What can I eat when it hurts to swallow and chew food?

If you have trouble swallowing food, mealtimes can become a chore rather than a pleasure. Instead of looking forward to breakfast, lunch or dinner, you probably find yourself dreading the moment you need to eat.

Although it’s a stressful experience, there are steps you can take to make your diet more friendly on your body.

What to do if you have difficulty swallowing food

If you do find it difficult to swallow or chew food, you may feel frustrated at mealtimes. Follow these tips to find a solution that suits you and your lifestyle.

Seek medical help

The first step with any difficulty in swallowing should be to see a medical professional.

Issues with eating may be a result of an underlying cause or condition, so it’s best to err on the side of caution and get checked out in case there’s anything untoward.

If you’re struggling to eat or swallow, get in touch with your GP. They’ll be able to get you checked over and make a referral to a specialist if necessary.

Other hints and tips

If you do find it difficult to swallow or chew food, you may feel frustrated at mealtimes. Follow these tips to find a solution that suits you and your lifestyle.

Consider therapy

It might sound strange, but believe it or not, a speech and language therapist may be able to help you overcome swallowing problems. These professionals are trained to help with eating difficulties, and some of the techniques can be used to improve your swallowing.

Your doctor may be able to refer you if they feel it might be beneficial to you.

Vary temperature, taste and texture

A variation of tastes, temperatures and textures may help to keep your mouth alert, enabling you to chew and swallow more effectively.

Try to eat meals that include different textures and tastes; for example, something spicy can be complemented by a cooling yoghurt. You can also enjoy classic sweet and sour elements on your plate, or switch between textured and soft foods with each mouthful.

Swallow with water

Particularly when eating dry foods, a lack of moisture in your mouth can worsen your swallowing difficulties.

Keeping your mouth and throat hydrated may help to lubricate and help the food move through your system. Try sipping a glass of water or a still drink throughout your meal to ensure your mouth is as moist as possible.

Cut food into smaller pieces

It might seem obvious, but it’s an often-overlooked point: smaller pieces of food are much easier to chew and swallow.

When it comes to mealtimes, slicing food into smaller, more manageable chunks will help you be able to chew and swallow it more comfortably.

Make sure you also chew effectively; denser foods will require more chewing than softer ones before you swallow. Eat slowly and chew thoroughly until it becomes soft and easier to swallow.

Sit upright

To reduce discomfort when swallowing, pay attention to your posture when dining. Wherever possible, sit at a table and keep your body at a 90° angle with your head tilted slightly forward. This natural position will help the food move through your throat more effectively.

You should also remain sitting up after eating a meal – for up to an hour – to ensure the food goes down comfortably.

Try softer foods

You may find that it’s easier and less painful to swallow softer foods. Try to incorporate these into your diet to reduce the discomfort of dense, hard foods going down.

Easy-to-swallow foods can include:

  • Soups
  • Smoothies
  • Yoghurt
  • Porridge
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Nut butters
  • Scrambled or soft-boiled eggs
  • Pureed vegetables

Mealtimes made easier

If you do struggle to swallow, a diet limited to softer foods may feel restrictive. Why should you have to miss out on your favourite tastes when others can enjoy whatever food they like? 

After consulting with medical professionals, you may be advised to consume pureed or soft foods as a way of getting the essential nutrients you need.

The BirdsEye soft meals range available via alimento provides all the taste and nutritional value of a balanced diet, in an easy-to-swallow format.