Thinking about the holidays conjures up images of warmly-lit houses, cracking fires, laughter and hugs between loved ones who are finally reunited, and of course food. Special breakfasts, multi-course meals and decorated cookies bring mouth-watering joy to those who partake in them. But, what if eating is a struggle? For patients who have trouble swallowing and need to follow a dysphagia diet, meal times can be times of discouragement rather than fulfillment.
Dysphagia occurs when there is either a neurological problem or a physical problem with the body structures involved in swallowing. Trouble swallowing can occur at any part of the process of food travelling from the mouth to the stomach, whether the patient cannot chew properly or the esophagus muscles are weakened and unable to push food through.
Due to the lack of motor function, dysphagia patients need assistance or monitoring while eating. In some dysphagia diet guidelines, food needs to be liquefied for patients to consume it and obtain enough nutrition. In other instances, liquids need to be thickened to become easier to handle. Frequently, dysphagia patients risk choking by trying to swallow too much of a volume at once.
Thankfully, there are tools available that can protect people with swallowing difficulties by limiting “bolus size,” or the amount of volume that the patient holds in their mouth and tries to swallow. One of those tools is the SafeStraw™, a device designed to automatically limit the volume the user can take at once. To aid in consumption of various types of liquefied food, there are two varieties:
• SafeStraw™ Drinking Aid for Thin Liquid
• SafeStraw™ Drinking Aid for Thick Liquid
While the family gathers for major meals, there is no need for a loved one with swallowing difficulties to miss out on the comradery or even the taste of holiday favorites.
The GI Nutrition Support Team at the University of Virginia School of Medicine published a collection of holiday recipes that are modified to be made in a blender. For example, this Carrot Soufflé is a delicious side-dish that tastes like the perfect fall-seasoned casserole.
Steam carrots until tender. Blend until smooth. Add eggs and blend well. Add sugar, flour, baking powder, vanilla, butter and seasonings. Blend until smooth. Pour into 2-quart pan coated with cooking spray. Combine brown sugar, butter and nuts. Sprinkle evenly over carrot mixture. Bake at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes.
Other sources that provide excellent holiday dysphagia diet menus: