There comes a time when a senior may need to have pureed food as their main diet. If that’s the case for your senior, it’s important to know how to puree food properly. This will help him get the best nutrition and calories he needs every day.
The texture and taste of foods can make a world of difference in your senior’s desire to eat. We’re providing plenty of tips for pureeing foods he’ll love with the best taste and texture. Also, check out a few of our tasty pureed recipe ideas to switch up the diet.
The Need for Easy-to-Swallow Food
Dysphagia affects between 15% and 22% of the United States population age 50 and over. The condition affects one’s ability to swallow properly. It often results in a person choking on even a small bite of food.
The risk of dysphagia increases as age increases. Illnesses that are more common in the elderly population can cause dysphagia. Many of those with Parkinson’s Disease, for example, have dysphagia.
For those in nursing homes, the prevalence of dysphagia skyrockets to 40% to 60%. Seniors in assisted living facilities often have inhibiting conditions. Many of them are highly related to dysphagia.
The prevalence of eating and swallowing difficulties in seniors calls for adjustments to their diets. Those with dysphagia often require a diet of pureed food for the elderly.
What is pureed food? It’s cooked foods that you turn into a paste form, either through blending, grinding or another method. The pureed texture helps seniors with dysphagia easily swallow their foods without a reduced risk of choking.
Tips for Easier Swallowing
Even pureed food can be difficult to swallow if someone with dysphagia doesn’t take caution when swallowing. A few ways you can make sure your senior swallows safely are:
- Make her sit upright as she eats. She should also continue to sit upright for at least 30 minutes after a meal. This will help to move her food down to the stomach safely.
- Alternate bites of food with different tastes and textures. The goal is to keep your senior alert while eating, so giving her palate varying foods can help.
- Give her small bites at a time. Allow her plenty of time between bites to swallow.
- Your senior should have a full glass of water available during a meal. Have her drink sips between bites to help move her food and keep her mouth moist.
It’s also important to make sure that both you and the senior remain distraction-free during a meal. Talk to her and keep her focused on you and her food.
What About Baby Food?
Baby food may be okay for seniors to eat. But, there’s a reason baby food is for babies and not seniors.
Baby food has a baby’s nutrition and palate in mind. If you’ve ever tasted it, you know they’re usually bland. They also may not meet the calorie and nutrition requirements your senior needs.
It’s okay to add baby food to your pureed recipes for a little extra flavor. Fruits, especially, provide some healthy sweetness for recipes. Or, some may even be used to thicken a runny recipe, especially baby food meats.
Baby foods do provide convenience for a quick meal. But, you shouldn’t rely on them to fulfill your senior’s diet. Baby food meats, in general, do not provide enough protein for seniors.
You’re better off creating your own pureed recipes that will meet the nutritional needs of your senior. Keep some baby food on hand as an easy additive to a meal, rather than the main component.
How to Make Food Seniors Can Enjoy
Learning how to puree food for the elderly isn’t difficult. With some practice, you can learn to make pureed foods that taste good. Seniors shouldn’t have to sacrifice the tastes they love so they can swallow safely.
Tips for Pureeing Foods
Pureed food for adults may not sound appetizing to most people. But, it’s very necessary for many seniors. The best thing you can do for seniors who need a pureed diet is to learn tips to make their foods delicious.
First, focus on your ingredients. If possible, you should usually opt for smooth ingredients over those with chunky additives. For example, creamy soups and smooth applesauce are better than chunky varieties for purees.
Next, your blender or food processor can make the biggest difference in your puree quality. Food processors typically have the best ability to puree foods to the proper thickness and texture. You may want to choose a processor that’s big enough to create bulk meals to store for convenience.
You can also consider purchasing molds that you can shape purees into. This can help purees seem more like the real thing. They can especially help seniors having a difficult time accepting their new diets.
The following video shows how food molds can greatly increase the appeal of a pureed meal:
Getting the Right Texture
Pureed food can easily become too runny, too thick, or too chunky. Unfortunately, the slightest texture issue can increase a senior’s resistance to eating the food.
After you puree foods, scoop some onto a spoon. If it runs off easily, it’s too runny. But, if it doesn’t move from the spoon easily enough, it could be too sticky. This can increase the risk of choking.
Try to steer clear of foods that are too watery. Drain excess liquid off foods before pureeing. Refrain from adding water, gravy, juice, or other liquid to the processor until you do a spoon test once it’s pureed.
If the food is too dry or sticky, add small amounts of flavorful liquids until the texture becomes a bit thinner. Fruit syrups and purees are perfect for thinning a mixture while also adding flavor.
It’s a little trickier to thicken pureed food than it is to thin it out. But, there are commercial thickening agents made for that purpose. However, they usually don’t provide added flavor and can affect the food’s overall taste.
Cheaper, and more flavorful, options include potato flakes or baby cereal. If you use these, make sure you mix them with hot water before adding them to your food puree. You can also use a small amount of gelatin mix to thicken runny foods.
Give it Some Flavor
The flavor of pureed foods should be the main focus for preparers to keep seniors interested. Always adhere to a senior’s diet restrictions first. But, in most cases, adding a bit of salt, sugar, or spices to enhance flavor is acceptable.
Try adding some sauce or gravy to pureed meats. Barbecue sauce, chicken broth, or condensed soup can thin, thicken, and help add flavor to bland recipes.
You can also add a small amount of butter or margarine to pureed potatoes. Or, mix in some flavored, low-fat yogurt to pureed casseroles. Honey and jellies are good choices for sweetening bland desserts and foods.
Test It Out
You don’t want to eat bland foods, and neither does your senior. It’s especially important for preparers to test the food they’ll be serving. If you don’t love the texture and taste, your senior probably won’t love it either.
Just as you would your own food, test a small spoonful of the pureed meal. If necessary, add a bit of spice or another additive to keep it flavorful. You can also check its texture to ensure it’s perfect for your senior’s swallowing needs.
Recipes Your Senior Will Love
Learning new puree recipes can give you some inspiration to keep a senior’s diet interesting.
Creamy Broccoli Cheese Soup
Create a white sauce for a base by mixing together two tablespoons of oil and butter with two to three tablespoons of flour. Once the mixture begins to bubble, you can slowly stir in one cup of skim milk. Allow it to simmer until the mixture thickens.
Puree the sauce and a cup of broccoli together. Add the mixture to a small saucepan with ¼ cup of shredded cheese. Heat until cheese is melted. Add some potato flakes to thicken, if necessary.
You can modify this stew recipe to include a senior’s favorite meat and vegetables. Add about 4 ounces of beef chunks to a food processor with ½ cup of liquid, like beef gravy or broth. Add in desired vegetables, like peas, celery, and carrots, with seasoning to taste.
You can thicken the mixture with added flavor using cream of mushroom soup or potato flakes.
Yogurt and Fruit Parfait
Seniors are more likely to love their diets when they don’t feel deprived of foods they love. You can still puree yummy desserts using healthy fruits and sweeteners.
Create a replica of a fruit and yogurt parfait with your senior’s favorite fruits. Use low-fat vanilla yogurt, desired fruits, and a small amount of milk to create the right texture. Add a little low-fat whipped topping to create a creamy fruit dessert.
A pureed diet for seniors doesn’t have to be boring. There are plenty of ways preparers can keep it fun and tasty to hold their interest with new recipes and flavors.
If you’d like to share your favorite pureed food recipes and tricks, please do so in a comment below!