A soft food diet, also called a bland diet, is made up of foods that are easy to digest. They’re usually soft in texture and low in fiber. The idea is to eat foods that are easy to swallow and that you don’t need to chew much. You’ll need to avoid spicy, fried, or gassy foods.
Who Should Eat a Soft Food Diet?
Your doctor will let you know if you need to eat this way. It can be helpful in situations like these:
After surgery. It’s common to follow a soft food diet while you recover from certain operations. Your doctor might recommend it if you've recently had surgery on your:
They might also tell you to follow the diet if you’re getting radiation therapy to your head, neck, or stomach.
Issues with digestion. A soft diet helps some people who have digestive problems. The foods in the diet are easy to digest, so your digestive tract won’t have to work as hard to break them down. This type of eating plan also features mild foods that are less likely to irritate your gut.
Trouble chewing. The diet can help if you have an ongoing health condition that makes chewing or swallowing difficult.
Types of Soft Food Diets
There are two main types:
Mechanical soft diet. This includes foods that you don’t need to chew as much. You’ll eat things with different textures and thicknesses that are chopped, ground, mashed, or puréed. These foods are soft and tender, and you should be able to mash them with a fork.
Puréed soft diet. This is a bit more limited than a mechanical soft diet. You’ll only eat foods that you don’t need to chew at all. As the name implies, you can eat meals that include puréed foods or liquid foods. Liquids can be added to make swallowing easier.
Foods to Eat on the Soft Food Diet
It’s still important to eat a balanced diet with a variety of healthy foods.
Here are some examples of nutritious foods that you can make into delicious soft diet meals.
Fruits and veggies. Along with to easy-to-make smoothies and purées, you can try:
- Canned fruit
- Steamed or soft-cooked vegetables
- Soft, skinless fruits, like bananas, stone fruits, and melons
- Baked fruits
- Salad greens
Grains. These give you carbs, a good source of energy. Choose grains that are low in fiber so that they’re easy to digest, like:
- Soft cereals
- Hot cereals, like cream of wheat or oatmeal
- Pasta and noodles
- White rice
- Pancakes and waffles
Protein. This helps your body build muscle, and it can help you heal after surgery. While on the soft food diet, try to eat meals that include:
- Soft, tender meat, poultry, and fish
- Poached, scrambled, or boiled eggs
- Smooth peanut butter
- Baked beans
Dairy. Choose dairy products that are high in protein, like:
- Greek or regular yogurt
- Thinly sliced cheese
- Cottage cheese or ricotta
Foods to Avoid on the Soft Food Diet
Skip foods that are hard to chew or digest, like:
- Nuts and seeds
- Snack foods like chips, popcorn, and chocolate
- Tough proteins, like tough meat, jerky, bacon, sausage, chunky peanut butter
- Whole grains that are high in fiber
- Hard or stringy fruits, or fruits with skin
- Hard, raw veggies
Other Tips for a Soft Food Diet
If your doctor puts you on a soft food diet, ask them to help you make sure that you’re getting enough nutrition. Every day, you need to be eating:
- 5-7 ounces protein per day
- 3 servings dairy per day
- 2 servings fruit per day
- 3 servings vegetables per day
Aim to drink 8-10 glasses of water or liquid, too.
At mealtime, sit as upright as you can during the meal and for the half-hour afterward. Don’t rush through your meal. Take the time to enjoy it without distractions.
If you have trouble swallowing or the food gets stuck in your throat, check in with your doctor.