Around here, we ate a lot of soup.
We ate a lot of quiche, mashed vegetables and ground meat.
We ate a lot of smoothies, shakes, and parfaits.
We ate a lot of cakes, muffins, and cookies.
Did I mention we ate a lot of soup?
We ate a mostly pureed diet for almost two years. Yes, I said we, because I ate what Grandma ate. I never wanted her to feel different. Also, it was easier. Pureeing it all saves time. Otherwise, I had an added task of separating my meal from hers… and if there were any leftovers (and there always was), I would have to bust out the food processor again.
I was no stranger to making things easier to eat when it came time to switch to soft foods for Grandma. Calvin, who I also previously cared for, required a soft diet at the end. He even had thickener added to all of his drinks.
Since Calvin also had trouble using utensils, I had become the queen of fixing food you could pick up and eat. As time went on, our brunches and holiday meals almost always consisted of easy-chew finger foods.[Word to the wise: description of graphic bodily functions follows]
As Grandma’s teeth deteriorated, it became harder for her to chew many foods she enjoyed. My major motivation for switching to a very soft food diet was discovering big chunks of unchewed, undigested food coming out into her colostomy bag. Already prone to blockages, I feared what would happen if too much of that started piling up in her bowels.
Below, you will find a few key tips I learned while serving semi- or pureed meals to my grandma.
Equip yourself with the right tools.
Every professional has to have the right equipment to do their job. We caregivers are no different.
You can find all of these things at your preferred big box store or on Amazon.
Tools you will need in your kitchen:
- Blender – for making sauces, smoothies, and anything you need to completely pulverize
- Food processor – for making ground meat, pureeing roasted or steamed vegetables, and I bet you didn’t know that Martha makes some of her delicious baked goods with the food processor, too 😍
- Immersion blender – for blending sauces in the pot (just take care and guard yourself from splatters if they are hot!)
- Coffee or spice grinder
- Recommended: High-quality knives – for chopping vegetables into smaller pieces for roasting and steaming and chopping meat into chunks for grinding. (Grandma was convinced to invest in a set of knives by the Cutco man.. Turns out they are great knives! Word to the wise: be careful, they are very sharp!!!)
Keep puréed veggies on hand.
As someone who served a semi pureed diet for two years, I suggest pureeing a buttload of veggies all at once and sticking them in the freezer in small bags or containers, even ice trays, ideally in 1/4 cup or 1/2 increments. Storing pureed vegetables this way will save you time. Think about all the time that gets sucked up when you have to stop and steam and purée vegetables when you make a meal.
Clean your purée tools immediately.
There are times when we don’t feel like doing the dishes, and that’s okay. But I do not recommend saving your purée tools for later. It is really difficult to clean crusty, old food off from the nooks and crannies of kitchen tools. It will also end up taking longer to clean them, which will result in lost time and more energy use. Another recommendation: I suggest having screaming hot water ready in your faucet for when you are finished using your tools. It makes them much easier to clean.
I’m no rabbit! Mandatory Meat.
Since my grandma was old school, meat was obligatory in every meal (until the only thing that mattered was that it tasted good). If she noticed there wasn’t any meat in a meal, she would ask where it was.
As I began preparing more and more pureed food, I learned that any boneless, uncooked meat can be ground.
The key to grounding meat is a) to dethaw it slightly so it is still a little frozen. Meat is easier to chop into chunks this way. b) In small batches, put it in your food processor and pulse it until it is the consistency you want. You can do this with boneless chicken, turkey, pork, and even beef.
Prepare meals in advance.
Okay; this one has nothing to do with pureéing. At one point, I spent one full day cooking meals for an entire month. If one month is too much, you can try to shoot for two weeks. When you block out your time this way, you create more open space within those long stretches in between food prep.
This is also especially helpful when you want to reduce the amount of decisions your caregivers have to make so they can focus on your loved one (maybe due to a constant state of confusion or distress induced by cognitive impairments, pain, or other issues).
I learned a lot about purée from these two books:
Awesome websites you can get recipes and more advice from:
- Pureed Food Diet
- 17 Grown Up Paleo Purée Recipes
- Recipes for Pureed Meals – Soups
- A practical guide to pureed food at home – EatSpeakThink.com