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Managing chewing problems



Chewing problems can interfere with healthy eating. A change in your ability to chew means you will need to choose foods that are softer to eat. You will also need to alter the way you prepare certain dishes. With some knowledge and planning, you can still eat a nutritious diet. Here is a guide to selecting and preparing soft, moist foods that are easier to chew.

What causes chewing problems?

Some chewing problems are temporary and some may last for a while. Here are some of the reasons why you may have trouble chewing: 

  • Mouth, gum, tooth, head or neck surgery 
  • Gum disease 
  • Reduced saliva as part of aging 
  • Tooth decay or tooth loss 
  • Wearing poor-fitting dentures 
  • Dry mouth from medications 
  • Stroke 
  • Oral cancer  
  • Side effect of cancer treatment

Who should I talk to about my chewing problems?

If you are not chewing well, you will eat fewer foods. This may lead to nutrient deficiencies or weight loss. It is important to have a balanced diet, even if you have trouble chewing. 

A team of health care professionals can help with chewing problems. Talk with your doctor. You may want to include these people on your health care team:

  • Speech therapist – to help you properly use the muscles in your mouth and throat 
  • Dentist – to examine your teeth and gums 
  • Denturist – to ensure dentures fit properly  
  • Dietitian – to learn about eating a balanced diet with a variety of soft foods 

What foods should I eat?

Even when it is hard to chew, your goal is to eat a balanced and healthy diet. Choose foods from the four food groups in Canada’s Food Guide. Aim to include at least three of the four food groups at each meal. There are many easy-to-chew options!

Vegetables and fruit

  • Steamed, grilled or roasted vegetables. Choose brightly colours options for the most nutritional value – peppers, carrots, beets, broccoli, sweet potatoes, etc. 
  • Soft vegetables such as eggplant, squash, spinach and sweet potato 
  • Canned fruit in water or light syrup 
  • Pureed vegetables or fruit 
  • Naturally soft fruits such as ripe pear, banana or avocado 
  • Apple sauce  
  • Pureed soups: broccoli, squash, corn, tomato, etc. 

Grain products

  • Soft bread 
  • Pasta 
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Oatmeal
  • Polenta
  • Millet
  • Tapioca
  • Cold cereal softened in milk
  • Whole grain crackers in soup

Milk and Alternatives

  • Milk 
  • Cottage or ricotta cheese
  • Shredded, melted or grated cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Pudding
  • Smoothies

Meat and Alternatives

  • Mashed canned fish 
  • Fish without bones
  • Stewed or braised meat
  • Ground meat or poultry
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Nut butters
  • Hummus
  • Canned beans

Tips for preparing and enjoying soft food

  • Sip water while eating to keep food moist 
  • Moisten dry foods with lower sodium broth, sauce, salad dressing, soup, tea or milk
  • Enjoy semi-solid foods that are firm but not hard to chew: banana, tofu, eggs
  • Use a blender or food processor 
  • Chop, mince, grind, blend, mash or puree foods to a texture you can chew easily
  • Add pureed vegetables to foods for extra vitamins
  • Add milk or yogurt to foods for extra protein and calcium
  • Remove skins and seeds from fruits and vegetables before cooking them

Putting it all together

Here are some meal ideas using foods from Canada’s Food Guide and the tips above:

Speak with your doctor or a dietitian if you are losing weight. You may need to eat smaller, more frequent meals that are high in protein and calories. You may need nutritional supplements.

Bottom line

If you are having trouble chewing, speak with your doctor. You can also call an EatRight Ontario Registered Dietitian at 1-877-510-510-2. Changing the foods you choose and how you prepare them can help ensure that you eat well. With some guidance, you can still get all four food groups and enjoy delicious meals every day.  

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Last Update – October 9, 2016

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