What to Eat When You Have Chewing Problems

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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 change the way you make 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 require ongoing support. 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 likely 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:

  • Dietitian – to learn about eating a balanced diet with a variety of soft foods 

  • 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  

What foods should I eat for my chewing problems?

Even when it is hard to chew, your goal is to eat a balanced and nutritious diet. Choose foods from Canada’s Food Guide. Aim to include a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains and protein foods everyday. There are many easy-to-chew options!

Vegetables and fruit

  • Steamed, grilled or roasted vegetables. Choose brightly-coloured 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

  • Pureed vegetables or fruit 

  • Pureed mashed potatoes with milk

  • Naturally soft fruits such as ripe pear, banana or avocado 

  • Unsweetened apple sauce  

  • Pureed soups: broccoli, squash, corn, tomato, etc. 

Whole grains

  • Soft whole grain bread 

  • Pasta 

  • Brown rice

  • Quinoa

  • Oatmeal

  • Polenta

  • Millet

  • Tapioca

  • Cold whole grain cereal softened in milk

  • Whole grain crackers in soup

Protein foods

  • Tofu

  • Nut butters

  • Hummus

  • Canned beans

  • Mashed canned fish 

  • Fish without bones

  • Stewed or braised meat

  • Ground meat or poultry

  • Eggs

  • Milk 

  • Fortified plant-based beverages

  • Cottage or ricotta cheese

  • Shredded, melted or grated cheese

  • Yogurt

  • Kefir

  • Pudding

  • Smoothies

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 dietitian or health care provider if you are losing weight. You may need to eat smaller, more frequent meals that are higher in protein and calories. You may need nutritional supplements.

How can a dietitian help?

If you have chewing problems, a dietitian can work with you to plan meals and snacks that are easy to chew and nutritious. Dietitians consider your medical history, preferences, culture and lifestyle to give you personalized advice. Your dietitian will make sure you are getting enough nutrients like protein, calcium and vitamin D. If you would benefit from a supplement, a dietitian can guide you. Connect with a dietitian today!

Bottom line

If you are having trouble chewing, 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 the nutrients you need and enjoy delicious meals every day.  

You may also be interested in:

Older adults eating well
A Guide to Healthy Eating for Older Adults
What Can I Expect When I Go and See a Dietitian?
This article was written and reviewed by dietitians from Dietitians of Canada. The advice in this article is intended as general information and should not replace advice given by your dietitian or healthcare provider.

Last Update – January 14, 2023

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