Six New Items on the Menu For a Liquid Diet

By Rebekah Hindman

 

“Food has been the main topic in our house for the last year,” shares an anonymous patient on the Cancer Survivor Network web site. “My husband says he’s tired of hearing about what I can or can’t eat. I couldn’t do Ensure or Boost at all. I’m not sure how I survived the six months—lost 55 pounds. . So for you caregivers, please be patient. Keep trying different foods.”

Many caregivers cringe as they feed loved ones the same meal day-in and day-out. The dilemmas of a liquid diet disturb not only victims of cancer, but also many other patients and caregivers dealing with lesser-known health issues. The diet-limiting aspects of diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s Disease, and progressive dementia can discourage even the most dedicated caregivers. The irrepressible tremors of Parkinson’s make eating a near impossible task. Dementia can cause even the thought process involved in eating to be a struggle. Because of denture problems, chewing is also a difficult task.

Oftentimes a liquid or pureed diet is the best solution to eating problems. The patient receives the important nutrients he needs, but without the laborious struggle of spending over an hour to consume only a few bites. But sometimes the added nutrition can come at the cost of taste. Lack of appetite is a typical problem among the elderly, which is only enhanced if the meal is unappealing. This doesn’t have to be the case. Here are some helpful new menu options to spice up the liquid diet of your loved one.

Breakfast Items

Yogurt and fruit make breakfast tasty and healthy. Many yogurt drinks are on the dairy aisle of any grocery store. Also try buying plain yogurt, and then add your own fruit blends. Just make sure to puree the fruit to a manageable consistency. Yogurt is rich in calcium, and fruits are great sources for other vitamins.

For a drink, cranberry juice acts as a superb preventative measure against UTI’s (urinary tract infections) that often plague older or bedridden people. Cran-grape juice tastes wonderful to someone who would wince at a glass of straight cranberry juice. Rich antioxidants permeate this drink.

Thin oatmeal or cream of wheat provides necessary fiber, but you can add some taste by layering it with pureed fruit, molasses, or brown sugar. Shoot for the maximum amount of calories or sugar in the least amount of food because eating difficulties and a lack of appetite can lead to malnutrition. Top off breakfast with a cup of warm hot chocolate. In the place of a generic hot chocolate mix, substitute a chocolate heath-drink supplement, which is richer in vitamins.

Smoothies for Lunch

Lunch can be a monotonous meal. Often seniors don’t work up a lunch time appetite, especially if they eat a late breakfast. Sometimes a well-made fruit smoothie is a rich but not overwhelming meal. A fruit smoothie is a blended combination of frozen fruits, ice, and other ingredients. There are innumerable smoothie recipes available.

The secret ingredient for any smoothie is the thickening agent. Yogurt or pureed bananas work well. Bananas are a great source of potassium. You can easily sneak some carrot juice into a fruit smoothie without damaging the taste. In fact, the vegetable juice helps temper the sweetness. Don’t feel as if you have to use fresh fruit all the time. Blended frozen fruit helps to thicken the consistency. A smoothie is a great way to tailor the liquid diet to personal tastes and to exercise creativity.

Soup Lunches

Soup is a staple for a liquid diet, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be tasteless or overdone. Countless canned soups and soup recipes are out there. Cheese based and potato based soups are good for a liquid diet, but almost any soup can be pureed so that it is easy to swallow.

If you are in a hurry and don’t have time to stop and puree the soup, some name-brand soups market drinkable, microwavable soups. Make sure the soup is not too hot, but also remember that warm foods are easier to taste.

Lunch Side Items

Although few doctors would recommend eating just dessert for lunch, Jell-O’s and puddings are great side items as a source of protein and calcium. A variety of flavors are available, and fruit can be added too.

Protein in puddings and Jell-O repairs muscle and tissues. Bedsores, which plague older bedridden people, can take additional time to heal without protein. Puddings are also a perfect medium for crushed medicine that cannot be swallowed in capsule form. Help your loved one remember the good old days. Get creative with the presentation of Jell-O by using molds.

Entrée Options

A Cuisinart or blender is the most essential tool for a liquid or soft diet. Basically by using one of these, you are cutting out one step in the process of eating: chewing. Most vegetables can be blended, but make sure you still include traditional spices.

Many meats can be blended with broth. Be careful about the presentation of these courses. Try not to be too exotic in what you blend together. Two great tools for cooking no-chew meals are The I-Can’t-Chew Cookbook and The Easy-to-Swallow, Easy-to-Chew Cookbook, which are available online at Amazon.

Desserts

Shakes are perfect for a liquid diet. This is where diet supplements can be used unabashedly. These shakes are packed with vitamins and protein. They come in multiple flavors: French vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, hazelnut, berry blend, etc. Instant coffee grounds can be added to give drinks added flavor. Ice cream adds important calories. You can also blend in fruit to contribute to the taste. Experiment!

Implement these suggestions and entice your loved one to eat a healthy and tasty liquid meal. Use your own creativity and tailor these ideas to the needs of your patient. As in any healthcare situation, be sure you consult your loved one’s doctor about diet alterations. Healthcare professionals are wonderful sources for dietary suggestions. Even they enjoy swapping recipes. So, go for it! Try something new on the menu.
 
Rebekah Hindman is from Greenville, South Carolina. She is a caregiver to her grandmother who is living with Parkinson’s disease. She teams up with her mother, a retired RN, and sister to provide her grandmother with twenty-four hour care. Rebekah wants to help relieve the monotony other caregivers and loved ones face with the limitations of a liquid diet.

 

Subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter