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What Is a Soft Diet?

A soft diet generally eliminates foods that are difficult to chew or swallow, and also spicy, fried, or gassy foods. A mechanical soft diet simply eliminates foods that are difficult to chew or swallow.

Why Should I Follow a Soft Diet?

A soft diet is often prescribed as a transitional diet following certain types of surgery or illnesses. It may also be recommended for people who are undergoing radiation therapy to the head, neck, or abdominal area. A mechanical soft diet may be prescribed if you are having trouble with chewing food, for instance due to a lack of teeth, or if you have difficulty swallowing.

Soft Diet Basics

Foods permitted on a soft diet may be naturally soft, or if not, they may be mashed, chopped, or cooked to achieve a soft consistency. Foods that are generally eliminated include:

  • Tough meats
  • Raw fruits and vegetables
  • Chewy or crispy breads
  • Nuts and seeds

Depending on why you need a soft diet, your doctor may also recommend that you avoid spicy, fried, or gassy foods.

The foods that are tolerable on this diet can vary greatly from one person to the next. Work with your doctor or a registered dietitian to determine the types and textures of foods that you can tolerate. Use the below chart as a guide and then customize it to your needs.

Eating Guide for a Soft Diet

Food Group Foods Recommended Foods to Avoid
Grains
  • Cereal (without nuts or dried fruit)
  • Refined bread, crackers, muffins, pancakes, or waffles
  • Pasta
  • Plain, white rice
  • Whole grain bread, crackers, muffins, pancakes, or waffles
  • Wild or whole grain rice
Vegetables
  • Soft-cooked or canned vegetables
  • Raw salad greens or tomatoes
  • Cooked potatoes without the skin (except fried or chips)
  • Fried potatoes
  • Hard, raw vegetables (eg, carrot sticks)
  • Cooked vegetables with large seeds or tough skins
Fruits
  • Soft raw fruits (without skin)
  • Cooked and canned fruits (without skin)
  • Dried fruits
  • Fruits with skins, seeds, or pits
  • Coconut
Milk
  • Milk and milk drinks
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese, cottage cheese
  • Cheese with nuts or seeds
Meats and Beans
  • Tender meat, pork, poultry, and fish
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Smooth peanut butter
  • Deli meats, such as salami or pepperoni
  • Bacon
  • Anything fried (including fried eggs)
  • Shellfish
  • Fish with bones
  • Nuts and seeds
Fats and Sweets
  • Ice cream, sherbet, and frozen yogurt
  • Pudding
  • Plain chocolate
  • Cake and cookies without hard pieces (eg, chocolate chips, raisins, nuts)
  • Products with seeds, dried fruit, nuts, or other hard pieces
  • Fruit or nut pies
Other
  • Salt, pepper, herbs, and mild spices
  • Sugar, jelly, honey
  • All beverages ( Note: If you have trouble swallowing, you may need thickened liquids.)
  • Popcorn
  • Fried food
  • Jam with seeds
  • Spicy food or condiments

Suggestions

  • Use a blender to puree foods, such as soup or fruit, to a tolerable consistency.
  • Remember to chew foods well before swallowing.
  • To preserve nutrients when cooking foods:
    • Steam or microwave vegetables.
    • When boiling potatoes, peel after cooking.
  • Work with a dietitian to create a meal plan based on your needs.
  • American Dietetic Association

    http://www.eatright.org/

  • Food and Drug Administration

    http://www.fda.gov/

  • Canada's Food Guide

    http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/

  • Dietitians of Canada

    http://www.dietitians.ca/

  • Lutz CA, Pryztulski KR. Nutrient delivery. In: Nutrition and Diet Therapy: Evidence-based Applications. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: FA Davis Company; 2006.

  • Nutrition care manual. American Dietetic Association website. Available at: http://nutritioncaremanual.org/auth.cfm?p=%2Findex.cfm%3F . Accessed January 3, 2009.

  • Soft diet. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center website. Available at: http://www.dhmc.org/webpage.cfm?site%5Fid=2&org%5Fid=544&morg%5Fid=0&sec%5Fid=0&gsec%5Fid=28524&item%5Fid=28527 . Accessed May 6, 2007.