15 Best Foods You Can Eat Without Chewing
“15 Best Foods You Can Eat Without Chewing” was written by Rachel Bender, dietetic intern at Oregon Health Sciences University, & reviewed/edited by Alvellin Paulino & Katie Dodd, MS, RDN, CSG, LD, FAND.
Disclaimer: Always talk to your health care provider if you are having difficulty chewing or swallowing. You want to make sure there are no underlying issues and that you are following the correct diet for your individual situation.
Soft foods or a “no chew diet” is a diet in which a person should eat only foods that are soft and require minimal chewing and avoid all foods that do not fit these requirements.
One of the main complaints of this type of diet is a lack of variety in their meals, but there are still many kinds of foods that can be eaten in modification to be suitable. This article contains some suggestions to spice up the diet of those who need foods that are easier to chew.
Who is a Soft Foods Diet for?
At The Geriatric Dietitian our obvious focus is older adults. Soft foods for the elderly are often recommended. But older adults are not the only ones who may need to find some nutritious foods to eat without chewing. Here some examples of why someone may need to follow this diet.
Dysphagia and Soft Foods
One of those reasons may be that an individual has issues swallowing, due to either mechanical or neurological impairment. In these circumstances, they may be prescribed a dysphagia diet.
There are different levels of dysphagia diets depending on the level of impairment. Soft foods are one of the components of a dysphagia diet. For more about dysphagia diets here.
Mouth Pain and Soft Foods
Another reason why soft foods for the elderly may be recommended is oral and dental pain. The geriatric population is not the only population to suffer from this, but has a higher proportion experiencing this type of pain. Soft or no chew foods may alleviate some of that pain as well as prevent it from getting worse.
Missing Teeth and Soft Foods
Approximately 50% of older adults are missing some, if not all of their natural teeth. Without teeth, it can be very difficult to chew hard or sticky foods. Eating a soft foods diet or finding foods to eat without chewing may be necessary when teeth are missing.
Learn more at our article on Nutrition and Dental for Seniors.
Oral Surgery and Soft Foods
Most patients will be asked to follow a soft foods diet after oral or dental surgery. This is not only because harder foods may cause more pain, but because they can interfere with the healing process.
Cancer Treatment and Soft Foods
Many cancer patients may be recommended soft foods for the side effects of their cancer treatments. Cancers of the head and neck can especially cause issues with chewing and swallowing.
Additionally, patients may be suffering from nausea, loss of appetite, and eating can just be a challenge. Finding foods you can eat without chewing can make getting nutrition easier.
Health Concerns for Those with Chewing Difficulties
Not being able to chew is absolutely an inconvenience. But, it can also lead to some health concerns.
Unintended Weight Loss
Those on a no chew or soft foods diet are more at risk for unintended weight loss due to a few reasons.
The first is that pain may be inhibiting them from eating enough, or from eating balanced meals.
The second is that the absence of variety in what they can eat may cause them to get bored of eating and this may cause a lack of appetite.
Finally, individuals prescribed a soft foods diet may already be in a group more at risk for unintended weight loss, especially if they are elderly. To learn in our article on unintended weight loss in the elderly.
Not Enough Protein
When someone has a hard time chewing, they often avoid the foods they cannot eat. This may include meats, nuts, seeds, and other hard to chew protein foods.
It is important to make sure that you are getting enough protein throughout the day if you are on a soft foods diet to prevent protein malnutrition. Try to have one significant source of protein with every meal. See foods below for inspiration!
Like protein deficiency, micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) deficiencies are common in those with chewing difficulties due to lower amounts of food being consumed as well as a lack of variety in the foods being eaten.
In the elderly population, some common deficiencies include calcium, vitamin D, potassium, fiber, and vitamin B12. These deficiencies can further worsen elderly people’s health status.
Tips for a Soft Foods Diet
Being aware that difficulty chewing can limit the amount of foods and variety of nutrients in an individual’s diet is important. The next step is to do something about it! Here are some tips for following a soft foods diet.
Make Foods Moist!
Often, food may be difficult to eat and swallow due to it being dry. In order to overcome this, add moisture to dry foods to make them easier to eat without chewing.
Some ideas are adding gravies to savory foods, milk or cream to cakes and desserts, and butter and oils to bread products.
Small Bites are Better
When on a no chew or soft foods diet, choking on food is a hazard. Be sure to take small bites or sips of food and drinks. Also be sure to cut foods into small pieces.
Because choking can be a concern on a soft foods diet, eating slowly and without distractions is very important.
Add High Calorie Foods
Many who need to eat food without chewing may struggle with eating enough food each day. If this is the case due to pain or other reasons, it is a great idea to make the foods you choose higher in calories. This will make sure that you get enough nutrition and will be at a lower risk for unintended weight loss.
For more information on foods high on calories, go here.
Plan Meals Ahead
Meal prepping can be an excellent way in bringing more variety to your meals.
By planning your meals ahead, you reduce stress and enjoy your meal more frequently.
Eat Small, Frequent Meals
It may take more effort for those who need to eat foods without chewing to finish a meal. If eating is tiring or painful, break your daily food into smaller and more frequent meals. This also works for those who do not feel like eating.
15 Top You Can Eat Without Chewing
Here are our 15 top foods you can eat without chewing! These foods can be mushed or gummed without teeth. Other selections can simple be sipped. Be sure to select the foods which work best for your individual situation and taste preference.
Broth-based or pureed soups are some of the best foods that you can eat without chewing that can also provide a full meal!
Depending on your own personal tolerance, you may also be able to enjoy soups with soft ingredients as well, such as shredded chicken and canned vegetables.
Find great high calorie options on our blog article High Calorie Soups.
2. Soft Dairy
Many forms of dairy are more than acceptable on a soft foods diet.
Yogurt, cottage cheese, and other soft cheeses such as cream cheese can all be eaten with little to no chewing involved.
Additionally, these items contain a lot of calcium, which is one of the key nutrients to consider if you are looking for soft foods for the elderly.
If you do not eat dairy foods, look for dairy-free alternatives such as soy based yogurt or coconut based yogurt.
3. Well-cooked Grains
Grains may seem like a no-no due to their chewy nature, however if they are cooked longer with extra liquid, they can be fine for most people on a soft foods diet.
Oatmeal and pasta are favorites but try polenta or congee to mix it up!
4. Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes aren’t just for the holidays!
This classic easily makes the top 15 foods you can eat without chewing. For extra calories, you can add whole milk, cream, butter, or sour cream.
To switch it up, try other mashed veggies such as squash or carrots.
Smoothies may be a classic for soft foods diets, but that doesn’t mean they have to be boring.
The possibilities for nutrition smoothie options are endless.
Try blending in veggies to get more nutrition.
Check out our article on High Calorie Smoothies for ideas.
6. Scrambled eggs
Scrambled eggs are a terrific breakfast for those with chewing difficulties, as they pack in a ton of protein. If you need more calories, try adding shredding cheese when cooking and/or extra butter to the pan.
Other kinds of eggs, such as poached or over easy, may also be appropriate for those who can tolerate it.
Dips are great for those on a soft foods diet, and often make food much more enjoyable.
Make sure to look for smooth dips such as hummus or guacamole without any crunchy ingredients.
And yes, you can eat dip with a spoon! You do not need chips or carrots for your dips.
8. Soft fish
Fish is a great protein choice for those on a soft foods diet.
Unlike other animal meats, the filet of most fish is very tender naturally. Most fish is soft and flakes apart when you eat it.
Make sure to look for fish that is cooked in a way that does not create crunchy surfaces (such as frying). Also, make sure that all bones and skin are removed before serving.
9. High Calorie Drinks
High calorie drinks are great because they require absolutely no chewing and are extra beneficial for those who may not have an appetite.
In addition to high calorie smoothies and shakes, fortified milk (milk mixed with dry milk) may be a good option.
For more ideas including recipes, check out our article on High Calorie Drinks.
10. Canned Fruits and Veggies
Canned fruits and veggies are often an ideal choice for those with chewing difficulties because they are usually softer than their fresh counterparts.
There is plenty of variety to choose from here, but be aware that not all canned fruits and veggies will be appropriate. And everyone has their own level of tolerance.
Canned peaches, pears, and carrots are a few examples of soft canned fruits and vegetables. If needed they can be cut into smaller pieces or mashed with a fork prior to eating.
11. Soft and Moist Breads
Breads should be fine for those on a soft foods diet, as long as they are soft and moist enough.
Think of a soft, store-bought, white bread without crust. Not hard, crusty loaf breads.
Adding gravy, oil, or butter often helps make them easier to eat. Try a soft bread with olive oil and vinegar or pancakes with butter and maple syrup!
12. Well-cooked beans and lentils
Beans and lentils are a very filling part or center of a meal, and are usually soft enough for individuals who need to eat without chewing.
Additionally, they are a great source of protein and are suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
13. Nut Butters
Creamy peanut butter and other nut butters are ideal for those who have difficulty chewing.
Make sure to choose smooth varieties instead of crunchy.
Nut butters are also terrific for fitting in extra calories and protein into a diet.
14. Gravies and Condiments
Gravies and condiments are not only safe for those on a soft foods diet, but they can also make other foods safer by providing extra moisture!
In addition, they make food taste great while providing more calories which is especially great for those at risk for unintended weight loss.
Some excellent options are gravies, butter, sour cream, mayo, ketchup, and mustard.
You can add gravy to ground meat and soft bread. Or add mayo to a soft tuna on sliced bread, for example.
15. Soft Desserts
Finally, everyone’s favorite: desserts!
Being on a no chew or soft foods diet does not mean you have to miss out on the sweet treats.
Just make sure to be careful in your selection- ice cream, mousse, pudding, and very moist cake are all great choices.
Watch out for hard or sticky foods that may be added to desserts like nuts or candy.
What About Foods to Avoid?
We discussed our 15 top foods you can eat without chewing. But what about foods you should avoid on a soft foods diet? Here is list of foods to watch out for. Remember, everyone is different in what they can or cannot tolerate.
Generally speaking, dry foods require more time chewing and processing in the mouth so that they can become moist enough for the person to swallow. Add extra sauce or moisture to dry foods to make them more suitable.
Crunchy foods cannot be swallowed without posing a serious risk to choking. Additionally, crunchy foods can make any sort of oral or dental pain worse.
Cooking and/or breaking down foods into small pieces can often make them acceptable for those on a soft foods diet.
Like crunchy foods, chewy foods that are swallowed without chewing are a choking hazard. These foods either need to be cooked longer to make them more tender or avoided on a soft foods diet.
Table of Foods to Select or Avoid on a Soft Foods Diet
*Note: This table is not exhaustive. Use caution in which foods you select or avoid based on your individual situation.
|Extra cooked & moist rice/congee||Al dente pasta|
|Extra cooked & moist pasta||Any tough or chewy grain|
|Extra cooked & moist Oatmeal||Bread crust|
|Extra cooked & moist Polenta|
|Soft breads (rolls, pancakes, etc)|
|Soft fish||Fish skin and bones|
|Well-cooked beans and lentils||Tough cuts of meat|
|Soft tofu||Large cuts/ bites of meat|
|Very tender & moist shredded chicken or beef||Chunky nut butters|
|Nut butters (smooth only)|
|Soft eggs (scrambled, poached, egg salad)|
|Soft cheeses (cream, brie without rind, etc.)|
|***FRUITS AND VEGETABLES***|
|Ripe banana||Most raw fruits and vegetables|
|Applesauce||Stringy vegetables (asparagus, etc.)|
|Canned, bite-size fruits and veggies (peaches, pears, oranges, etc.)||Corn, especially on the cob|
|Mashed potatoes and other vegetables|
|Smooth guacamole (check to make sure other ingredients are okay)|
|Well cooked vegetables (such as those found in soup)|
|Jellies and jams|
|Smoothies||Smoothies not thoroughly blended|
|All smooth beverages (milk, juice, etc.)|
|Smooth condiments||Hard or crunchy desserts|
|Pureed dips (hummus, smooth bean dip, etc.)||Pie crusts|
|Soft desserts (mousse, ice cream, pudding, extra moist cake, etc.)|
A soft foods diet can still be balanced and have variety. Many favorite foods can be modified to fit any eating pattern.
Take at the foods included on this list and get creative! Best of luck.
- Dysphagia Diet. Saint Luke’s Health System. https://www.saintlukeskc.org/health-library/dysphagia-diet. Accessed January 12, 2021.
- Klemm Rby S. Special Nutrient Needs of Older Adults. https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/healthy-aging/special-nutrient-needs-of-older-adults. Accessed January 12, 2021.
- Side Effects of Cancer Treatment. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects. Accessed January 12, 2021.
- Soft diet tips. Soft diet tips | Coping with cancer | Cancer Research UK. https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/coping/physically/diet-problems/managing/soft-diet/tips. Published March 25, 2020. Accessed January 12, 2021.