What Is the Puréed Diet?

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A puréed diet is an eating plan where all the foods have a soft, pudding-like consistency. It is a texture-modified diet that is often recommended for people who can't eat solid foods.

If you have a health condition that prevents you from chewing or digesting normally, you might not be able to eat solid food. The goal of a puréed diet is to prevent malnutrition by making a variety of foods safe for you to eat.

While a liquid diet can also be used for people who have trouble chewing or digesting food, a puréed diet provides more nutrition than a liquid diet. Since you're getting more nutrients, it's safer to stay on a puréed diet for longer than you could stay on a liquid diet.

This article will go over how a puréed diet works. It will cover the key points to know if your provider wants you to follow a puréed diet, including tips for shopping and cooking.

Pureed pumpkin soup in a bowl with a spoon and a napkin
 Angela Coppola / Getty Images

Benefits

When you eat food, digestion starts in your mouth as you're chewing. The food gets broken down more as it moves through your digestive system.

If you're not able to chew or parts of your digestive tract don't work well, eating solid food can be a challenge. It could even be dangerous if you were to choke on a piece of food you weren't able to chew well.

Many foods can be prepared in a way that does some of that breaking down for you. One example is puréeing. If you've ever looked inside a jar of baby food, you already have a sense of what puréed food looks like.

The main benefit of a puréed diet is that furéed foods are completely smooth. Since they don't have to be chewed, puréed foods are easier (and safer) to swallow and digest than solid food.

Why Are Puréed Diets Used?

If you're recovering from an illness or surgery, you might need to start out on a liquid diet. A puréed diet can be a bridge between a liquid diet and getting back to your usual diet. It can help prevent weight loss and give your body the nutrition it needs to heal.

A study on patients who had mouth surgery showed that having poor nutrition delayed wound healing, increased the risk of infection, and even compromised the immune system. A texture-modified diet can help prevent health complications caused by poor nutrition.

Some of the common reasons a person may need to use a puréed diet include:

Most people only stay on a puréed diet until they can get back to eating solid food. However, the diet can also be a long-term solution if you cannot tolerate or manage eating solid foods at all.

Recap

A puréed diet might be necessary if you're having trouble chewing, swallowing, and/or digesting food. For example, if someone is at risk of choking, a puréed diet is a safe way for them to stay nourished.

How a Pureed Diet Works

Most foods can be puréed. You just need to cook them properly and have a good blender or food processor. Technically, you should be able to eat most of the foods you usually do, though some puréed foods are more appetizing than others.

To be safe for a puréed, the food just has to be soft—it does not necessarily need to be puréed. Some foods, like pudding or yogurt, are already the right consistency.

Duration

In most cases, a puréed diet is followed for a short time. You only need to follow it until you are able to chew and digest solid foods normally. You will need to stay on a puréed diet until your healthcare provider tells you to move to a soft diet or back to your regular diet.

In some cases, your provider might decide that the safest option is for you to stick with a puréed diet long-term. If you have a condition that will always affect your ability to chew or digest, a puréed diet might be the best way for you to get the nutrition you need.

Recommended Timing

Meals do not have to be eaten on a timed schedule when you're following a puréed diet. You can stick to your typical meal times if that works for you.

However, if you find your puréed meals are filling or you have trouble finishing your food in one sitting, it can be helpful to eat five or six small meals a day instead of three larger ones.

Recap

Most people are only on a puréed diet temporarily while they work on getting back to their regular diet. However, some people are on it long-term. You can eat your puréed meals at your normal meal times. If it's hard to finish a meal in one sitting, try having more frequent, smaller portions throughout the day.

What to Eat

Compliant Foods
  • Fruits: Any cooked and puréed; juices or nectar with no pulp; applesauce

  • Vegetables: Any cooked and puréed; whipped mashed or sweet potatoes; vegetable juices with no pulp

  • Grains: Puréed pasta or rice; cream of wheat/rice cereal; hominy; puréed oatmeal

  • Dairy: Milk; smooth yogurts with no fruit chunks; puréed cottage cheese; ice cream or frozen yogurt; custard or pudding; whipped cream

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

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

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

  • Soups (e.g. creamed, clear, no solids)

  • Desserts: Gelatin; popsicles or 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 cannot be puréed smooth

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

  • Meats, fish, and other proteins: Tough cuts of meat that cannot be puréed until 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)

A puréed diet can include a variety of foods. However, you may find that some foods are easier to blend smoothly than others. You'll need to take a different approach to prepare different foods.

Fruits

All fruits get soft when they're cooked. However, it's easier to blend them to a smooth 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 the solid parts.

Smooth applesauce or puréed fruit packets are convenient for when you want a quick snack that you don't have to cook or blend.

Vegetables

Any vegetables with tough skins need to be peeled before you cook them. Always press vegetables with seeds or "strings" through a sieve to remove the tough parts.

You can also buy vegetable baby food in jars or squeezable packets. They are convenient to have on hand, just look for products specifically made for babies. The ones for toddlers tend to be thicker and chunkier, as they have more solids.

Dairy

If you need additional calories, choose full-fat dairy products like whole milk or yogurt. You'll find a variety of dairy products that are already the right consistency for a puréed diet.

Not only are they a good source of calories and fat, but milk also contains protein. For example, a 6-ounce serving of Greek yogurt provides about 20 grams of protein.

Meats and Fish

Chicken, fish, and soft, ground meats are the easiest to purée. You can add gravy, stock, or cream sauce to make them smoother. Before you start cooking, press meats or fish through a sieve to remove any solid pieces.

Legumes

All legumes are high in fiber and protein. They also purée easily. For example, silken tofu is already very soft. It makes a good base for creamy desserts or soups.

Peanut butter and other types of nut butter are smooth enough to include on a puréed diet, but they tend to be thick. If you have trouble swallowing, you'll need to be careful with nut butter.

Liquid Meal Replacements

There are bound to be times when you don't feel like cooking or you have to be away from home. In these situations, having meal replacement products on hand will help you stay nourished.

Ensure, Carnation Instant Breakfast, and Boost are a few examples of liquid meal replacements you can get at most grocery stores and pharmacies.

For an easy, homemade, and nutritious meal replacement, try smoothies. You have a lot of choices when crafting a smoothie. Start by mixing milk, water, or juice with fruit and/or leafy greens. To make it a complete meal, add a scoop of protein powder and a spoonful of peanut butter or avocado.

Herbs and Spices

Most herbs and spices are fine to add to puréed meals. However, if your mouth or throat is sensitive (for example, because you have sores), these additions could be irritating. In that case, you'll want to be careful about using cayenne pepper and other hot spices or condiments.

You'll also need to avoid extras that are fibrous or seedy unless you can strain the fibers and seeds out. There are other ways to round out the flavor and consistency of a purée—for example, by adding mayonnaise, sauce, or gravy.

Cooking Tips

To prepare foods for a puréed diet, start by cooking meats, vegetables, and grains until they're very soft. Moist cooking methods like simmering or braising in liquid add moisture to meats and vegetables. This will make them much easier to purée.

Once they're soft, the next step is to make the foods smooth.

  1. Place the hardest foods (e.g., meat, chicken) in a blender or food processor.
  2. Add liquid (e.g., milk, juice, meat, or vegetable stock).
  3. Purée until smooth.
  4. Add soft-cooked vegetables and grains.
  5. Purée again.

When you're done, all foods should be completely smooth. The consistency should be like pudding, very smooth mashed potatoes, or hummus. There should be no solid chunks of food or lumps. You can add more liquid to make the purée thinner.

Clear or creamed soups might be ready to go without more prep work. If you're making a soup from scratch, make sure to blend or strain out any solid vegetables, noodles, or meat.

You can also purée and eat each food separately.

Modifications

If you can eat your regular diet in puréed form, you shouldn't need any modifications. However, if you've had surgery, your provider might recommend increasing your protein intake to help with healing.

It can also be helpful to talk to a nutrition professional. They can tell you what your daily intake of calories and nutrients should be. From there, they can work with you on making modifications to a puréed diet to help you meet your nutritional goals.

Recap

Most foods can be part of a puréed diet as long as they're prepared the right way. You can cook and blend vegetables, fruit, grains, and even meat for puréed meals. Adding liquid to your mixes can help get the meals to the right consistency for a puréed diet. It can also help you add calories and nutrients to meals.

Considerations

General Nutrition

A puréed diet should follow the 2020-2025 USDA Dietary Guidelines as closely as possible. The diet should be based on nutrient-dense whole foods. It should also include a variety of food groups, with plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Even if a puréed diet is very similar to your regular diet, it could still fall short in nutrition. Research has shown that puréed diets may provide fewer calories and important nutrients like protein.

In 2011, researchers in Chile compared the nutritional value provided by texture-modified diets at one hospital. The researchers figured out how many calories and macronutrients were in meals from each diet. They took measurements on three different days to be sure a variety of meals were included.

The results showed that the meals from the puréed diet had 31% fewer calories, 45% less protein, and 41% less fat than the meals from the regular diet.

If you have to be on a puréed diet for a longer time, you'll need to keep track of your weight. If you notice weight loss or loss of muscle mass, you might need to add more protein to your diet.

To give your body a boost of protein, add legumes, tofu, or protein powder to your meals. If you need to gain weight or prevent weight loss, have higher-calorie foods like cream instead of milk or swap nonfat yogurt for a whole milk version.

Sustainability

The most common complaint people have about being on a puréed diet is that some foods are more appetizing than others when they've been made into a smooth consistency. Texture differences can change your perception of how the food tastes—especially with meat.

It can be challenging to keep going with the diet if the food doesn't appeal to you, even if you know it's necessary for your health.

Here are a few tips that may make it easier to stick to a puréed diet.

  • Food molds that look like the shape of the food before it is puréed are specially made to help make the food more tolerable. This is referred to as the acceptability of the diet.
  • Using food molds may not be useful for everyone. Research has shown that many people actually prefer puréed foods served as individual scoops rather than in molded form.
  • You might prefer to eat your puréed foods as soups instead of solid meals. The easiest way to turn a purée into a soup is to add some stock or another liquid when you're blending.
  • Adding extra herbs and seasonings can make a big difference in the taste of your meals. Even if the consistency or appearance is not what you're used to, familiar flavors can help a puréed meal taste more like what you'd expect.

Practicality

A puréed diet can be easy to follow when you're eating at home. However, if you're dining out, you'll probably need to bring your own meals. When possible, you may need to request specially prepared options.

If you're away from home for just a short time, take along foods like yogurt, applesauce, or cream soups.

You can also consider purchasing a personal blender. These portable devices are about the size of a sports drink bottle and let you blend food on the go.

Flexibility

Any food that can be blended smooth is fair game on a puréed diet. In that sense, there's a world of flexibility in the diet. However, you will be limited in terms of which ready-prepared foods you can eat.

The best tip for making a puréed diet easier and more flexible is to plan ahead. Do as much cooking and prep work as you can ahead of time.

For example, you can make ahead batches of fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains, then portion them out in freezer containers. Then, all you'll have to do is thaw, heat, and purée. You can also bag up smoothie ingredients and freeze them. That way, they're ready to blend and go.

Cost

The only additional cost associated with a puréed diet is a good blender if you don't already have one. You may want to invest in a full-size blender, as it can be hard to blend meats or larger portions of foods in a smaller one.

If you have the budget for a high-speed blender, look at the different features they have. Some of the models also heat as they blend, which is a nice convenience and can save you cooking time.

Recap

When you're cooking at home, a puréed diet can be easy to follow. If you're dining out, you'll either need to bring your own food or make specific requests. It will help to prep the ingredients for meals ahead of time. A puréed diet probably won't cost more than your regular food shopping would; however, investing in a good blender will make it much easier.

Summary

A puréed diet includes soft, smooth foods. If you have trouble chewing, swallowing, or digesting, it may not be safe for you to eat solid food as you typically would. A puréed diet can be a safer way to get the nutrition you need.

Most foods can be part of a puréed diet as long as they're prepared the right way. That said, some people still find it hard to stick with a diet of only puréed foods. Even if it's nutritionally enough, puréed foods can look odd and be unappetizing.

Learning different ways to prepare puréed meals can help make it easier to stick with the diet. It also helps to have the right tools, like a good blender.

A Word From Verywell

Most people are on a puréed diet out of need rather than by choice. The diet and the health reasons for needing to be on it can affect your nutritional status.

It's important to talk to a nutritionist and your regular healthcare provider about your personal goals and needs. Having this conversation early and revisiting it often is especially important if you'll need to be on a puréed diet for a longer time.

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