What Is the Pureed Diet?

Pureed pumpkin soup in a bowl with a spoon and a napkin

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A pureed diet is a texture-modified diet. All foods on a pureed diet have a soft, pudding-like consistency. It's recommended if you have a health concern or injury that prevents you from eating solid foods because you are unable to chew or digest normally.

Unlike a liquid diet, a pureed diet provides more variety, nutrients, and fiber, so you can remain on it for a longer period of time. The goal of a pureed diet is to provide a variety of foods that meet your nutritional needs to help you heal and prevent any degree of malnutrition.

Benefits

Because pureed foods don't have to be chewed, they're easier to swallow and digest. The diet can help prevent weight loss and maintain your health until you're able to eat normally. It acts as a bridge between a liquid diet and your normal diet as you recover from an illness or surgery. However, it can also be a long-term solution if, for any number of reasons, you cannot tolerate solid foods.

Some of the more common reasons for using a pureed diet include:

Good nutrition is important to maintain good health at all ages. If you've recently had surgery or have an injury to your mouth and can't eat a regular diet, a pureed diet will provide the nutrients you need to help heal. Research published in the National Journal of Maxillofacial Surgery, on the role of nutrition in patients with mouth surgery shows that poor nutrition can delay wound healing, increase your risk of infection, and even compromise your immune system. All forms of texture modified diets, including a pureed diet, can help prevent complications associated with poor nutrition.

How It Works

You should still be able to eat most of the foods that you enjoy, but the texture will be different.

Most foods can be pureed, as long as they're cooked properly, and you have a good blender or food processor. Other foods, like pudding or yogurt, are already the appropriate consistency.

Duration

In most cases, a pureed diet is followed for a short term until you are able to chew and digest solid foods normally. You should stay on a pureed diet until your healthcare provider gives you the all-clear to advance to a soft diet or a regular diet.

What to Eat

Compliant Foods

  • Fruits: Any cooked and pureed; juices or nectar without pulp; applesauce

  • Vegetables: Any cooked and pureed; whipped mashed or sweet potatoes; vegetable juices without pulp

  • Grains: Pureed pasta or rice; cream of wheat/rice cereal; hominy; pureed oatmeal

  • Dairy: Milk; smooth yogurts without fruit chunks; pureed cottage cheese; ice cream or frozen yogurt; custard or pudding; whipped cream

  • Meats, fish and eggs: Any cooked meats, fish or eggs pureed with liquid, gravy or sauce

  • Legumes: Smooth bean dips or hummus; silken or pureed tofu

  • Fats: Olive oil; butter; pureed avocado; gravy; sour cream

  • Desserts: Jell-O; popsicles; fruit ice; smoothies or frappes

  • Liquid meal replacement drinks or supplements

  • Herbs, spices, or smooth/liquid seasonings (e.g., ketchup, barbecue sauce, mustard)

  • Any beverages

Non-Compliant Foods

  • Fruits: Any whole or soft cooked fruits that must be chewed

  • Vegetables: Any whole or soft cooked vegetables that must be chewed

  • Grains: All other grains that can't be pureed smooth

  • Dairy: Yogurt with fruit chunks, or mix-in items; solid cheese; cottage cheese

  • Meats, fish and other proteins: Very tough cuts of meat that can't be pureed smooth; hard boiled or scrambled eggs

  • Nuts and seeds: All solid nuts, seeds, and coconut

  • Legumes: Baked beans; any cooked legumes that must be chewed; tempeh; baked tofu

  • Desserts: Any others that must be chewed

  • Condiments with solids (e.g., relish, jam, salsa)

The pureed diet can offer a good deal of variety, but you may find that certain foods are easier to puree or blend smoothly than others. Here are a few things to consider:

Fruits: All fruits will soften when cooked, but it will be easier to achieve a smoother consistency if you peel fruits with skins (like apples) first. Before you eat fruits with seeds, like berries, or any fruits with tough membranes, like oranges or grapefruit, make sure you press them through a sieve to remove any solids. Smooth applesauce or pureed fruit packets are convenient for when you want a quick snack without cooking and blending.

Vegetables: Make sure you peel any vegetables with tough skins and always press vegetables with seeds, or "strings" through a sieve before eating. Baby vegetables, sold in jars or squeezable packets can be convenient to have on hand but make sure you purchase products for babies, versus toddlers.

Dairy: If you need additional calories, choose full-fat dairy products like whole milk or yogurt. Greek yogurt provides about 20 grams of protein in a 6-ounce serving, so it's a good way to boost your protein.

Meats and fish: Softer meats like chicken, fish, and ground meats will be easiest to puree. You can add gravy, stock, or a cream sauce to make them smoother. Make sure you press meats or fish through a sieve to remove any solid pieces.

Legumes: All legumes are high in fiber and protein. In addition, they puree very easily, so they're great to have on hand. Silken tofu is very soft and makes a good base for creamy desserts or soups. Peanut butter (or other nut butters) is smooth enough to include on a pureed diet, but use caution with if you have any swallowing problems.

Liquid meal replacements: Try to keep products like Ensure, Carnation Instant Breakfast, or Boost available for times when you may not feel like cooking, or you have to be away from home. Another easy homemade and nutritious meal replacement is a smoothie. Just mix milk, water, or juice with any fruit, leafy greens, a scoop of protein powder, and a spoonful of peanut butter or avocado and you'll have a complete meal with all of the food groups.

Herbs and spices: In general, these are fine to use. However, use caution with cayenne pepper, or other hot spices or condiments if you have mouth or tongue sores, as these can be irritating.

Avoid anything especially fibrous or seedy unless you can strain the fibers and seeds out. Further round out the flavor and consistency of the puree by adding mayonnaise, sauce, or gravy.

Recommended Timing

Meals do not have to be eaten on a timed schedule. However, if you find your pureed meals to be more filling, or you have trouble finishing your full meal, it might be helpful to eat five or six small meals per day, rather than three larger ones.

Cooking Tips

When preparing foods for a pureed diet, cook meats, vegetables, and grains until they're very soft. Moist cooking methods like simmering or braising in liquid can help add additional moisture to meats and vegetables and make them easier to puree.

Place the hardest foods (e.g. meat, chicken) in a blender or food processor along with some liquid, like milk, juice, meat, or vegetable stock and puree it until it's smooth. Next, add soft-cooked vegetables and grains as desired and puree again. You can also puree each food separately and eat them individually.

All foods should be completely smooth, with a consistency like pudding, very smooth mashed potatoes, or hummus. It's important that they not have any solid chunks of food or lumps if you have trouble chewing or swallowing, because that can be choking hazard. You can add more liquid to make them thinner if you prefer.

Soups or thinner liquids should also be fine to eat, as long as you blend up or strain any solid vegetables, noodles, or meat.

Modifications

As long as you can eat your regular diet in pureed form, you shouldn't need any modifications, to this diet. However, if you've had surgery, your doctor might recommend increasing your protein a bit to help with healing. Also, if you have any health concerns that can impact your nutritional status, it's important to talk to a nutrition professional before starting on the diet. They can help you to make any modifications in your calories, protein, or other nutrients.

Considerations

General nutrition

The pureed diet should follow the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as closely as possible. That means it should be based on nutrient-dense whole foods, and include a variety of food groups along with ample portions of fruits and vegetables.

While the goal of a pureed diet is to provide the same or similar calories and nutrition as your regular diet, research shows that pureed diets might provide fewer calories and macronutrients, including protein.

In a study from Chile that compared the nutritional value of various texture-modified diets in one hospital, researchers found a significant difference between the pureed diet and the regular house diet. They measured calories and macronutrients on three different days and found that meals from the pureed diet had 31% fewer calories 45% less protein, and 41% less fat than the regular diet.

If you have to be on a pureed diet for any length of time, make sure you monitor your weight. If you notice weight loss or loss of muscle mass, you might consider adding additional sources of protein, like legumes, tofu, or protein powder to your meals, and swapping higher calorie foods like cream, for milk, or whole milk yogurt for nonfat yogurt.

Palatability

Acceptability of pureed foods is a common concern, because some of the texture differences, especially in meats, may affect your perception of how the food tastes. Food molds that mimic the shape of the food before it's pureed, are designed to improve the acceptability. However, research published in the Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research shows that most people actually prefer pureed foods that are served as individual scoops rather than in molded form.

If palatability is a concern, you might prefer to eat your pureed foods in the form of soups instead of solid meals. Just add additional stock to the blender when you puree your foods.

Also, keep in mind that adding extra herbs and seasonings can make a big difference in the taste of your meals.

Practicality

The pureed diet should be easy to follow when you're eating at home. However, if you're away from home, you'll probably need to bring your own meals, or request special meals if that's an option. If you're away from home for just a short time, you can get away with foods like yogurt, apple sauce, or cream soups.

Flexibility

Any food that can be blended smooth is fair game on a pureed diet, so in that sense, there can be a world of flexibility with a pureed diet. However, it is important that you stick to only pureed foods, so everything will have to be prepared by hand. You won't be able to order takeout or grab a meal on the go.

The best tip for making a pureed diet easier and more flexible is to plan ahead. Do as much cooking and prep work as you can ahead of time. Prepare a few batches of fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains, and portion them out in freezer containers so all you'll have to do is thaw, heat, and puree.

Cost

The only additional cost associated with a pureed diet is a good blender if you don't have one. You might prefer a full-size blender over a bullet blender because it can be difficult to blend meats or larger portions of foods in a small blender. If you have the budget for a high-speed blender, compare the features. Some of them will also heat as they blend, which is a nice convenience and can save you cooking time.

A Word From Verywell

A pureed diet is usually followed out of necessity rather than by choice. Because the diet itself along with any related health concerns can impact your nutritional status, it is important to consult with a dietitian or your healthcare provider to establish your personal goals and needs, especially if you'll need to be on a pureed diet for any length of time.

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