All About Texture
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Everyone is familiar with the five senses. We have sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing. While we don’t think about all of those senses being a factor in eating, they definitely are.
It’s true that we eat with our eyes,” and that food becomes more appealing to us if it looks nice. Think about a beautifully presented plate of food you saw on TV. Even though you couldn’t use any of your senses to access that food besides sight, you still wanted to devour it.
We don’t really “hear” the food, though the sound of meat sizzling on a grill is pleasant, along with the sound of a knife running through bread. It can enhance the eating experience. Imagine being in a Mexican restaurant and hearing the waiter walk by with a plate of sizzling fajitas. That’s a sound I personally love to hear.
Smell is a major factor in the actual taste of food. Naturally, our bodies are built to avoid food if it smells bad to us – it literally keeps us safe. If something smells “rotten,” then we know we shouldn’t eat it. But if something smells good, then we naturally gravitate towards it. We can even start to salivate.
Tasting food is usually what people think of most when eating. It’s certainly important for food to have enough salt and acid (think of citrus fruits and vinegars) in order for it to taste good. Thankfully, even with dysphagia, you don’t have to sacrifice the taste of anything, unless you have other conditions that cause you to avoid certain foods.
What is sacrificed most is texture. If you read through the IDDSI standards for each level of modified diets, the common theme is that foods are soft and smooth. While that is a lovely texture, it can definitely get boring when you can’t have anything else.
Most commonly, people are upset that they can’t have “crunchy food,” like potato chips or bread. I can certainly understand feeling that way and unfortunately, there’s really no way to combat it. There are different levels of creaminess and smoothness that can be achieved, but ultimately, what you eat needs to easily go down your throat and safely into your stomach. Take this blended curry for example, it’s very soft and smooth which can ultimately be a pleasing texture.
My recommendation to you is this – play heavily into your other senses. You can’t do too much to texture, so make sure you’re playing into everything else to its full extent. Here’s what you can do.
-You need to make sure food tastes good. This may seem obvious, but people often get so stuck in eating the same thing, they end up hating it after a while. It can be really difficult to branch out to new flavors, but I encourage you to try. If you can afford it, try to buy one new ingredient a week to experiment with in the kitchen. This will force you to have new flavors. Make sure you taste your food throughout the cooking process to add anything that it might need.
-Make sure things smell good! Use lots of aromatics in your cooking whenever possible. Things like garlic, onions, ginger, and spices are great for this. It will obviously enhance the flavor as well.
-Try to present your food in a pretty way! I know it’s tempting to just put pureed food in a bowl, but try to do something different with it. Use a piping bag to pipe it into the bowl neatly. Use the back of a spoon to create smooth waves across it. Try anything you can to safely change the look of your food.
-You can’t do much about hearing your food, but do try to tune into that sense when you’re cooking. Listen to the onions sizzling in hot oil, or relish in the sound of your blender, knowing that it’s providing you with a safe meal to eat
-Most of all, just try to enjoy cooking and eating as much as possible. What I want to avoid is you eating the same food, day after day, until you get so burnt out you give up on your dysphagia diet. It’s going to be hard, but it’s so important to eat the safest food while still following the recommendations for your diet.
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