first.
  • Make sure you’re drinking liquids to keep your mouth moist, which helps with chewing and swallowing.
  • Carry a scoop of protein powder and add it to your soup or dessert for that additional nutrition. You can just nibble on the other food.

 

Work with a healthcare professional —

If you’re going to be on a mechanical soft diet for longer than a few days, you should definitely work in tandem with a healthcare professional that specializes in this diet to ensure you’re meeting your nutritional needs.

 

A Mechanical Soft Diet: its pros, cons, and who it’s for— knowledge is power, always take professional advice and keep the balance.

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Vinita Alvares Fernandes
Vinita Alvares Fernandes is an Economics graduate, a writer and a Trinity College certified public speaker and communicator

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