Loss of appetite is common with many health conditions. This can lead to dangerously low intakes of adequate nutrients including calories, protein, vitamins and minerals. The mealtime setting is very important for a pleasant eating experience. The following suggestions are helpful tips for creating an ideal mealtime environment and boosting calories and protein.

Here are some helpful mealtime tips for those with Dysphagia:

active retired cooking in the kitchen

  •  The first helpful meal time strategy may start with the dishes, cups and utensils used. Keep in mind it might be easier to eat from a bowl than a plate or a cup might be easier than a bowl. Straws are often not allowed for people with dysphagia so ask your health care professionals about straw use. Sometimes, it can be as simple as holding the items in place with a non-skid mat.
  •  At meals, minimize distractions such as TV, pets, children and phones.
  • Sitting upright with feet on the floor helps with breathing and feeding oneself.
  • Make sure a person’s head does not fall back or sideways. Use pillows to prop the head in place, if necessary.
  • Remaining upright for 30-45 minutes after meals helps the food move into the stomach and minimizes regurgitation (burping).
  • Allow plenty of time to eat. To minimize aspiration or choking take small bites and no talking while chewing. Make sure one swallow is completed before the next bite.
  • Clear the throat with a gentle cough and alternate sips of liquid with solids to moisten the mouth and clear out food particles.
  • If completing the meal in one sitting is too hard, take a break. Smaller meals eaten more frequently may be a better option.
  • Involve the person with dysphagia in food preparation. Smelling food stimulates saliva and primes the person for the meal.

Here are some tips to help add calories and protein to a meal:

*Please keep in mind that the following food items and suggestions may need to be altered (i.e. food thickener, pureed, slurry, etc.) depending on the prescribed dysphagia diet level and may not be suitable for every medical condition.  Consult your health care provider if you have any questions.


  •  Try to avoid serving “empty calorie” foods such as coffee, soda pop, candy, cookies and gelatin. These can spoil the appetite. Make every bite count! 
  • For Extra Protein, Eat More: Eggs, Milk, Lean Meats, Cheese, Peanut Butter / Nut Butter
  • Add 1-2 Tablespoons of Nonfat Dry Milk to: Muffins,  Cream Soups, Casseroles, Meatloaf, Custard, Cooked Cereal, Milk Shakes, Yogurt
  • Add Cheese to: Mashed Potatoes, Soups, Casseroles, Sandwiches, Vegetables, Meatloaf
  • Add Extra Butter or Margarine to: Rice, Pasta Dishes, Cooked Cereal, Potatoes, Vegetables, Sandwiches
  • Spread Peanut Butter or Cream Cheese on: Fruit Slices, Crackers, Muffins, Pancakes, Graham Crackers, Pretzels
  • Eat More Often – 2-3 hours after each main meal eat a high calorie/high protein snack

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