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Dysphagia Diet: Level 1 (Pureed)

A level 1 dysphagia diet is a special eating plan. Your healthcare provider may tell you to use it if you have moderate to severe dysphagia.

What is a dysphagia diet?

When you have dysphagia, you have trouble swallowing. You are also at risk for aspiration. Aspiration is when food or liquid enters the lungs by accident. It can cause pneumonia and other problems. A dysphagia diet can help prevent aspiration.

The foods you eat can affect your ability to swallow. For example, soft foods are easier to swallow than hard foods. A dysphagia diet plan has 3 levels. Each level is based on how serious a person’s dysphagia is. A level 1 diet is the most limited. People on this diet should eat only pureed, pudding-like foods. They should avoid foods with coarse textures.

What can you eat?

If you are on a level 1 dysphagia diet, there are certain foods you can and can’t eat. Make sure you follow all your healthcare provider’s instructions. Even eating 1 food that is not approved can greatly raise your risk for aspiration.

Foods you can eat:

  • Pureed breads (also called pre-gelled breads)

  • Smooth puddings, custards, yogurts, and pureed desserts

  • Pureed fruits and mashed bananas

  • Pureed meats

  • Soufflés

  • Mashed potatoes that are moistened

  • Pureed soups

  • Pureed vegetables with no lumps, chunks, or seeds

Foods to avoid:

  • Non-pureed breads

  • Any cereal with lumps

  • Cookies, cakes, or pastry

  • Whole fruit of any kind

  • Non-pureed meats, beans, or cheese

  • Scrambled, fried, or hard-boiled eggs

  • Non-pureed potatoes, pasta, or rice

  • Non-pureed soups

  • Non-pureed vegetables

  • Seeds, nuts, or chewy candies

During and after eating

While eating, it may help to sit upright. You may need support pillows to get into the best position. It may also help to have few distractions while drinking. Changing between solid food and liquids may also help your swallowing.

Stay upright for at least 30 minutes after eating. This can help reduce the risk for aspiration. Keep watch for symptoms of aspiration such as:

  • Coughing or wheezing during or right after eating

  • Too much saliva

  • Shortness of breath or tiredness while eating

  • A wet-sounding voice during or after eating or drinking

  • Fever 30 to 60 minutes after eating

Tip

Take the time to make meals that look, smell, and taste good. Add seasonings to your food. Set the table. Even though you can’t have certain foods, you can still enjoy eating.

Drinking liquids

Ask your healthcare provider about what kinds of liquids are safe for you on a level 1 dysphagia diet. Some people can drink thin liquids, but others should not. If you can’t have thin liquids, make sure your liquids are thickened. Your healthcare provider will give you more information about how to manage the thickness of liquids.

While you’re on a dysphagia diet

  • Follow all instructions about what foods and drinks you can have.

  • Do swallowing exercises as advised.

  • Do not change your food or liquids, even if your swallowing gets better. Talk with your healthcare provider first.

  • Tell all health care providers and caregivers that you are on a dysphagia diet. Explain which foods and liquids you can and can’t have.

How long a dysphagia diet is needed?

Your healthcare team will keep track of how well you are swallowing. You may need follow-up tests such as a fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES) test. If your swallowing gets better, you may be able to change your diet. Many people who have dysphagia because of a stroke find that their swallowing problems get better with time and treatment. If your swallowing gets better, you may be able to change to a less restrictive diet. If your swallowing gets worse, you may need other methods of getting nutrition for a period of time. For example, you may need a feeding tube.

Call 911

Call 911 if you have trouble breathing during or after eating.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Trouble swallowing gets worse

  • Unintended weight loss

  • Food comes back up into your mouth

  • Vomiting

  • A wet-sounding voice after eating or drinking

Online Medical Reviewer: Dozier, Tennille, RN, BSN, RDMS
Online Medical Reviewer: Jothi, Sumana MD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2017
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