Is it safe to substitue liquid foods for one or more meals a day?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 21, 2016
Arcanumgal asked...

As Mom's dementia progresses she seems to be having trouble chewing and swallowing her food. The speech therapist at the home is helping her. Mom adamently does not like pureed food. Do we have other choices. She likes liquid food replacement but is it safe to substitute that for one or more meals per day?


Expert Answers

Beth Reardon, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., is Caring.com senior food and nutrition editor and the director of integrative nutrition at Duke Integrative Medicine. As a practitioner of integrative nutrition, Reardon takes a holistic approach to wellness, recognizing that the foundation for optimal health and healing begins with a health-promoting diet. As a practitioner of integrative nutrition, Reardon takes a holistic approach to wellness, recognizing that the foundation for optimal health and healing begins with a health-promoting diet.

Chewing and swallowing issues are often referred to as "dysphagia" and whether they are due to poor dentition, weak muscles or neurological issues, they complicate caring for a loved one with dementia. We have to consider safety as well as basic nutritional needs. It is important to keep in mind that while your mother may have lost some of her ability to physically chew food "“ enjoyment still remains a big part of her eating! Liquid meal replacements can be a good alternative for 1-2 meals per day but I would prefer that they were used as snacks. I am not sure of the extent of your mother's disability, for example she may be able to tolerate foods just shy of pureed (minced or finely chopped) if offered with a sauce or gravy perhaps? You can do quite a lot with soups and stews if the food is finely chopped. Much of the acceptance may have to do with how it is presented. For example bean soups with tofu blended up in them for added protein would be a very good idea; and may not present as "pureed" food per say. Butternut squash and sweet potatoes would make a nice base for winter soup with the addition of a high protein whole grain like quinoa. There are many other whole food options, which is why I would hesitate to rely on a liquid meal replacement. I have listed some very interesting resources below which I hope will be helpful in maintaining the joy of eating real food for your mom and provide you with a little peace of mind.

Easy-to-Swallow, Easy-to-Chew Cookbook: Over 150 Tasty and Nutritious Recipes for People Who Have Difficulty Swallowing by Donna L. Weihofen, JoAnne Robbins, Paula A. Sullivan The Dysphagia Cookbook by Elayne Achilles Soft Foods for Easier Eating Cookbook by Sandy Woodruff and Leah Gilbert-Henderson


Community Answers

Hopeful 2010 answered...

The staff at my mother's rehab/conv. hospital offer a liquid drink with a thickener (called Thickit). They suggested that I buy different flavors of Crystal Light which they add to it every so often to make it tasty.(I buy a 90 day supply that coincides with the ordering of my mother's medications. The powdered Thickit can be purchased at most any pharmacy (Walmart, CVS, etc.). I carry the above in my purse for outings ( in a ziploc bag w/a zipper). The above can be added to coffee, wine, etc. just be sure it is stirred well. My mother refused the above when I tried to care for her in her home, but at the conv./rehab it is the only drink she has available to her, so.....this system works well for all of us.