It happens sooner or later in every mom’s life–the doctor or dentist tells you to “stick to soft foods.” Being confined to soft foods doesn’t mean you’re stuck with boring foods, though. Understanding what doctors mean when they order a “dental soft” or “mechanical soft” diet will help you plan meals that are healthy, nutritious and interesting.
A dental soft food diet consists of easy-to-chew and easy-to-swallow foods. The “Textbook of Basic Nursing” defines a dental soft diet as one that is low in fiber, fat and connective tissue. While it limits food choices considerably, it does include a wide variety of foods in all food groups and usually doesn’t limit the spices you can use in food preparation.
What You Can Eat
The dental soft diet allows you to eat moist, tender meats, poultry and fish, as well as eggs and creamy peanut butter for proteins. It includes cooked vegetables and lettuce, cooked or canned fruits and “mushy” fruits and vegetables, like avocados and bananas. Pasta, rice, cooked grains, lentils and legumes add texture and some fiber to a dental soft diet, and desserts include pudding, gelatin, soft cakes and ice cream.
What to Avoid
If you are cooking for someone on a dental soft diet, avoid hard foods, as well as meats like steak that are difficult to chew. Skip the crunchy peanut butter and raw celery, apples and pears. Avoid breads and other foods with seeds and nuts in them; remove the skin from oranges and other citrus fruits. Stay away from dry cookies and crackers that might scratch tender throat or gum tissues. In short, avoid any foods that hurt your mouth or throat.
Doctors and dentists prescribe a dental soft diet for patients who may have trouble chewing and swallowing for various reasons, ranging from new braces and tooth extractions to a sore throat. Orthodontists may recommend a return to a soft diet after they adjust braces or at any other time that braces, bridges, plates or other dentures cause mouth tenderness. Doctors may also prescribe soft food diets for a short time after an illness, or long term to patients who have muscular conditions like dysphagia that make it difficult for them to chew or swallow foods. Other conditions that may require a dental soft diet include temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems, stroke or recovery from oral or throat surgery.
Keeping It Interesting
If a dental soft diet becomes a long-term reality in your family, even a sporadic reality, invest in a good cookbook designed just for those on long-term soft food diets. “The I-Can’t-Chew Cookbook,” written by J. Randy Wilson, includes more than 200 recipes developed by a doctor after his wife had TMJ surgery that left her unable to eat a regular diet for six months. “The Dysphagia Cookbook” by Elayne Achilles, focuses on recipes for those with dysphagia. It includes a section on kitchen supplies and spices that make life easier when you are dealing with a soft food diet.