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Modified texture diets

Modified texture diets

Eating and drinking are activities that many people take for granted, however they are very complex processes that involve the use and coordination of many muscles. If your child has difficulty eating, a referral should be made for a feeding assessment (RCSLT, 2013). Usually a speech and language therapist trained in the area of feeding and swallowing will conduct the assessment.


Food

Some children with eating difficulties need a modified consistency diet to assist with chewing and/or swallowing. Changing the food's texture causes different responses in children and can make a difference in your child's ability to manage food in their mouth. When changing food texture, therapists typically begin with a texture that is easiest for the child to manage (Can Child, 2003).

There are four main categories of food texture/consistency:

  • Unmodified foods. These can present difficulties as they must be chewed by your child before being swallowed.
  • Soft foods, such as bananas.
  • Minced and moist foods such as minced meat with sauce.
  • Smooth pureed foods. When a puree is very thick (e.g. mashed potato), it can be more difficult for the child to eat because it tends to stick in the mouth and throat, requiring the muscles to do more work (Can Child, 2003).

Food textures can be modified by preparing the food more, adding more fluid, cooking for longer, straining and using thickening agents. When altering consistencies of food, individual foods should be kept separate for both flavour and appearance. Note that mixed consistency foods (e.g. soup with vegetables) can be challenging, because your child must be able to handle the liquid and the solid.


Fluid

Liquids also vary in consistency:

  • Thin/regular such as water and juice.
  • Naturally thick such as fruit nectars.
  • Mildly thick such as thin custard or yoghurt.
  • Moderately thick such as mashed potato, thick gravies and jelly.

Thin liquids are often the most difficult to swallow because they move very quickly and so require very good oral control to keep them in the mouth and to control how they move back to be swallowed. Thicker liquids have more mass, shape and tend to move more slowly - this can compensate for weakened oral skills and sluggish swallow movements. However they may not be as thirst quenching and are often more filling than thin fluids.

Advice last checked: 29 August 2013 Next check due: 29 August 2016

All advice is either supported by references (cited in the text) or is based upon peer reviewed professional opinion. Our advice is impartial and not influenced by sponsors or product suppliers listed on the site.
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References

  1. Can Child 2003  Feeding and Eating Interventions for Children and Youth with Brain Injury
    View reference   Last visited:  21/09/2015
  2. Novita Children's Services 2008  Introduction to Food & Fluid Consistencies
    View reference   Last visited:  13/03/2009 Evidence type: 2