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A pureed diet includes only foods of a pudding-like consistency.
The diet is intended primarily for people who have difficulties chewing or swallowing, but it’s also prescribed temporarily after bariatric or jaw surgery while the body heals.
Other people follow the pureed diet in hopes of losing weight since it may help reduce calorie intake.
In either case, if you’re new to the pureed diet, it can be overwhelming to know which foods you can puree or how to puree foods to achieve the right consistency while also ensuring the food still tastes and looks good.
This article serves as a beginner’s guide to a pureed diet, explaining which foods you should and shouldn’t puree, the best way to puree food, and more.
What is a pureed diet and who needs one?
A pureed diet consists of foods that are smooth with no lumps and aren’t sticky.
Pureed foods don’t require bitting or chewing and are usually eaten with a spoon but can sometimes be eaten with a fork.
A pureed diet is primarily for people who have swallowing or chewing problems.
Swallowing problems — also known as dysphagia — can occur because of an obstruction to the esophagus — the tube that connects your throat and stomach — or from neurological problems like a stroke, head injury, multiple sclerosis, and dementia (1).
A person with swallowing problems could also require thickened liquids with a pureed diet to promote safe and efficient swallowing.
Chewing problems are especially common among older adults and can occur due to missing teeth, poorly fitted dentures, or pain from inflamed or infected teeth or gums.
In some cases, chewing may be restricted, for example, after jaw surgery, requiring a pureed diet.
A pureed diet is also used recommended as part of a multistage diet advancement process after bariatric surgery (2).
In instances of chewing problems or post-bariatric surgery, a pureed diet is typically followed for a short period until you can chew and digest solid foods normally.
However, with severe swallowing issues, a pureed diet may need to be needed long-term or even lifelong to decrease the risk of choking or aspiration pneumonia.
What can you eat on a pureed diet?
You can puree just about any food, allowing for a varied diet.
Foods you can puree include:
- Fruits: most canned, frozen, and fresh fruit, except raw apples and grapes
- Vegetables: all cooked, tender vegetables and potatoes without the skin
- Grains: soft and moist breads, rolls, pastries, pasta, rice, and hot cereals
- Meats: moist, tender beef, pork, and lamb
- Poultry: moist, tender, and skinless chicken or turkey, and scrambled eggs
- Seafood: all seafood including skinless salmon, herring, sardines, shrimp, lobster, clams, and scallops
- Dairy: milk, smooth yogurt, cottage cheese, and some times dairy desserts like ice cream
- Beans: cooked black, black-eyed, chickpeas, kidney, lima, and pinto beans
Unless they’re part of a recipe, avoid sticky and chewy foods like:
- nut butters
- cheese chunks
- dried fruit
How to puree food
A strong blender or food processor is all you need to make pureed foods.
Here are the steps to puree food:
- Chunk or chop the food and place it into the blender or food processor.
- Use the pulse function to blend the food, holding it for a few seconds several times until smooth.
The puree should have no lumps, hold its shape on a spoon, and when tilted, easily fall off the spoon.
Puree that remains on the spoon after tilting is too sticky, which can cause a choking risk in people with swallowing problems.
Liquids like gravy or sauce should also not separate from the puree and instead, be completely blended.
If the puree is too thin, try adding a thicking or gelling agent like:
- xanthan gum
- potato flakes
If a puree is too dry, avoid adding water if possible since it can dilute the flavor. Instead, add liquids like:
Unless you’re making some type of hotdish or casserole, it’s best to puree foods separately — making sure to wash the blender jar and blade in between foods — and plate them individually as you normally would with solid foods.
Pureeing foods together that you wouldn’t normally mix like chicken and green beans wouldn’t look or taste the greatest.
Ideally, the pureed food should resemble the recognizable food item and not be scooped and plated as a mound.
You can accomplish this by using food molds and piping bags.
Find puree food molds online.
Puree meal and snack ideas
Here are a few meal and snack ideas to try, including several that are high in protein:
- Hot breakfast cereals. Make oatmeal or cream of wheat with milk, blend with peanut butter or honey, and top with pureed fruit.
- Soups. Try beef stew, carrot and sweet potato soup, and black bean soup. Prepare these soups as usual and drain excess liquid.
- Casseroles. Most casseroles like lasagna, tater tot hotdish, and shepherd’s pie are easy to puree.
- Tuna or chicken salad. Prepare as usual and add plain Greek yogurt for additional protein.
- Cooked veggies. Mix any cooked and tender vegetable with vegetable juice or broth.
- Mashed potatoes. Puree without the skin. Add margarine, butter, or sour cream to add moisture and flavor. Don’t mash the potatoes too much as this can cause them to become gluey and sticky.
- Baked beans and peas. Prepare as normal and add olive oil or butter. Use the cooking water as needed to get the right consistency.
- Puddings. Consider making your own so you can add protein powder.
- Yogurt. Opt for Greek versions since they offer a higher protein content than regular yogurt.
- Fruited cottage cheese. Blend cottage cheese with milk. Separately puree canned fruit and spoon over the cottage cheese.
- Shakes and smoothies. Combine ingredients like frozen fruit, Greek yogurt, flavored whey protein, and peanut butter and blend until smooth.
- Cheescake. Prepare and puree without the graham cracker crust.
- Chocolate mousee. Add a raspberry puree if desired.
- Simple custard. Serve chilled but make sure it’s not too thick.
Can you lose weight on the diet?
Beyond the clinical uses of a pureed diet, some people choose to eat pureed foods in hopes of losing weight.
The idea of eating pureed foods for weight loss likely originated from the baby food diet, which involves replacing your meals with several jars of baby food.
With one can or pouch of baby food containing anywhere between 50 to 140 calories, it’s no wonder why replacing a regular meal with baby food would result in weight loss.
The other thought is that because pureed foods are generally known for being unappealing, you’ll eat fewer calories on a pureed diet as a result.
Still, eating a pureed diet for weight loss is unrealistic and unsustainable.
Instead, stick with a diet that you can stick with long-term and that helps you develop healthy habits like eating more fruits and vegetables or eliminating or reducing your intake of added sugars.
The bottom line
A pureed diet consists of foods that are smooth with no lumps and that don’t require bitting or swallowing.
The diet is primarily for people with swallowing and chewing problems, but people recovering from bariatric or jaw surgery may also need to follow a pureed diet.
You can puree most foods, except those that are sticky, chewy, and tough.
While not its intended purpose, the pureed diet can promote weight loss if it helps you eat fewer calories.
But the pureed diet is not an effective — or attractive — solution for long-term weight loss.