Breaking Down a Soft Food Diet

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Mmmm… baby food. Delicious growing up and surprisingly delicious as an adult. But the soft food diet — aka the bland diet or low fiber diet — includes a bit more substance than just blended peas and beef.

A soft food diet consists of foods that are soft (obvi), easy to chew, and gentle on your tummy. Doctors usually recommend it short-term after surgery or certain medical procedures.

Tell me whyyy?

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The answer isn’t “I want it that way.” Nobody wants to go on a soft food diet, and you should only do it if your doctor recommends it.

Your digestive tract may be craving a soft food diet if you have gastroenteritis, diverticulitis, or an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) flare- up. It’s also a comfortable option after oral surgery, throat surgery, or dental reconstruction.

Here are some other reasons to embark on a soft food diet.

You’ve had surgery on your large intestine

Colon surgery comes with a post-op adjustment period. Since it’s probably not a good idea to nosh on a ghost pepper burrito right away, your doctor will likely advise you to stick to a soft diet for 2 to 8 weeks.

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Chemo can lead to nausea, a sore mouth and throat, trouble swallowing, and a general loss of appetite. The National Cancer Institute recommends the easy-to- swallow foods of the soft food diet to help with discomfort.

If you’re experiencing nausea, you can try eating five or six small meals or snacks per day instead of three large ones. Digestive issues should resolve after treatment.

Difficulty swallowing

If you’re having trouble swallowing, the American College of Gastroenterology recommends changing the texture and types of foods you eat to help prevent choking or inhaling food into your lungs.

You need dental work
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Whether you’ve had a tooth extraction, braces, or a root canal, the American Dental Association recommends steering clear of sticky, chewy, or hard foods and focusing on soft foods until your mouth is healed.

Foods containing zinc, protein, and vitamins A and C will help with healing.

You’ve had bypass surgery

Like colon surgery, gastric bypass seriously disrupts digestion. A common side effect of this surgery is dumping syndrome, which means food moves too quickly from your stomach into your small bowel. Following a stricter soft food diet can help prevent it.

Your doctor may recommend introducing liquids first and working your way up to puréed foods. A few weeks later you’ll move on to soft foods that can be smooshed with a fork. Around 8 weeks post-op, you’ll be able to introduce firmer foods one at a time.

Soft foods to fill up on

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Aim to incorporate foods that are soft in texture but still provide lots of nutrients.

Can’t touch this

Steer clear of these until you’re feeling better. These foods are harder to chew, have high fiber content, and are difficult to digest.

Soft food recipes

Any diet can feel restrictive at first, but there are a bunch of delicious ways to prepare soft foods. Here are a few to try:

  • Green goddess smoothie
  • Creamy tomato soup
  • Vegan mashed potatoes
  • Banana pudding

Prep it real good

Here are some tips to make your food as soft and gentle on your gut as possible:

  • Grind, purée, or cut food into small pieces.
  • Mash foods, including veggies, fruits, and potatoes.
  • Use sauces like gravy or broth to moisten foods further.

Boost your nutrients

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You might not feel as hungry as usual when you’re in recovery, but you need nutrients more than ever.

Incorporate nutrient-rich fortified drinks like Ensure or Boost, which are formulated to fill that nutrition gap when you’re not eating enough due to loss of appetite or dietary restrictions.

If you’re losing weight due to treatments or loss of appetite, opt for higher fat foods to help increase your calorie intake. (Like you needed an excuse to eat more avocados.) Be sure to let your doctor know if you’re experiencing unexpected weight loss.

Bottom line

A soft food diet is typically recommended short-term to give your digestive system a break after certain medical procedures. It consists of mushy low-fiber foods.

If your appetite is low, supplementing with fortified drinks may be the way to go. Make sure to follow your doctor’s and dietitian’s recommendations for quick and easy healing!

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