Four Methods to Make A Puree Diet More Appealing

Gabi Kahn, JJPVA Dietetic Intern Class of 2019

15 million Americans have been diagnosed with dysphagia. Dysphagia refers to a difficulty swallowing or difficulty passing liquids and/or solids through the mouth to stomach. Though this total number encompasses dysphagia diagnosis overall, based on the new International Dysphagia Diet Standardization Initiative (IDDSI), there are 7 levels and 5 different food textures dysphagia patients may be recommended given their swallowing ability. The 5 levels include regular/easy to chew, soft and bite size, minced and moist, pureed and liquidized.

Due its monotonous texture, limited ability to create visually appealing meals and difficulty to mimic the taste of “regular” food, level 4 (puree) is one of the most difficult food textures to manage. Thus, this post will discuss ways to make pureed food more appealing to patients in the hospital, long-term care facility or at home to improve patient satisfaction and prevent weight loss due to food aversion.

Four methods to make pureed foods more appealing to patients:

First Method: Food Molds

Food molds are a great way to make pureed food look like the actual solid form of food the patient is being served. For example, there are vegetable, meat, starch and dessert shaped molds that can help make the food look more appealing. Though somewhat more challenging, there are ways to combine the molds to create an even more appealing dish such as putting whipped cream on a chocolate mousse cake. Molds itself tend to be affordable for both in the home and in the food service kitchen. For patients, this small visual change can make an enormous difference.

To purchase molds:

Second Method: Adding Color

Adding color to the plate by choosing different varieties of colorful foods increases both visual appeal and overall satisfaction to the meal. Rather than choosing all one color foods, try choosing at least two different colors on the plate. It can be as simple as adding more colorful fruits and vegetables to brighten the plate. Try adding carrots or sweet potato for the bright orange color to a meal. For a dark pink or purple color, try using beets or purple potatoes. You can also try adding a vibrant yellow color by using golden beets. Adding one of these bright colors to a meal will make a great healthy addition to a previously colorless plate. Also, eating more colorful foods will increase the nutritional value of the meal and provide more vitamins and minerals.

Third Method: Separating Foods

Imagine you received a dish of pureed food and all of the different items were touching. If there isn’t a difference in colors, textures and shapes, how are you to decipher which food is which? Or even worse, how is it going to taste? Both hospital kitchens and homes need to provide quality, healthy, and satisfying meals that also taste good and look appealing to the patient. One simple change such as separating the food, can elevate the meal from looking like one big monotonous plate to a plate with separate, tasty, and appealing foods. You can separate the food by buying outlined plates with dividers or by carefully placing the food on the plate so that each food does not touch.

Fourth Method: Adding Flavor

Pureed foods tend to lack the extra flavors a regular texture meal may encompass. Individuals may miss the flavor created from the crispiness of a chicken or the warm middle of a gooey chocolate cake. Thus, it is important to try new ways to add flavor to enhance the meal experience for the patient. Try adding herbs, spices and sauces to the dish. Sauces will also help prevent the puree food from drying out if the dish is rethermed or left out for too long. For example, try adding tomato sauce to pureed pasta along with oregano and basil spice for the Italian food flavor. Another example is squeezing fresh lemon over pureed vegetables to enhance the taste and improve patient satisfaction. Most importantly, learning patients or loved ones flavor preferences can help in trying new flavor combinations.

As you can see, a pureed diet can be challenging, but there are numerous ways health providers, foodservice staff and family members can make pureed food more appealing and satisfying for the patient and help avoid unintended weight loss due to food aversion. To help implement these new techniques, below are two tasty puree food recipes that can be used both in a long-term care facility or kitchens at home.

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