To meat or not to meat? That really is the ultimate question when you’re eating a dysphagia diet. You may have found yourself here because you’ve scrolled through our blog and noticed that a lot of recipes don’t contain meat. You might be thinking, “these people are vegetarians/vegans,” and that may turn you away from our site because you LOVE a good steak. You may feel this way especially if you’re new to a modified diet. If you are, find our get started page here.
Let me explain our reasoning. Yes, a lot of our recipes don’t contain meat. However, it’s not for the reasons you may think.
When I first started seeing modified diets, I was in an inpatient rehabilitation hospital. I was appalled at the things people had the audacity to put into a blender. Grilled cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, hamburgers, hotdogs, the list could go on forever. Now let me tell you, NO ONE WANTS TO EAT THAT. That’s where the inspiration for this blog really came from.
But think about the list of things that I mentioned. What do a majority of them have in common? That’s right – meat. Unfortunately, meat is one of the hardest things to modify and ensure it’s safe to swallow. You have to cook a piece of meat so it’s tender enough to minimally chew, or chop it up until it’s in tiny pieces. It’s really not an easy task. Think about pureed meat, that’s the ultimate unappealing food (in my humble opinion).
When you puree or modify a meat, you’re losing everything beautiful about it. You can’t have the crispy pieces of meat that got slightly charred in the pan or on the grill. You can’t eat prime rib at medium rare. I’m not saying this to make you sad. However, you will have to grieve for the things that are off the table for now and embrace new and creative options.
That being said, there are lots of other foods that fit into a modified diet beautifully. To name a few, you can easily have eggs, beans, dairy products, and cooked fruits and vegetables. Those things are naturally soft and are much more easily modified to fit whichever diet level you need.
Now your concern is, what about protein?
Meat isn’t your only source of protein. Vegetarian meat substitutes are great for modified diets, like tofu and tempeh. Beans are delicious as well and perfect as a puree. Eggs can be softly scrambled or poached. Dairy products are a good source of protein, too. Even soaked and blended nuts can go into a sauce or dessert to increase your protein in any given meal. Please keep in mind that you have options.
Now I’m not here to tell you to switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet. Personally, I gravitate towards that diet, but that’s really not why our blog does. We’re not omitting meat for health reasons. In fact, we can understand wanting to keep it in your diet.
If you read the information put out by IDDSI, you’ll see that the most common way to eat modified meat is ground. These days, you can find just about any meat in a ground format. There’s beef, chicken, turkey, and pork readily available at grocery stores. Personally, I absolutely love ground pork because it’s a subtle flavor that takes on other flavors really well. This is a picture of ground italian sausage, which I used in our copycat zuppa toscana soup. It was great!
You can also learn to braise meat or use a crock pot. Your meat will have to be very tender and able to shred with a fork for it to work. Fish may be a good option too, especially fish that are easily “flaked,” like salmon or cod. We have a recipe coming soon for our easy, baked salmon.
A rotisserie chicken would be great, especially if you’re under a time crunch. Ultimately, red meat will be the toughest to deal with unless it’s in its ground form. A very tender meat, such as this one pictured, would be a good addition to a dysphagia diet.
We’re just here to tell you our reasoning for our lack of meat, and to make sure that you know all of your options. If you have a favorite meal that you can no longer eat with meat in it, let us know! We love a good challenge and enjoy trying to modify people’s favorite foods so they can still be eaten in an enjoyable way.
If you have questions or comments about this, you can contact us here. If you successfully modify meat in any way, we’d love to hear how you did it. And I promise, we will have recipes with meat in them on this blog, but now you know why they’re not the majority. For now, you can check out our tater tot casserole recipe.
Embrace your new diet! You can do this. And remember, we’re here to go on this journey with you.
Good luck and happy eating!