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Mmmm… baby food. Delicious growing up and surprisingly delicious as an adult. But the soft food diet — aka the bland diet or low fiber diet — includes a bit more substance than just blended peas and beef.

A soft food diet consists of foods that are soft (obvi), easy to chew, and gentle on your tummy. Doctors usually recommend it short-term after surgery or certain medical procedures.

The answer isn’t “I want it that way.” Nobody wants to go on a soft food diet, and you should only do it if your doctor recommends it.

Your digestive tract may be craving a soft food diet if you have gastroenteritis, diverticulitis, or an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) flare-up. It’s also a comfortable option after oral surgery, throat surgery, or dental reconstruction.

Here are some other reasons to embark on a soft food diet.

You’ve had surgery on your large intestine

Colon surgery comes with a post-op adjustment period. Since it’s probably not a good idea to nosh on a ghost pepper burrito right away, your doctor will likely advise you to stick to a soft diet for 2 to 8 weeks.

Chemotherapy

Chemo can lead to nausea, a sore mouth and throat, trouble swallowing, and a general loss of appetite. The National Cancer Institute recommends the easy-to-swallow foods of the soft food diet to help with discomfort.

If you’re experiencing nausea, you can try eating five or six small meals or snacks per day instead of three large ones. Digestive issues should resolve after treatment.

Difficulty swallowing

If you’re having trouble swallowing, the American College of Gastroenterology recommends changing the texture and types of foods you eat to help prevent choking or inhaling food into your lungs.

You need dental work

Whether you’ve had a tooth extraction, braces, or a root canal, the American Dental Association recommends steering clear of sticky, chewy, or hard foods and focusing on soft foods until your mouth is healed.

Foods containing zinc, protein, and vitamins A and C will help with healing.

You’ve had bypass surgery

Like colon surgery, gastric bypass seriously disrupts digestion. A common side effect of this surgery is dumping syndrome, which means food moves too quickly from your stomach into your small bowel. Following a stricter soft food diet can help prevent it.

Your doctor may recommend introducing liquids first and working your way up to puréed foods. A few weeks later you’ll move on to soft foods that can be smooshed with a fork. Around 8 weeks post-op, you’ll be able to introduce firmer foods one at a time.

Aim to incorporate foods that are soft in texture but still provide lots of nutrients.

Carbs — but make ’em low fiber

  • moist white rice
  • mashed potatoes
  • egg noodles
  • soft white bread

Protein for those healing #gainz

  • canned fish and poultry
  • eggs (poached, scrambled, or hard- or soft-boiled)
  • tofu
  • chicken or tuna salad
  • refried beans (these may not work for everyone — check with your doc)

Calcium for strong bones

  • cottage cheese
  • milk and milkshakes
  • yogurt
  • thinly sliced, melted cheese

Antioxidants to repair

  • puréed fruit (applesauce and smoothies)
  • fruit and/or vegetable juices
  • canned vegetables and fruits
  • baked fruits and vegetables
  • soft fruit without skin (bananas, pears, etc.)

Feeling saucy

  • gravy
  • broth
  • mayonnaise
  • mustard
  • oil
  • butter/olive oil

Sweet treats to help the medicine go down

  • gelatin-based foods like pudding, mousse, or custard
  • cheesecake
  • ice cream, sherbet, or gelato
  • soft, moist cakes (you’re welcome)

Steer clear of these until you’re feeling better. These foods are harder to chew, have high fiber content, and are difficult to digest.

Carbs

  • popcorn
  • whole-grain bread, multigrain crackers
  • cereal containing nuts or dried fruit
  • granola
  • bagels
  • dried fruit
  • nuts and seeds
  • chips

Protein

  • hot dogs (or any meat with casings)
  • peanut butter (both smooth and crunchy)
  • steak
  • bacon
  • beef jerky

Fruits and veggies

  • stringy fruits like mango and pineapple
  • uncooked veggies and fruits (like whole apples and carrots)
  • corn on the cob
  • berries

Others

  • carbonated drinks (soda and seltzer)
  • spicy foods
  • jams/jellies with seeds
  • whole spices such as peppercorns

Any diet can feel restrictive at first, but there are a bunch of delicious ways to prepare soft foods. Here are a few to try:

Here are some tips to make your food as soft and gentle on your gut as possible:

  • Grind, purée, or cut food into small pieces.
  • Mash foods, including veggies, fruits, and potatoes.
  • Use sauces like gravy or broth to moisten foods further.

You might not feel as hungry as usual when you’re in recovery, but you need nutrients more than ever.

Incorporate nutrient-rich fortified drinks like Ensure or Boost, which are formulated to fill that nutrition gap when you’re not eating enough due to loss of appetite or dietary restrictions.

If you’re losing weight due to treatments or loss of appetite, opt for higher fat foods to help increase your calorie intake. (Like you needed an excuse to eat more avocados.) Be sure to let your doctor know if you’re experiencing unexpected weight loss.

A soft food diet is typically recommended short-term to give your digestive system a break after certain medical procedures. It consists of mushy low-fiber foods.

If your appetite is low, supplementing with fortified drinks may be the way to go. Make sure to follow your doctor’s and dietitian’s recommendations for quick and easy healing!