University of FloridaSolutions for Your Life

Download PDF
Publication #FSHN11-07

Puréed Foods for Swallowing Problems1

Wendy J. Dahl2

What is a puréed food?

Puréed foods are prepared by mashing, grinding, or chopping food until a very fine, smooth texture is achieved. Mashed potatoes, squash, and pumpkin pie filling are examples of puréed foods. Although we all enjoy puréed foods as a part of a healthy diet, puréed diets may be recommended for frail older adults who have chewing and/or swallowing problems.

Why do we prepare puréed foods?

Most people are able to safely chew and swallow foods of many different textures. As we chew, food is broken down into small pieces. Saliva moistens and binds food pieces together in preparation for swallowing.

A dry or sore mouth can cause problems with chewing and swallowing. More serious problems, such as poor tongue control and reduced sensation in the mouth, may occur after a stroke. Problems swallowing can occur with cancer, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease. Puréed foods are prepared to ensure that older adults with chewing and swallowing problems are able to swallow safely and maintain their food intake.

Why are we concerned with swallowing problems?

When people have problems swallowing, food and liquids may enter the lungs (known as aspiration). This can cause coughing or choking. People with swallowing problems may become afraid of choking and may avoid food and beverages that are difficult to swallow. As a result, dehydration, weight loss and malnutrition may occur.

What is an ideal puréed food texture?

The ideal puréed food should be "ready to swallow," not requiring any chewing or added saliva. Puréed foods should be moist, cohesive (holds together), and spoon-thick. They should not be sticky, lumpy, dry or runny.

How are puréed foods prepared?

Puréed foods are best prepared with a food processor. Hand blenders may also be used for small portions of easily processed foods such as cooked vegetables or ripe fruits. Common household blenders are not recommended, as achieving a smooth texture is difficult. As well, preparing puréed foods in a blender often requires the addition of too much liquid, resulting in a runny final product.

Steps in preparing puréed food:

  1. Process foods in a food processor until they are fine in texture.

  2. If required, add small amounts of hot liquids for cooked foods or of cold liquids for cold foods, and process until a smooth, pudding-like texture is achieved.

  3. Add seasonings or flavorings. Scrape down the sides and reprocess if needed.

  4. Reheat cooked, puréed foods or chill cold, thickened foods to serving temperature.

Texture Tips

A puréed food should be uniform in appearance and color – if you can see chunks or pieces, more processing is needed.
Spoon test your puree! The puree should spoon up like yogurt or pudding. If it drips or runs off the spoon, it may be too thin. If you can heap up the spoon, it may be too thick.
If the puréed food sticks to the spoon (or the roof of the taster's mouth), it is too sticky. Stickiness is a common problem with mashed potatoes, and puréed pastas and rice, but it can be lessened by adding fat, such as butter, sour cream, and gravy.
What if a puréed food is too runny?
  • Baby rice cereal is a great thickener for many puréed foods.

  • Canned chickpeas and other plain canned beans (puréed until smooth) can thicken up soups and vegetables, adding lots of nutrients.

What if the puréed food is too dry?
  • Add flavorful liquids, such as milk to puréed desserts and gravy to puréed meats.

Temperature Tip

  • Keep hot puréed foods hot and cold puréed foods cold. This is very important as puréed foods that are not handled properly pose a food safety risk.

Taste Tips

As puréed foods no longer looks like the original foods, flavor needs to be really great!

  • A bit of sugar can enhance the flavor of many puréed foods, such as puréed carrots or peas.

  • Puréed vegetables and meats may need some added salt or fat to improve acceptability.

  • The addition of common condiments, such as barbeque sauce to meats, adds lots of flavor.

  • Taste the puréed food! All purées should taste great.

How is puréed food best served?

Serve puréed foods on attractive plates. Take the time to prepare attractive puréed foods with puréed garnishes to improve acceptability. Avoid mixing puréed foods together. For example, mixing peas and carrots together produces an unappetizing color.

A Sample Puréed Menu

Baked Ham & Pineapple Purée

Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

Honey-Dijon Carrot Purée

Chocolate Raspberry Mouse

Serving great tasting, appetizing puréed foods will help to improve food intake and quality of life in people with swallowing disorders.

Where can I get more information?

The Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) agent at your county Extension office may have more information and classes for you to attend. Also, a registered dietitian (RD) can provide reliable information to you.

References & Resources

Dahl, .W. J. (2008). Modified Texture Food Production: A Manual for Patient Care Facilities, 2nd Edition. Dietitians of Canada.

Dahl, W. J., and S. Kendal, Perfectly Simple Purées. Dietitians of Canada. November 2008.

http://www.dietitians.ca

http://www.asha.org/public/

Footnotes

1.

This document is FSHN11-07, one of a series of the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Published February 2011. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/.

2.

Wendy J. Dahl, PhD, assistant professor; Food Science and Human Nutrition Department; University of Florida; Gainesville 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.