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Making Life a Little Easier to Swallow – Christmas Dinner “Puree Style”

Written by Laura Michael (Byline below)

Christmas is a time of giving, joy and sharing family traditions. Gathering at the table to eat is one way we share our love, show our humanity and share our cultural traditions.

When you are having trouble swallowing, the act of eating can be scary or difficult.  Not being able to eat what everyone else is eating may make someone feel socially uncomfortable. Often, those who are experiencing the after effects of a stroke, cancer treatments or who are living with dementia may already be feeling isolated.  Not being able to share family dinners may make matters worse.

Whether you family celebrates a holiday dinner with roast beef, turkey or ham, it may be possible for someone with dysphagia to enjoy many foods on the Christmas dinner table…with a few modifications.

If you are cooking for someone with dysphagia, you will find that a powerful mini food processor will become an invaluable tool.  Full-size food processors won’t work because they are too big to efficiently puree one portion to the correct texture. You will also need an instant food thickener like ThickenUp Clear®.

There are three different levels outlined in the National Dysphagia Diet. You will find that there are variations in what different people can safely swallow. Never allow someone with dysphagia to eat new foods alone. It is best to err on the side of caution when it comes to texture and consistency.

Level 1 “Puree” Diet is required for someone with moderate to severe dysphagia. The instructions below can help make dinner safe:

Roasted Prime Rib/Turkey/Ham

In a mini food processor, place a fully cooked, warm 3 oz. portion of cooked meat with ¼ cup warm broth until smooth.  Add 1 scoop instant food thickener and puree until smooth. Taste a spoonful. The texture should be like a smooth pâté. Adjust for seasoning and reheat if needed and serve with gravy or smooth sauce.

Mashed Potatoes & Gravy

No modifications needed, just make sure the potatoes and gravy are lump-free. Top with butter or smooth gravy.

Escalloped Potatoes

Blend a warm portion with about 2-3 tablespoons of warm milk in a mini food processor until smooth. When you taste a spoonful, it should be rich and smooth on your palate but not pasty.  It should be easy to swallow.


Avoid stuffing.  Try slurried dinner rolls (below).

Sweet Potatoes

Mash to a smooth texture with lots of butter.

Green Salad

Place a portion of only soft leafy greens in a mini food processor with 2T of cold liquid (like chicken stock or milk) and puree until smooth.  Add 1 T smooth salad dressing and ½ scoop of instant food thickener.  When you taste it, it should feel like a smooth soufflé in your mouth. Avoid 1000 Island Dressing or dressings with chunky ingredients. Avoid carrots, raw tomatoes and “crunchy” vegetables.

Purred Brussels sprouts or any other cooked Vegetable

Place a portion of cooked vegetable in a mini food processor.  Add 2T cooking liquid or warm broth and puree until smooth.  Add ½ scoop instant food thickener and blend until smooth. Taste for seasoning and for a smooth texture. Re-warm as needed.

Dinner rolls

Use only soft dinner rolls. NO SEEDS OR WHOLE GRAINS! Make a into a slurry texture with ¼ cup of chicken broth and ½ scoop of Instant Food Thickener (ThickenUp Clear) and mix until it thickens. Pull apart the roll and cover with the slurry. Set aside for about ten minutes, until the roll has absorbed the slurry. Reheat as needed.

Pumpkin Pie

Filling only. No crust.

Apple Pie

Puree the filling in a mini food processor. No crust.

For someone on a Level 2 “Mechanically Altered Diet”, the above are recommended but this diet allows for a little more texture. Meats must be moist and chopped to ¼ inch pieces. Potatoes need only be well-cooked and moist. Vegetables should be cooked until they are easily mashed with a fork. All other food items need to be pureed as in the Level 1 Diet.

A Level 3 “Advanced” diet allows for nearly all textures with the exception of hard, sticky or crunch foods.  Meats should be sliced thinly and moistened with gravy.

With a few modifications, you or someone you love can safely enjoy a special Holiday feast!



This article was submitted by Laura Michael. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition from the Ohio State University and was a teaching assistant in the cooking program at the New School, in New York, NY. She trained with Annette Brown, MS, RD, CEC, one of the authors of the National Dysphagia Diet. She has spent more than ten years in teaching hospitals, nursing homes and with rehab staffs training them in how to manage the National Dysphagia Diet for their patients. 

Her friends refer to her as the, “MacGyver of the Kitchen.”


She can be reached at:

Laura Michael

Dysphagia Supplies Direct, LLC


2 Comments On “Making Life a Little Easier to Swallow – Christmas Dinner “Puree Style”

  1. […] National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders: Making Life a Little Easier to Swallow – Christmas Di...

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