Soft foods (that still taste great)

Having trouble swallowing?

It’s very common for people undergoing, or recovering from, cancer therapies to have problems swallowing.

The technical term for swallowing problems is dysphagia. If you haven’t already, you should talk to your medical team and let them know about this treatment side effect. There are a number of different possible causes — from neck radiation to infections — so it’s important that they know about it.

Common symptoms of dysphagia include gagging, coughing, vomiting, drooling, dry mouth, mouth sores, pain in your throat or chest, and a white coating on the inside of your mouth.

Alleviate swallowing problems

  • Eat bland, soft foods that are nutritious
    • Mash or puree foods
    • Use lots of sauce or gravy
    • Dip breads in milk or sauce
    • Thicker foods may be easier to swallow than thin liquids
    • Use a straw
  • Avoid acidic, spicy, or hot foods
  • Eat frequent, small meals and take small bites
  • Sit upright before and after eating

Soft Food Recipes

Frittata in a frying pan with mushrooms and peppersPepper & Mushroom Frittata

Ingredients

  • 6 whole eggs
  • 2 cups chopped spinach
  • 1 small red potato, peeled and diced
  • ⅓ cup red pepper, chopped
  • ⅓ cup yellow pepper, chopped
  • ½ cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons dried italian herbs
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • ½ cup shredded cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided

Directions

  1. Using a 10” oven-safe skillet, sauté potato, onion, bell peppers, and mushrooms over medium heat for 10 minutes with ½  tablespoon oil.
  2. Add in spinach and garlic and cook for an additional 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  3. Beat eggs in large bowl. Add cooked vegetables, black pepper, and cheese.
  4. Preheat broiler.
  5. Coat the skillet with remaining ½ tablespoon of olive oil, pour in egg mixture, and cook for 4 minutes on medium heat.
  6. Move skillet to broiler and broil for 3 – 5 minutes until the eggs have cooked through.
  7. Slide frittata onto plate and cut into 3 wedges.

This recipe was adapted from the original, here.

Creamy Polenta with Sauteed Spinach & Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup dry polenta
  • 1 ⅔ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ⅓ cup goat or ricotta cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 handful of fresh spinach
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • ½ cup chopped onion

Directions

  1. Bring the water and salt to a boil. Whisk in the polenta and lower the heat to medium.
  2. Cook for 5 minutes and then reduce the heat to low, adding in the butter. Stir frequently until the polenta has reached a thick consistency and coats the spoon, around 25-30 minutes.
  3. Once the polenta has finished cooking, mix in the cheese until melted.
  4. While the polenta is cooking, prepare the mushrooms. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, mushrooms, and garlic. Cook for 6 – 8 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender.
  5. Add in the cup of spinach and cook for 1 minute until wilted.
  6. Serve the polenta topped with the sauteed vegetables. Enjoy!

Peas & Green Bean Brown Rice “Risotto”

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown rice, pre-cooked
  • ½ cup green peas*
  • ½ cup asparagus tips*
  • ½ a small onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ⅓ cup creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons packed goat or ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon dried italian herbs or basil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Pre-cook the brown rice according to the directions and set aside. You can pre-cook a large amount and keep it in the refrigerator for use in future meals.
  2. Steam the green peas and beans until soft.
  3. While the green peas and beans are steaming, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add in the onion, cooking until the onion until translucent, roughly 3 – 5 minutes.
  4. Add in the green peas, beans, and cooked brown rice into the pan. Stir for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add in the creme fraiche, cheese, milk, herbs, and salt. Saute until the cheese has melted, and enjoy immediately.

Green peas and asparagus are not the only vegetables that work well in this dish! You can pick and choose different vegetable combinations to customize the dish to your liking. Not a fan of green peas and asparagus? Try carrots and broccoli, or roasted red peppers and cauliflower.

Mashed Turnips

Ingredients

  • 3 cups peeled & diced turnips
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • ½ cup milk (any type) or chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Boil the turnip and garlic cloves in a large pot of water until the turnips are very soft.
  2. Drain well, and add your liquid of choice, olive oil, and salt.
  3. Mash using a hand blender or potato masher.
  4. Add additional liquid or olive oil if desired.
  5. This makes roughly four (½) cup servings.

Cauliflower and Lima Bean Puree

Ingredients

-½ head of cauliflower

– 1 cup of lima beans, frozen

– ¼ to ⅓ cup whole milk

– 1 tablespoon olive oil

– 1 teaspoon crushed garlic

– 1 teaspoon dried herbs of choice

Directions

  1. Chop the cauliflower into small florets, and steam until very soft.
  2. While the cauliflower is cooking, boil the lima beans for 3 – 5 minutes until tender. Drain when finished.
  3. Once the cauliflower and lima beans are properly cooked, blend together with the whole milk, olive oil, crushed garlic and dried herbs using an immersion blender. If using a regular blender, add additional liquid as needed until desired consistency is reached.

Amazing Homemade Applesauce

Ingredients

  • 6 apples, cored
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • A dash of cinnamon and nutmeg

Directions

  1. Core and slice each of the apples into a large quart size pot.
  2. Mix in the lemon juice and brown sugar into the apples.
  3. Heat the apples on medium-high heat, mixing the apples every few minutes for the first 10 minutes, until the apples begin to become soft.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook for another 10 – 15 minutes.
  5. When done, mash with a potato masher or a fork.
  6. Allow to cool, and store the applesauce in the fridge.
  7. Use within 3 – 5 days.

Overnight Oats

Ingredients

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 large, ripe banana
  • 1 tablespoon hemp or chia seeds
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
  • Optional mix-ins of your choice

Optional Mix-ins

Fruit: strawberries, blueberries, apple, raisins

Nuts: almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans

Seeds: sunflower, pumpkin, hemp

Directions

  1. Mash the banana in a large bowl.
  2. Add all other ingredients to bowl, and stir well until completely mixed
  3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  4. In the morning, spoon into two bowls and top with desired mix-ins.

This recipe has been adapted from the original, here.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 (14-oz) cans of whole or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil seasoning
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and ground pepper

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add in the tomatoes with their juices, as well as the stock and dried basil leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Increase heat to high, and bring the soup to a rolling boil before reducing the heat and allow the soup to simmer for roughly 10 minutes.
  4. Working in batches, transfer tomato mixture to a blender or food processor. Add in the cottage cheese and puree the tomato mixture.
  5. Return soup to the stockpot and season with salt and pepper as desired. Serve immediately.

butternut squash soup image by sid via flickrButternut Squash Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 small onion, roughly diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

  1. In a large pot, add the cubed butternut squash and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, and cook until the squash is tender.
  2. While the squash is boiling, saute the diced onion in olive oil until translucent while stirring occasionally, roughly 3 – 5 minutes. When done, add the onions into the chicken broth and squash.
  3. Blend the soup using an immersion blender until smooth. Alternatively, blend the soup in a blender in batches until smooth.

Butternut squash soup image by Sid via Flickr.

Pina Colada Popsicles

Ingredients

  • 1 can full fat coconut milk (organic, if possible)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
  • ½ cup pineapple chunks
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup shredded coconut, if desired

Directions

  1. Place the pineapple chunks in the blender with the coconut milk.
  2. Add in the honey and vanilla extract.
  3. Quickly blitz the mixture for a few seconds just to break up the pineapple.
  4. Place blended mixture into a popsicle mold, and freeze for 4 – 6 hours, or until firm.

Chocolate PB “Mousse”

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons sweetener of choice
  • 2 tablespoons cacao or cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • ¼ cup granola

Directions

  1. In a bowl, mix together the yogurt, sweetener, vanilla extract, and cocoa powder.
  2. Once the yogurt mixture is smooth, gently mix in the peanut butter to create swirls.
  3. Place mixture in the freezer for ~30 minutes to reach a slight frozen yogurt consistency.
  4. When ready to serve, top with granola.

black bean brownies image by Bobbi Bowers via FlickrBlack Bean and Almond Butter Fudge Brownies

Ingredients

  • 1 (15 1/2 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup butter or coconut oil, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, divided in half
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease 9″ x 9″ square baking pan.
  2. In a food processor, puree black beans, eggs, butter, cocoa powder, almond butter, honey and vanilla extract.
  3. Stir in half of the chocolate chips and pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle walnuts and remaining chocolate chips on top.
  4. Bake for roughly 18 – 20 minutes, until the surface begins to appear matte.
  5. Remove from the oven and let cool at least 15 minutes before cutting and removing from the pan.
  6. Store the brownies in a tupperware container in the fridge (or freezer) for up to 3 days.

Because these brownies are made with black beans, they can become dry very easily if overcooked. Be sure to keep an eye on them as the baking time may vary based on the accuracy of the temperature in your oven.

Black bean brownies image by Bobbi Bowers via Flickr.

Katrina Trisko

Katrina Trisko graduated from Boston University in 2013 with a degree in Dietetics and is currently completing her dietetic internship program through Teachers College of Columbia University in NYC, where she has finished coursework for a Masters in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology.

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