Healthy Options for Soft or Liquid Diets

How do you get the nutrition you need (and flavors you crave) when you can only eat soft or liquid foods? Nutrition Diva shares her tips.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #292

Nutrition Diva listener Marcia writes, "My husband will be having major dental reconstruction soon, starting with the extraction of several molars. He is going to need a soft diet for a while. Would a liquid nutritional drink like Ensure or Boost be a good idea…or should I just lay in lots of ice cream?".


Anyone undergoing major dental surgery deserves lots of sympathy...and at least one milkshake. But if this ordeal will be going on for more than just a few days, something a little more nutritious will also be required. 

Shortly after I received Marcia's email, I happened to walk by a display of one of the "complete" nutrition drinks she mentioned in the grocery store. Sadly, the brand's nutrition details were not very impressive: made from water, corn syrup, milk protein concentrate, and vegetable oil, each serving provides 10 grams of protein, 28 grams of sugar and 0 grams of fiber. Frankly, you'd be better off drinking chocolate milk--it's got almost as much protein, not as much sugar, and at least a couple of grams of fiber! (I bet it tastes better, too.)

As for the 26 vitamins and minerals provided by this drink, if you were to take the cheapest drugstore brand one-a-day vitamin you could find, cut it in thirds, and dissolve it in your milk, you'd be ahead of the game. Marcia, I think we can do considerably better--using actual food.

Nutritious Options for a Liquid Diet

  • Smoothies. After the initial sympathy milkshake, switch over to smoothies as a more nutritious option. See also: How to Make the Perfect Smoothie

  • Milk.  For those who tolerate dairy products, a glass of milk provides 8 grams of protein, plenty of calcium, potassium, and B12, and makes a convenient and nutritious between-meal snack. See also: Is Milk Bad for You?

  • Kefir or Drinkable Yogurt. A cultured milk product, such as kefir or drinkable yogurt, supplies the same nutrients as milk, plus the added benefits of probiotic bacteria. ​See also: Fermented and Cultured Foods

  • Vegetable Juice. Tomato juice or V8 offers some good vegetable nutrition without all the sugar of fruit juice.  (Choose low sodium versions if sodium is a concern.) V8 is also tasty as a hot drink! See also: Juicing: Healthy Habit or Blood Sugar Bomb?

  • Pureed Soups.  Bisques or pureed soups are another way to add variety and nutrition to a liquid diet. You can make your own by simmering carrots, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, or other seasonal vegetables in just enough chicken or vegetable stock to cover them. Spice it up with curry powder, ginger, garlic, onion, nutmeg, or fresh herbs. When the vegetables are tender, use an immersion blender to puree until silky. Blend in a dollop of sour cream, a few slices of avocado, silken tofu, or yogurt to add creaminess and extra nutrition. Cold soups, such as gazpacho or cucumber yogurt soup, can be whirred together without the need for any cooking. 


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show. 

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