Mechanical Soft Diet Handout

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Soft and Mechanical Soft Diet

Author: Frank W. Jackson, M.D.

The soft diet serves as a transition from liquids to a regular diet for individuals who are recovering from surgery or a long illness. It can help to ease difficulty in chewing and/or swallowing due to dental problems or extreme weakness, and it is sometimes recommended to relieve mild intestinal or stomach discomfort. The soft diet can be especially helpful to patients who are undergoing treatments like chemotherapy, or radiation to the head, neck or abdominal areas, which may cause digestive problems or make the mouth and throat very sore.

The soft diet limits or eliminates foods that are hard to chew and swallow, such as raw fruits and vegetables, chewy breads, and tough meats. In some cases, high-fiber foods like whole-grain breads and cereals and “gas-forming” vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower may be restricted to ease digestion. Fried, greasy foods and highly-seasoned or spicy foods may also be limited for this reason.

Foods may be softened by cooking or mashing. Canned or soft-cooked fruits and vegetables may be used in place of raw or dried varieties. Refined breads and cereals are usually recommended over coarse, whole-grain types. Moist, tender meats, fish, and poultry are permitted; it is not necessary to grind them unless desired. Eating small, frequent meals can help to reduce gas or bloating.

The mechanical soft diet is a close cousin of the soft diet. It gets its name from the fact that household tools and machines, like a blender, meat grinder, or knife, are used to make foods easier to chew and swallow.

In contrast to the soft diet, the mechanical soft diet does not restrict fat, fiber, spices, or seasonings. Only the texture and consistency of foods are changed. Fruits and vegetables may be soft-cooked or pureed. Meats, fish, and poultry can be cooked, ground, and moistened with sauce or gravy to make chewing and swallowing more comfortable. Breads and crackers may be limited at first, as they can be dry and difficult to swallow. Milk and other dairy products like pudding, custard, and smooth yogurt may not need to be changed at all!

The mechanical soft diet is appropriate for patients who are recovering from head, neck, or mouth surgery, who have dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), narrowing of the esophagus (food tube), or who are too ill or weak to chew. The diet also benefits those who have poorly fitting dentures, no teeth, or other dental problems.

Mechanical Soft Diet

Introduction: Mechanical Soft Diet

The mechanical soft diet is a medical diet developed for people who have difficulty chewing or swallowing food, such as people who have had a stroke or who are weak due to an illness. A mechanical soft diet may also be prescribed as a part of a complete treatment plan after some types of surgery or during radiation therapy for the head, neck, or abdomen. A soft mechanical diet can also be used as a stepping stone between a clear liquid diet and a solid regular diet, such as after abdominal or oral surgery. Mechanical soft diet guidelines vary depending on an individual's specific condition or procedure and what types of foods they can tolerate. Soft mechanical diets generally eliminate all foods that are difficult to chew or swallow, such as tough meats, nuts, seeds, and chewy foods, such as caramel. Products made from whole grains, hard raw fruits and vegetables, such as carrots and apples, fish with bones, and popcorn are also generally not recommended. Sometimes fried, greasy, spicy, foods or foods that produce gas are also eliminated from a mechanical soft diet. Soft mechanical diets are well balanced and include a wide variety of foods from all of the food groups. They generally include such foods as cereals softened by milk, cooked cereals, farina, grits, oatmeal, cream of rice and cream of wheat. A mechanical soft diet also includes clear liquids, such as, ices, sodas, gelatin, juices, broths, and black coffee and teas, milkshakes and soups, as long as they can be swallowed without choking. It also includes foods made with refined grains that are not 100% whole grain and are soft and easy to chew, such as white breads. Cooked potatoes without the skin and cooked white rice are also included. A mechanical soft diet may also contain soft raw or cooked soft vegetables, such as canned tomatoes. Dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese, are included, as are tender meats and eggs.

Any diet may have the potential to be harmful to some people, so consultation with a health care provider before starting any diet plan is recommended.

Mechanical Soft Diet: Other Names

Other names for this diet (Mechanical Soft Diet) include:

  • Soft Diet

Mechanical Soft Diet: Similar Diets

Conditions Associated with Mechanical Soft Diet

Foods Excluded Or Restricted From Mechanical Soft Diet

The following foods may be restricted or excluded from Mechanical Soft Diet:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Tough meats
  • Steaks
  • Hard, crusty breads
  • Products made from 100% whole grains
  • Fruits with seeds or skin
  • Vegetables with seeds or skin
  • Dried fruits
  • Hard raw vegetables
  • Hard raw fruits
  • Apples
  • Raw carrots
  • Fish with bones
  • Popcorn
  • Wild or whole grain rice
  • Jam with seeds

Foods Focused On For Mechanical Soft Diet

The following foods may be focused on as part of Mechanical Soft Diet:

  • Foods that are easy to chew and swallow
  • Cereals softened by milk
  • Cooked cereals
  • Oatmeal
  • Farina
  • Grits
  • Cream of rice
  • Cream of wheat
  • Foods made with refined grains
  • White breads
  • Cooked white rice
  • Cooked potatoes
  • Cooked mashed vegetables without seeds
  • Soft fruits
  • Bananas
  • Milk
  • Cheeses
  • Cottage cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Tender meats, especially with gravy
  • Sauces
  • Eggs
  • Liquids if not difficult to swallow without choking
  • Fruit juices
  • Fruit nectars
  • Milk
  • Meal replacement drinks or shakes
  • Milkshakes
  • Ice cream
  • Custard
  • Pudding
  • Vegetable juices
  • Sherbet
  • Sugar
  • Syrups
  • Creamed soups
  • Bouillon
  • Broth
  • Coffee

Mechanical Soft Diet: Potential Risks Or Complications

The following are potential risks or complications of the diet (Mechanical Soft Diet):

  • Consultation with a health care provider before starting any diet plan program is recommended

Mechanical Soft Diet Guidelines

A mechanical soft diet may be prescribed if you have difficulty chewing or swallowing. It may also be recommended as a transitional diet from a liquid diet to a regular diet if you are recovering from surgery or a long illness, according to Jackson/Siegelbaum Gastroenterology. A mechanical soft diet may also be recommended if you have intestinal or stomach discomfort.

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The mechanical soft diet gets its name from the household tools used to create the consistency, says Jackson/Siegelbaum Gastroenterology. It features soft chopped, blended or ground food. Mechanically altering the food makes it easier to chew and swallow.

General Guidelines

The mechanical soft diet does not restrict fat, spices, fiber or seasonings, according to Jackson/Seigelbaum Gastroenterology. Only the food texture and consistency are changed. To prepare fruits and vegetables, cook them until soft then chop or puree them in a blender or food processor. Meats should be cooked until soft, then chopped or ground into smaller bite size pieces. Serving meats with a sauce or gravy makes it easier to eat.

Foods to Avoid

If a food is difficult to chew, you should avoid it when on a mechanical soft diet. Some of these include foods containing nuts or seeds, tough meats, hard and thick breads, raw fruits and vegetables and dried fruit, according to the Medical University of South Carolina.

Allowed Foods

Foods allowed on the mechanical soft diet include milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, ice cream, cheese, tender meats, tuna salad, meatloaf, meatballs, eggs and egg salad, smooth peanut butter, casseroles, juices, bananas, melons, applesauce, berries, soft cooked or pureed vegetables, tomato soup and juice, soft breads, hot cereal, noodles, rice, pancakes and waffles.

If you have difficulty chewing, you may not be able to eat as much as you used to, according to the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers. Eating five to six small meals a day may help increase your caloric intake to maintain your weight. To maximize calorie intake, add dried milk powder to your hot cereal, mashed potatoes and casseroles. If constipation is a problem, try adding bran to cereals and milkshakes or make prune juice part of your daily routine.


10:45 pm Updated by

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