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Mechanical Soft Diet: Pros, Cons, and Who It’s For – Healthline

Oct 14th, 2021

A mechanical soft diet is meant for people with chewing and swallowing difficulties such as dysphagia.

People on this diet eat foods that have been broken down into smaller pieces or are softer, because these foods are easier and safer to eat.

If youve been prescribed a mechanical soft diet or know someone who has, you may be curious about what it entails and whether its healthy and safe.

This article tells you all you need to know about a mechanical soft diet, who its for, its benefits, and some safety considerations.

A mechanical soft diet is a texture-modified diet that restricts foods that are difficult to chew or swallow. Its considered Level 2 of the National Dysphagia Diet in the United States (1, 2).

Foods can be pureed, finely chopped, blended, or ground to make them smaller, softer, and easier to chew. It differs from a pureed diet, which includes foods that require no chewing (3).

The goal of the diet is to make foods safer and help a person meet their nutritional needs. It is not intended as a weight loss diet. Most foods are allowed on the diet as long as they can be safely consumed (3).

You can prepare foods at home or buy premade meals that are suitable for a mechanical soft diet.

As of 2015, the International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative (IDDSI) offers guidelines that provide in-depth recommendations and levels based on various medical conditions and risk of choking. These levels are (4):

A mechanical soft diet would be considered level 5 (minced and moist), according to the IDDSI guidelines. However, some variations of the diet exist. You can discuss the specifics with a healthcare professional if they have prescribed this type of diet for you (2, 4).

A mechanical soft diet is a type of texture-modified diet for people who have difficulty chewing and swallowing. Foods may be pureed, ground, finely chopped, or blended to make eating safer.

A medical professional, such as a registered dietitian, may prescribe a mechanical soft diet for you if you (5, 6):

Depending on your situation, a healthcare professional may prescribe a mechanical soft diet temporarily, for a few days or weeks. In other cases, such as for those with dysphagia, they may prescribe it long-term.

Unless a healthcare professional recommends it, most people do not need to follow a mechanical soft diet.

A healthcare professional may prescribe a mechanical soft diet if you have difficulty chewing or swallowing food safely due to dysphagia, recovering from surgery, general weakness, or an oral health issue (e.g., poorly fitting dentures, missing teeth).

As long as a food makes chewing and swallowing safer and easier, it can be included in the diet. Examples of permitted foods include:

Foods should not be difficult to chew or easily get stuck in the teeth, such as caramel. For meat products, use moist-heat cooking methods like stewing, slow-cooking, or boiling to increase tenderness.

Further, foods that require cutting or chopping should be cut into pieces no larger than 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) (7).

While most people can tolerate the foods mentioned above, some people may need to avoid certain foods according to the advice of a healthcare professional.

Foods included in the mechanical soft diet must be soft and small and require minimal chewing.

Some foods are considered unsafe and unsuitable for a mechanical soft diet. These may include:

If youre unsure whether a food is safe to eat, speak with a healthcare professional who specializes in mechanical soft diets, such as a registered dietitian.

If youre on a mechanical soft diet, you should avoid any foods that are hard, large, or difficult to chew or cannot be mechanically altered to become softer or smaller.

Most of the benefits of a mechanical soft diet come from the ability to safely consume food.

People who have certain conditions or are unable to easily chew and swallow may not be able to meet their nutritional needs due to their troubles chewing and swallowing, a lack of energy, or other reasons (8).

Thus, a mechanical soft diet can help a person eat healthy foods without the risk of choking. Its also helpful for people who are very weak or lack energy, as chewing and swallowing may be exhausting to them (7, 8).

Further, it can create a sense of comfort, safety, and autonomy for those who are at risk of choking. These are important factors in preventing malnutrition, which is highly prevalent in people requiring texture-modified diets (7, 8, 9, 10).

Finally, a mechanical soft diet can help a person restore their health as they heal from illness or surgery and act as a segue between a liquid and solid food diet (7, 8).

Mechanical soft diets make eating safer and easier for those who have difficulty chewing and swallowing.

If you have been prescribed a mechanical soft diet, here are some helpful tips to help make the transition as smooth as possible.

Having the right kitchen tools can help speed up food preparation. Some tools you may want to use are:

Depending on your circumstances, you may wish to use smaller appliances (such as a mini blender or immersion blender) to prepare single-serving dishes.

Alternatively, you can prepare large batches to eat throughout the week.

When preparing foods, ensure that youre practicing food safety.

This includes washing your hands, avoiding cross contamination, cooking foods to their proper temperatures, and storing foods in the refrigerator or freezer.

Additionally, ensure all equipment is properly cleaned and sanitized before and after use.

If you know you will be eating out at a restaurant or at an event, its important to plan ahead.

When eating at a restaurant, you can ask the manager or chef to prepare foods for your needs. In many cases, they will happily puree or finely chop food items to ensure they are safe for you. You may also want to request additional sauce or gravy to help moisten food.

If youre going to an event, ask the host ahead of time which foods will be available and if you can use their blender, food processor, or other equipment as needed. If those tools wont be available to you, ask if you may bring your own.

Otherwise, you may want to bring your own meals and heat them in a microwave if you need to.

If youre going to be on a mechanical soft diet for longer than a few days, you may want to speak with a healthcare professional who specializes in this diet to ensure youre meeting your nutritional needs (6).

Most hospitals and healthcare centers will have a registered dietitian or speech language pathologist who can answer your questions and help guide you.

In some cases, they may also recommend supplements to ensure youre getting the right nutrients.

Here are some other helpful tips (6):

By planning ahead, you can ensure that youre eating the right foods that are safe for you.

If you have difficulty chewing or swallowing, you may be prescribed a mechanical soft diet. It includes foods that are soft and small and require minimal chewing.

This diet helps make eating safer for those who may otherwise struggle to chew or swallow foods, such as those who have dysphagia or oral health issues (e.g., poorly fitting dentures, missing teeth) or are recovering from surgery. Its not meant as a weight loss diet.

Most foods are allowed on the diet as long as they can be mechanically altered (pureed, blended, or finely chopped) or are already soft enough to consume with minimal chewing.

Originally posted here:
Mechanical Soft Diet: Pros, Cons, and Who It's For - Healthline

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