Making the Best of Soft Food Diets
“Do you want some soup? Or some squash?”
“Not even a bit of ice cream?”
“I’m really not up to eating right now…”
Whenever my jaw hurts from psoriatic arthritis flares, meal planning seems to take over my life. In some ways, food becomes an obsession: making sure I have jaw-friendly options available can feel like a full-time job, especially while I’m out of the house.
But in another way, food is the last thing on my mind. Coping with pain can be so exhausting and encompassing, that you’re simply not up to meal planning or even eating. Likewise, it’s easy to be turned off of eating when taking a bite is torture. Or when everything you’re eating is bland.
Soft food diets
Soft food diets are often prescribed for bouts of jaw pain. While they can be very helpful, they can also be extremely limiting. In fact, they can be difficult for anyone who uses diet to treat their arthritis. Foods such as white bread, egg noodles, rice, and milkshakes are easy on the jaw, but aren’t very nutritionally dense and can even be triggers for pain in some.
Beyond being nutritionally limited, soft foods can be dull. During long flares, I’ve gotten to the point of barely eating not only because of pain, but because I’m bored.
Making meals interesting
Whenever my jaw hurts, I always go out of my way to find delicious, satisfying soft foods. Being allowed to indulge in yummy (and healthy) foods makes it easier to encourage myself to eat. For example, guac and hummus are great jaw-friendly foods! Noodles made out of vegetables are also a flavorful take on soft foods. And baked apples with cinnamon are always a great option for breakfast or dessert.
Trying new sauces, gravies, jams, and spices are also a great way to keep meals exciting. Last time I had a jaw flare, I decided to try new rice recipes from around the world. Granted, many times I had to substitute brown or jasmine rice for soft white rice. But ultimately, it was a great experience and was a way to look forward to meal times.
Nutrition and supplements
Even when I’m trying my best to make food interesting, there are still times when I’m not interested in eating. Or, I’m in too much pain to finish my meal.
It’s at those times I rely on vitamins and supplements. Not being able to eat can easily make you feel run you down, but supplements can help keep you somewhat on track. Talking to your doctor about vitamin plans can help you feel better- you’d be surprised how much better it can help you feel.
What about nutritional drinks?
A lot of people have recommended I use nutritional supplement drinks and protein shakes during my flares. While I have thought about using them, after I did my homework I realized many of those drinks contain high amounts of sugars and are meant for those who need to gain weight.
Though they may benefit others (especially those on liquid diets), they don’t seem like a good choice for me. When I need to rely on liquids, I prefer to make my own smoothies– a half cup of milk, a cup of frozen yogurt, and some frozen berries put in the food processor can make a satisfying drink!
Remember to treat yourself
Flares are easier to get through when you treat yourself. For example, a few months ago I had an early morning flight in the midst of one of my worst flares. It was not a pleasant experience, especially because I wasn’t finding any options for breakfast. Then I saw an ice cream stand and decided to have pomegranate frozen yogurt for breakfast. Instead of being mad that I had limited options and was in pain, I was so tickled pink that I had a special treat for breakfast. And while I may not do that every day, it was a good reminder that a small treat can take away the pain for a moment.