Nutritious soft foods for ageing loved ones

Bupa Dietitian Gemma Cosgriff shares her ideas on how to cook nutritious and delicious meals for your elderly loved ones who can no longer eat hard foods.

If your loved one can no longer eat hard food, finding food that is soft, nutritious and flavoursome can be challenging.

Obvious choices like soups, eggs and yoghurt can appear bland and boring, and softening old favourites like meat and three veg may not seem possible. But with a little imagination and a few kitchen tools, you can improve the taste and nutrition of your loved one’s meals.

Most people who need to eat food that’s easy to chew and swallow have the same nutritional requirements as people who can eat food in its regular form.

Unless your loved one suffers from an illness with specific nutrient requirements, they still need to enjoy a wide variety of foods from the five groups every day. The difficult part is trying to modify the texture of the food while maintaining the taste.

Kitchen techniques and tools

The good news is there are many meals that can be modified easily with a few simple techniques and kitchen tools. A fork or potato masher can transform fruit or cooked vegetables into a mash. You might also like to invest in a food processor, blender or bar mix that purees food easily and quickly. These tools are perfect for making smoothies, soups and dips, and they can also blend meat, coarse vegetables and even entire meals.
One of the best things about blending entire meals is you can enjoy the same meals as your loved one, which can be a great way to maintain a normal mealtime routine. Just be sure to keep texture in the back of your mind when you’re planning meals. If your favourite recipe contains a crunchy ingredient that might be difficult to break down in a food processor, consider a replacement. If you’re concerned about the strength of your blender, ask your butcher to mince your meat. Adding a little olive oil, lemon juice or water can help to create a smooth blended texture.

Pumpkin soup

Recipe tips

Struggling for culinary inspiration? Here are some simple and tasty meals perfect for serving soft:
  • Porridge – topped with pureed fruit and yoghurt, this is a nutritious breakfast option.
  • Hummus – blend chickpeas with roasted garlic, tahini, olive oil and lemon juice for a filling snack.
  • Fruit and vegetable smoothies – experiment with leftovers in the fridge or scour the web for puree recipes.
  • Risotto – blend a chicken and vegetable risotto into a soft meal that can be eaten with the chicken pieces broken down.
  • Chilli con carne – add cooked vegetables to legumes and blend this meaty stew into a spicy, protein-rich meal.
  • Soup – cook down vegetables, add spices for extra flavour and remove any bones before blending into a puree.
A soft-food diet need not be repetitive or bland, nor does it mean you need to cook separate meals. You can ensure your loved one enjoys healthy and tasty soft foods with just a few kitchen adjustments.
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