The Best Soft Food Recipes for Seniors with Dysphagia

The Best Soft Food Recipes for Seniors with Dysphagia

Swallowing food is essential for nutrition and quality of life. But unfortunately, many seniors have problems with swallowing. The medical term for this is dysphagia. While problems with swallowing are not a normal sign of aging, getting older does tend to play a role in some problems with food intake.

According to the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders, about 15 million Americans suffer from dysphagia, and 22% of those are seniors over the age of 65.[1] Some who have certain medical conditions are very familiar with dysphagia. Those who have Parkinson’s or those who have had a stroke might have to learn to swallow their food in a different way. That can be tough to do, since swallowing is something we learn to do as babies and changing the way we swallow is hard.

The Symptoms of Dysphagia

There are two types of dysphagia. One is esophageal dysphagia, which is when it feels as though food gets trapped in the throat or in your chest, right behind the breastbone. That sensation can be very frightening and can even make you want to avoid eating.

The other type is oropharyngeal dysphagia that weakens the throat muscles, meaning that you can easily gag or choke as you try to take in food. This can be very dangerous for the elderly as it could lead to pneumonia if you aspirate food.

Other symptoms that might make you think you have dysphagia can include:

·        Feeling pain while swallowing

·        Being unable to swallow at all

·        Drooling

·        A hoarse voice

·        Regurgitation, or food coming back up

·        Heartburn or indigestion

·        The burning of stomach acid backing up into your throat

·        Coughing or gagging when eating

·        Unintended weight loss

Sometimes dysphagia can become frightening or even life-threatening. If you feel any obstruction in your throat that inhibits your breathing, get help right away – don’t wait! It’s a medical emergency. If you have a senior medical alert pendant, press the button alarm right away. Help will come on the line quickly to assist you. They will be able to help you even if you can’t speak to tell them what is wrong.

It’s also a good idea to choose a medical alert system with fall detection. Why does this matter? Studies have found that those who suffer a significant injury, such as a hip fracture, might also develop dysphagia.[2] The reasons why are unclear so far. But what matters is that there is a link between dysphagia and fall risk – so whether the trouble swallowing leads to falls due to malnutrition or the falls lead to trouble swallowing due to changes in the body, getting help quickly when you suffer a fall is crucial to lessen your risk of complications.

A senior life-saving alert system with fall detection technology can ensure that you get the help you need the moment you need it. The fall sensors in the button alarm notify the monitoring center as soon as they recognize a fall has occurred, and a friendly voice will be on the line to assist you right away.

If you or a loved one suffers from dysphagia, the Mayo Clinic offers a wealth of good information if you want to dig deeper.

Another problem that is separate from dysphagia but may be related to it is trouble with chewing. This can happen for many reasons, but the most common is dental trouble that makes it tough to chew due to pain or pressure, or simply not having enough teeth to chew food thoroughly. The good news is that the soft food recipes that are good for dysphagia can also be great for those who have issues with chewing.

The Best Soft Food Recipes

The best soft foods for dysphagia are those that require very little chewing – or maybe even none – but are still very nutritious. They are much easier to swallow than more “solid” foods and might even ease the discomfort for those who can swallow but feel pain when doing so.

The recipes below provide a good amount of carbohydrates, protein, and fiber. And many of these recipes are the very definition of comfort foods, which can improve mental and emotional health.

Though it might seem that soft foods can get boring, that doesn’t have to be the case! There are many ways to jazz up mashed potatoes, oatmeal, and more.

Mashed Potatoes or Mashed Sweet Potatoes

When preparing mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes, the process is the same for cooking the veggies. The differences come in when you dress them up. This is a very loose recipe that you can adjust to whatever is right for you.

·        4 large Yukon Gold potatoes or sweet potatoes

·        A dash of salt

For mashed potatoes:

·        6 tbsps. salted butter

·        1 cup half and half

·        ½ cup sour cream

For sweet potatoes:

·        6 tbsps. salted butter

·        ½ cup heavy cream

·        3 tbsps. brown sugar

·        A dash of cinnamon

Cut the potatoes into small pieces, about 1-2 inches in diameter. Bring water to a boil in a large pot and add the salt when the boil begins. Put in the potatoes and let them boil for 20 minutes or until they fall apart when pierced with a fork. Drain the potatoes in a colander and let them sit for a moment to steam; then put them into a bowl. Mash the potatoes with a hand mixer. Add the ingredients for either the mashed potatoes or the sweet potatoes. Mash it all together.

For an even smoother consistency, add a bit more liquid and use a hand mixer to blend the potatoes well until they are smooth and creamy.

Fruit Salad

Some who can still chew and swallow a bit will love the fruity taste of very ripe fruit or that which has been cut into tiny bits. Those who can’t chew at all might want to have the same flavors but in a friendlier consistency. Here’s how to do it.

·        Bananas, mangoes, blackberries, and any other soft fruit

·        A bit of 100% fruit juice – the amount depends on the consistency you need

·        A dash of honey

Cut up the fruits into small pieces. If you need a puree instead, put the fruits in a blender with fruit juice and a bit of honey, if you want a sweeter flavor. Blend until the desired consistency.

You can also add in a very ripe avocado for more calories without compromising the taste. Consider unflavored protein powder as another helpful addition.

Dressy Dairy

This recipe covers numerous options for dairy products. Go with the full-fat, full-calorie versions for those who need more nutrition and calories or want to prevent rapid weight loss. There are no actual amounts in this recipe, so feel free to adapt as you see fit!

·        Yogurt is available in a variety of delicious flavors. Jazz it up by adding finely chopped fruit or a thick jam.

·        Cottage cheese is delightful when mixed with a variety of fruits. Cut the fruits up into tiny bits and make sure they are very ripe for easier chewing and swallowing, or swirl in your favorite jam.

·        Ice cream sundaes are a real treat for anyone, but especially those who have trouble swallowing. The icy temperature and smooth texture make ice cream go down easier. Add the usual fudge and caramel on top for sweetness.

·        Instant pudding can bring a good number of calories, especially if you use whole milk to make it. You can also blend in unflavored protein powders or even peanut butter for an extra nutritional boost.

Scrambled Eggs with Herbs and Spices

Scrambled eggs are a common breakfast staple that happens to be perfect for those with dysphagia. They can be dressed up with all sorts of seasonings, from simple salt and pepper to a dash of Tabasco to a sprinkling of dill. You can even stir in herbs like thyme, parsley, or rosemary. They can be blended with butter for a few added calories and a creamier texture.

Chicken and Dumplings

This comfort food can be torn into small bits after cooking to create a delicious meal that is easy to handle.

·        4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

·        3 cups finely shredded chicken

·        1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup

·        1 medium carrot, chopped very fine

·        2 medium celery sticks, chopped very fine

·        Sage, thyme, or other herbs of your choice

·        1 can refrigerated buttermilk biscuits

Heat the broth, chicken, and soup in a large pot. Stir gently until well-combined and just at a boil, then add the carrot and celery. Let them cook until they are tender, 10-15 minutes. Add in the herbs and give it all a stir.

Open up the refrigerated biscuits and pinch them into small pieces with your fingertips. Drop each into the boiling mixture. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover the pot with a lid, and let them cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the dumplings from sticking.

When you serve the dish, you can tear the chicken into tinier bits with the tines of two forks, and you can do the same with the dumplings.


From packets of instant oatmeal that take minutes to prepare to slow-cooked oatmeal that needs to soak overnight, there is no way to go wrong with this incredibly healthy food. Though it’s usually made for breakfast, you can enjoy oatmeal at any time of day. The warm, “stick to your ribs” feeling you get from eating oatmeal can make for a very satisfying meal.

Add a variety of stir-in ingredients that bring lots of flavor as well as the nutrients an elderly body needs. Add jam, honey, maple syrup, mashed bananas, cinnamon or brown sugar and then thin it out with a touch of milk.

Other Options for Soft Foods

Those who can swallow only small amounts at a time might enjoy soups and broths as well as smoothies. Keep in mind that the smoothies might need to be much thinner than what you might typically prepare. Add in protein powder for an extra boost and use whole milk, if possible, to add in more creamy flavor and calories.

When serving broth and soups, make sure they are the low-sodium versions. You can make any variety of soup easier to swallow by pureeing it in a blender. This works especially well for vegetable soup, as all the nutrients from those good veggies can help boost nutrition, no matter how well they are pureed!

Finally, remember that beans make a great soft food. Make sure they are well-cooked to a point of being mushy, not firm. The idea is that you can mash a bean with a fork right before eating it, which makes it much easier to swallow and to digest. Season them up with spices as they cook.

If you suffer from dysphagia, having a medical alert system at your fingertips is a must for better peace of mind. A study in Neurological Sciences found that those who have Parkinson’s disease are more likely to have trouble with their gait and that swallowing issues go hand-in-hand with that.[3]

If you have been diagnosed with any condition that affects your gait, obviously a fall prevention alarm is a good idea. Keep in mind that a higher risk of falls can also affect your swallowing ability, which can lead to more problems. Medical alert technology with fall detection is a safety net for those moments when you have trouble with food, suffer a fall at home or on the go, or experience any other medical emergency. Let Alert1 Medical Alert Systems give you the peace of mind you need, when you need it most.