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Soft Food Diet

What Is It, Best Foods to Eat, and More

Authors:Anna Hernández, MD,Jessica Reynolds, MS

Editors:Alyssa Haag,Józia McGowan, DO,Kelsey LaFayette, DNP, RN, FNP-C

Copyeditor:Stacy Johnson, LMSW


What is a soft food diet?

Soft food or bland diets include foods that are easy to digest and have a soft consistency for easy chewing and swallowing. The soft diet usually serves as a transition from liquids to a regular diet for individuals recovering from surgery or a long illness and for those with difficulty chewing or swallowing. 

Patient choking while trying to swallow difficult to digest food.

What conditions can benefit from a soft food diet?

The soft food diet can be beneficial for individuals who have difficulty chewing, such as those with declining oral health, no teeth, and poorly fitting dentures, as well as after a tooth extraction or dental implant surgery. It is also recommended in individuals who have difficulty swallowing (i.e., dysphagia), which may be caused by head and neck tumors; esophageal disorders; neurological conditions, like stroke, dementia, or Parkinson disease; and neuromuscular disorders, like myasthenia gravis. The soft food diet can also be helpful for individuals who are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy to the head or neck area, which may cause soreness of the mouth and throat in addition to digestive problems. Finally, the soft food diet is sometimes recommended to relieve mild gastrointestinal discomfort, such as that caused by acute gastroenteritis, as well as in those recovering from a surgery or a debilitating illness.

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How does a soft food diet affect these conditions?

A soft food diet can help individuals who have difficulty chewing or swallowing by reducing the risk of choking and aspirating food into the lungs. It may also help ease any pain that may occur when eating. In most cases, a soft food diet is a temporary diet to transition back to regular eating after a surgery or prolonged illness, however, it may be a permanent lifestyle change for individuals with chronic chewing or swallowing problems.

What foods are best on a soft food diet?

A soft food diet includes foods that are naturally bland or that can be pureed, cut into small pieces, or blended to make them easier to swallow. Fresh fruits that are soft and skinless, like bananas, can be eaten raw, while others like apples may be eaten steamed or baked to make them easier to chew. Fruit juices, smoothies, and canned fruits may be consumed in place of raw or dried fruits. Vegetables can be steamed, mashed, or cooked until soft and may be incorporated into purees or soups. Protein can be added in the form of minced meat, tender cuts of meat, fish, scrambled eggs, tofu, and baked beans. Finally, naturally soft foods like yogurt, jelly, ice cream, pudding, porridge, peanut butter, and soft bread may also be eaten occasionally as part of a soft food diet.

What foods should be avoided on a soft food diet?

Foods to avoid on a soft food diet include those that are difficult to chew or swallow, such as crusty bread, granola or muesli; crunchy foods, like potato chips and popcorn; dried fruit; nuts and seeds; raw fruits and vegetables; tough meats (e.g., steak, bacon, pork); and sugar candy. In some cases, foods high in fiber, like whole-grain bread and cereal, may be limited to ease digestion. For the same reason, greasy, spicy, or highly-seasoned foods may also be avoided as they are more likely to cause gastrointestinal discomfort.

What are the most important facts to know about a soft food diet?

A soft food or bland diet is made up of foods that have a soft consistency and are gentle to the gastrointestinal tract. The soft food diet may be used after a surgery to the head, neck, or stomach, in individuals recovering from a long illness, and in those with dental problems who are unable to tolerate a regular diet. The soft food diet includes foods that are naturally easy to swallow or that can be pureed, blended, or cut into small pieces, and avoids foods that are difficult to chew and swallow, such as raw fruits and vegetables, crunchy foods, and tough meats. The soft food diet may be used after a surgery to the head, neck, or stomach, in individuals recovering from a long illness, and in those with dental problems who are unable to tolerate a regular diet. 

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Related links

Anatomy of the pharynx and esophagus
Esophageal disorders: Clinical practice

Resources for research and reference

Oropharyngeal dysphagia: Clinical features, diagnosis, and management. (2020, December 18). Uptodate.com. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/oropharyngeal-dysphagia-clinical-features-diagnosis-and-management

Swallowing disorders and aspiration in palliative care: Definition, pathophysiology, etiology, and consequences. (2022, April 26). Uptodate.com. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/swallowing-disorders-and-aspiration-in-palliative-care-definition-pathophysiology-etiology-and-consequences

Weir, S.-B. S., & Akhondi, H. (2022). Bland Diet. In StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing.