When irritation occurs in the throat or lower chest when eating certain foods or following a medical procedure, an easily digestible esophageal soft food diet may be necessary to make eating easier.
Food passes from our mouths to our stomachs through a tubelike organ called the esophagus. A burning sensation in the lower chest or pain after swallowing and the feeling that food gets “stuck” in the throat may be caused by esophagitis, which is an irritation or inflammation along the lining of the esophagus.
Acid reflux, hiatal hernias, vomiting, complications from radiation therapy, and certain oral medications are among the reasons the esophagus can develop inflamed tissue. Esophagitis can usually heal without intervention, but to aid in the recovery, eaters can adopt what’s known as an esophageal, or soft food, diet.
The goal of this kind of diet is to make eating less painful and to keep food from lingering in the esophagus and causing irritation.
Soft diet tips
- Take small bites of food and chew foods well.
- Avoid tough meats, fresh “doughy” bread or rolls, hard bread crust, and abrasive foods.
- Sip fluids when taking solids at meals and snacks to moisten foods.
- Stop eating when you start to feel full.
- Choose decaffeinated coffee, tea, or caffeine-free soft drinks.
- Sit upright when eating. Remain in a sitting position for at least 45-60 minutes after eating.
- Try to avoid eating for 3 hours before bedtime.
- Eat slowly in a relaxed atmosphere.
- Eat small, frequent meals and snacks.
The diet plan
Easily digestible foods are the best choice, as is avoiding carbonated drinks or beverages that are very hot or very cold. Your physician or nutritionist may further limit your intake of citrus, mint, or caffeinated drinks.
There is no prohibition on milk and other dairy products, but when eating cheese, select softer options such as cream cheese, brie, Neufchâtel, and ricotta. Yogurt also can be a good choice for someone with esophagitis, but avoid adding fruit, granola, or seeds. It’s even possible to have low-fat ice cream if cold foods don’t cause irritation.
To keep foods soft, raw fruits and vegetables can be replaced with canned and frozen fruits—like applesauce and fruit cups. Avocados and bananas also work well. Soups and broths will help soften squash, potatoes (without the skins), carrots, peas, and other vegetables. Avoid anything fibrous or filled with seeds, such as okra, artichokes, and celery.
Breads and Grains
For starch, consider putting crackers or bread into soups or broths to soften them. Cooked cereals that don’t have nuts or seeds are gentle enough for an esophageal soft food diet. Avoid bread crusts, muffins, dinner rolls, rice, and other hard, scratchy grains that can further irritate the esophagus.
When it comes to proteins, ground or pureed beef, pork, and poultry will protect the esophagus, as will broths made with those ingredients. Avoid dry roast beef, bacon, link or patty sausage, and meat seasoned with peppercorns. Boneless white fish, such as cod and tilapia, will also be easy to swallow. Some people with esophagitis do well with soft scrambled eggs or egg substitutes.
If the esophagus is irritated as a symptom of an underlying illness, or from the treatment of an illness, it is especially important for patients to maintain good nutrition and body weight to regain and stay in good health. Talk to your primary care physician about an esophageal soft food diet and any guidelines to follow when suffering from one of the triggering conditions.
Esophageal Soft Diet Foods
|Beverages||All except those on opposite list||Carbonated and iced drinks||Very hot or very cold liquids and foods may not be tolerated|
|Milk And Milk Products||Milk, malted milk, or milkshakes. Soft cheese such as grated Parmesan or Ricotta, cheese sauces and cottage cheese. Plain or flavored yogurt.||Yogurt with fresh fruit or seeds To boost calories, pour cheese sauce over vegetables or noodles.||Do not add raw eggs to milkshakes or drinks for food safety reasons.|
|Meat and Meat Substitutes, Eggs, Beans||Ground or tender meat and poultry mixed with gravy, soft flaked fish without bones. Soft scrambled eggs and egg substitutes. Cooked dried beans and peas. Casseroles with ground meat. Smooth peanut butter, most luncheon meats.||Stringy, dry or fibrous-type meats (i.e. steak and spare ribs). Meats containing gristle or peppercorn. Sausage and bacon. Chunky peanut butter, nuts, seeds, stringy cooked cheese such as mozzarella.||Moisten ground meats or poultry with gravy, broth or sauces.|
|Breads and Starches||Crackers or matzo balls softened in soup or beverage. Cooked cereals without nuts or dried fruits, ready to eat cereals softened in milk. Noodles, potatoes, and pasta.||Fresh or “doughy” breads may cause “sticking”. Avoid all fresh bread, rolls, muffins, biscuits, and rice.||Buy or prepare products without seeds, dried fruits, or nuts|
|Fruits||Canned, cooked or frozen fruit (canned peaches, applesauce). Soft fresh fruit such as bananas and melon. All fruit juices.||Raw, coarse or abrasive fresh fruits. Dried fruit.||Blend fruit in milkshakes or yogurt.|
|Vegetables||Canned, cooked, or frozen vegetables that are soft and without skin (mashed potatoes, squash, carrots, spinach) All vegetable juices.||All raw vegetables, including salads. Cooked vegetables that are fibrous tough, “woody”, or contain seeds (broccoli, tomato, okra and celery).||Season vegetables with butter or margarine and ground spices. Soften vegetables in soups and sauces.|
|Desserts and Snacks||Puddings, soft cookies.||Popcorn, chips, tacos, desserts with nuts, seeds or coconut.||Acid or salty foods may not be tolerated.|