As we age, it’s normal to require pureed foods as part of our regular diet, or even as the only form of food our bodies can process. This can be due to a host of dietary needs, or digestive system restrictions. In any case, it’s important for seniors and their caretakers to know how to properly puree foods, and how to best incorporate them into a diet. Below are some tips, as well as some useful information about why the elderly need pureed food in their diet.
Why Do Seniors Need Pureed Food?
As I mentioned, there are many reasons that the elderly need pureed food in their diets. It could just be a lack of interest in eating, or a reduction in taste bud quality that may be a natural result of getting older. But also, a condition called Dysphagia affects around 20% of the U.S. population that is 50 and over, and makes swallowing solid foods extremely difficult, often resulting in choking on even a small bit of solid food.
Dysphagia is often associated with other diseases, such as Parkinson’s. It’s usually linked to another medical condition, and doesn’t really naturally arise on its own. However, it’s extremely prevalent in nursing homes, where the likelihood of a patient having dysphagia is about 50%. The reason for this is unknown, but regardless, it is important for caretakers to know about the importance of pureed foods in a senior’s diet.
How to be a “Puree Pro”
While it seems like a fairly straightforward process, pureeing food is actually a bit of an art, especially if you’re trying to make an entire diet out of pureed foods. Check out some tips below in terms of technique and ingredients, and then take a look at some easy recipes to get you started.
Again, when you first start thinking about pureeing, it seems relatively straightforward. Chop up the ingredients, place them in a food processor, add a little liquid, and you’re good to go, right? Not quite.
First, if you’re pureeing solid foods, you’ll need to chop, cut, or mash them up as finely as possible in order to get the smoothest texture out of your puree. You don’t want any extra, even fine bits of solid food leftover, which can easily happen if you try to puree solid foods (more on ingredients below).
One more technique tip that I personally find very helpful is the spoon test. When you think you’ve gotten your desired texture out of the puree, grab a spoonful and tilt it over. If the puree spills right off, the mixture is probably too runny for the senior to enjoy, but if it stays on and is a bit sticky, this might be too thick for them to swallow. You want a happy medium, where the puree easily slides off of the spoon but doesn’t spill like a soup.
The Right Gear
Also, a food processor is just fine for pureeing, but there are many other kitchen tools out there that may give you a better, smoother, more velvety texture. Food processors basically pulverize the food into oblivion, and while that may be desirable sometimes, other times you may crave a really thick texture that’s reminiscent of real food.
For these types of dishes, check out food mills or even a gadget you may have never heard of: potato ricers. They tend to uphold the integrity of the original ingredients a little better, since they’re more gentle on the fibers of the food.
However, food processors also tend to have the largest capacity, so for bulk meals (which are great for storage, and easy to reheat every now and then), opt for a food processor.
To learn more about the best appliances to use when making pureed food, check out the gear section of the site by clicking here.
Ingredients are Key
To get the best puree, the ingredients that go into it will really affect how it comes out. You want your ingredients to generally be somewhat soft in their solid form already, so that they easily break down in your pureeing device. This usually means boiling hard vegetables until tender, or mashing up other ingredients before pureeing them.
On the other hand, also stay away from foods that are too watery, as this can make the puree itself into a soup. Drain any excess liquid you find in your ingredients before pureeing them, and add liquids (only if needed) in small quantities to your mixture. You can always add more if needed, but you can’t take liquids out once they’re mixed in. However, if you did add too much liquid, you can add a thickening agent like potato flakes, protein powder, or gelatin mix, unless they would conflict with the flavor of the dish you’re making.
Also, make sure you’re creating enough variety with your ingredients. A pureed diet can get old quick, so adding different spices and seasonings, or even new syrups or sauces, to traditional dishes can make a world of difference in a senior’s pureed food diet.
Easy Pureeing Recipes
Here are a few easy recipes to get you started with preparing a pureed food diet for your senior loved one.
Cream of Broccoli Soup
Create a thick soup base by mixing together two tablespoons of butter, two tablespoons of oil, and two to three tablespoons of flour depending on your desired thickness. Heat on low until the mixture begins to bubble, then stir in one cup of skim milk. Allow new mixture to simmer until it thickens. Then, puree this base with a cup of broccoli and ¼ cup of shredded cheese of your choosing. Add potato flakes to thicken, if desired.
Frozen Yogurt Parfait
This can be used as a breakfast or dessert food. Puree together vanilla yogurt with your seniors’ favorite fruits and a bit of almond milk. Serve as is, or freeze overnight to create a delicious, healthy ice-cream like treat.
For a heartier meal, finely chop up about 4 ounces of cooked beef (or your seniors’ favorite meat) and add them to a food processor with about a half cup of gravy or broth. Add their favorite vegetables, also finely chopped and cooked a bit to make them more tender. Thicken with potato flakes or cream of mushroom soup for added nutrients and carbs as well. Blend with a high powered blender until you reach your desired texture. Add different seasonings to give the stew some flavor as well.
There are other ways to get protein into your pureed diet – learn more about that in this post.
Also, make sure to taste all the foods you make for your loved one before serving it to them. If you don’t like it, they probably won’t either, but may be too polite or embarrassed to say anything after you went to the trouble of preparing a brand new diet for them.
Summary and Sources
Changing up a diet can be scary for anyone, especially seniors who are afraid of not being able to eat their favorite foods anymore. Luckily, with the tips above, you’ll be able to prepare and eat almost anything you’d like, just in a different, more digestible form.
Have you switched to a pureed diet recently? Share your tips and favorite recipes below!
Hello There! I'm Will.
Pureed food can look good AND taste good!
I work as a food services manager for a company that manages nursing homes and senior living centers. We serve a lot of pureed foods because of the number of seniors who require it. But, purees can also look and taste good! I've created this site to help people make delicious, healthy purees and to be a resource for people who make purees at home. I hope you enjoy it and learn a little, too!Learn more
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