What Is the Puréed Diet?

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

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A puréed diet is a texture-modified diet in which all foods have a soft, pudding-like consistency. This diet is 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.

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

Benefits

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

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

Proper 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, the nutrients you get from a puréed diet are particularly important in your recovery.

Research on the role of nutrition in patients with mouth surgery, published in the National Journal of Maxillofacial 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 puréed diet, can help prevent complications associated with poor nutrition.

How It Works

Most foods can be puréed, as long as they're cooked properly and you have a good blender or food processor to change their texture. That means you should still be able to eat most of the foods that you enjoy, though some may be more palatable in puréed form than others. Of course, foods like pudding or yogurt are already the appropriate consistency and are good choices on this diet.

Duration

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

If your doctor advises you to stick with a puréed diet long term, it is likely, above all, for safety reasons (e.g., to reduce your risk of choking when eating). It's important that you follow these instructions.

What to Eat

Compliant Foods

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

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

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

  • Dairy: Milk; smooth yogurts without 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

  • Desserts: Gelatin; 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 puréed 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 puréed 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 puréed diet can offer a good deal of variety, but you may find that certain foods are easier to purée 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 puréed 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. Vegetable baby food, sold in jars or squeezable packets, can be convenient to have on hand, but make sure you purchase products for specifically for babies, as those for toddlers tend to be thicker and/or chunkier.

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 intake of this important nutrient.

Meats and fish: Softer meats like chicken, fish, and ground meats will be easiest to purée. 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 purée very easily. 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 puréed diet, but use caution with if you have any swallowing problems, given its thickness.

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.

Herbs and spices: In general, these are fine to use. However, use caution with cayenne pepper and 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 a purée by adding mayonnaise, sauce, or gravy.

Recommended Timing

Meals do not have to be eaten on a timed schedule. However, if you find your puréed meals to be filling or you have trouble finishing your food at a sitting, 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 puréed 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 purée.

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 purée it until it's smooth. Next, add soft-cooked vegetables and grains as desired and purée again. You can also purée (and eat) each food separately.

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. You can add more liquid to make them thinner, if you prefer.

When preparing your favorite soups, just be sure to blend up or strain any solid vegetables, noodles, or meat.

Modifications

As long as you can eat your regular diet in puréed 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 a puréed diet. They can help you make any modifications in your calories, protein, or other nutrients.

Considerations

General Nutrition

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

While the goal of a puréed diet is to provide the same or similar calories and nutrition as your regular diet, research shows that puréed 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 puréed diet and the regular house diet. They measured calories and macronutrients on three different days and found that meals from the puréed diet had 31% fewer calories, 45% less protein, and 41% less fat than the regular diet.

If you have to be on a puréed 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.

Sustainability

Acceptability of puréed foods is probably the most common complaint when it comes to the puréed diet. Some of the texture differences, especially in meats, may affect your perception of how the food tastes.

Sustaining the diet, obviously, is necessary for medical reasons. But to make that easier, there are some things you can try:

  • Food molds that mimic the shape of the food before it is puréed are designed to improve the acceptability. However, research published in the Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research shows that most people actually prefer puréed foods that are served as individual scoops rather than in molded form. See what works best for you.
  • You might prefer to eat your puréed foods in the form of soups instead of solid meals. Just add additional stock to the blender when you purée 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 puréed diet should be easy to follow when you're eating at home. However, if you're eating out, you'll probably need to bring your own meals or request specially prepared options, if that's possible. If you're away from home for just a short time, you can get away with foods like yogurt, apple sauce, or cream soups.

You can also consider purchasing a personal blender—a portable device, about the size of a sports bottle, that allows you to blend food on the go.

Flexibility

Any food that can be blended smooth is fair game on a puréed diet, so in that sense, there can be a world of flexibility with a puréed diet. However, that also means that you are limited in terms of what you can eat in terms of ready-prepared foods.

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. 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. Likewise, you can bag smoothie ingredients and freeze them, so all you need to do is 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 might prefer a full-size 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 of those you're looking at. 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 puréed 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 puréed diet for any length of time.

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