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The beginner's guide to a mechanical soft diet

Having trouble chewing or swallowing food? A mechanical soft diet could help.

A Devoted Health member, blends a fruit smoothie in his kitchen.

Do you or someone you know have jaw pain or dental issues? This may affect what you can or can’t eat as well as the ability to chew food properly. Here’s what you can do to get some relief from the challenges of swallowing, coughing after swallowing—or the feeling of something being stuck in your throat while eating meals.

A mechanical soft diet, also called a soft-texture diet, can help relieve trouble chewing or swallowing with smooth foods for both meat eaters and vegetarians. This type of diet can reduce the risk of choking, and lower the stress and discomfort that can come from eating.

Let's dive into more details about the mechanical soft diet, and how to make it a part of your daily life. Find out what foods to choose, as well as practical tips, and some surprising benefits, too.

What is a mechanical soft diet?

A mechanical soft diet includes soft or tender foods that are easy to chew and swallow. You probably have some of these in your diet already. Think of veggies like peas, carrots, and squash; soups and stews with tender meats; soft fruits like bananas; and certain dairy products like yogurt and pudding.

These foods can be super helpful if you or someone you know has dental problems, jaw pain, or swallowing issues like dysphagia.

Cooked or mashed foods with a smooth consistency can help with pain-free eating and that awful feeling of something being stuck in your throat. A mechanical soft diet may also involve cutting food into smaller pieces to make chewing and swallowing easier.

While the diet aims to make eating more manageable, it still focuses on providing everything we need to live our best lives.

Who should try a mechanical soft diet?

Anyone having trouble chewing or swallowing can benefit from a mechanical soft diet as a part of their lifestyle. For example, aging can lead to challenges with eating due to:

  • Dental issues, such as missing teeth, poorly-fitting dentures, oral pain, tooth loss or deterioration
  • Conditions like dysphagia, stroke, esophagus problems, Parkinson's disease, or other neurological disorders
  • Post-surgery requirements for oral, dental, or facial procedures

What are the benefits of a mechanical soft diet?

There are a lot of benefits to following a mechanical soft diet, starting with safety, overall comfort, and the chance for more independence.

By offering easy-to-manage food options, a mechanical food diet can help you have more control over your eating. Plus, when you’re not struggling to chew, meals can be more relaxed and enjoyable.

What foods should you eat?

While the mechanical soft diet restricts certain textures, it still offers tons of nutritious options.

Here are some foods often included:

  • Soft vegetables like steamed, boiled, or roasted zucchini, spinach, peas, mashed potatoes, and squash
  • Soft, ripe fruits such as bananas, peaches, berries, and canned fruits without seeds or skins
  • Tender meats like poultry, fish, and tofu that can be cooked until they are easily shredded or mashed
  • Scrambled or soft-boiled eggs 
  • Good carbs and fiber from oatmeal, cream of wheat, soft bread, pasta, rice, and mashed potatoes
  • Calcium-rich yogurt, pudding, cottage cheese, and soft cheeses
  • Soups and broths that are pureed or blended

What foods should you avoid?

With a mechanical soft diet, the idea is to choose softer, easier-to-chew food options, so you can enjoy meals that are safe and delicious.

We recommend avoiding:

  • Tough cuts of meat or large pieces that require a lot of chewing, including steak, pork chops, or ribs
  • Hard-to-chew, raw vegetables like carrots, celery, broccoli, and other crunchy vegetables
  • Fruits like apples, pears, and berries with skins or seeds unless they are cooked or pureed
  • Crunchy snacks like nuts, seeds, pretzels, chips, and popcorn
  • Breads with a thick crust or dense texture that can be hard to chew
  • Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, or barley, which take longer to swallow

How Devoted can help

Devoted Health offers Medicare Advantage plans designed to let you live the life you want. Call a licensed representative to help you with your questions or answer questions about Devoted Health Medicare Advantage plans. Call us at 1-800-451-9768 (TTY 711) for personalized assistance.

You can also learn more about your Medicare options in this free Medicare Comparison Guide.

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