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Navigating Holiday Mealtime with a Swallowing Disorder

For many families and friends, enjoying the holidays means gathering together to share a meal. But for some individuals who suffer from dysphagia, the simple act of swallowing can not only be challenging, but it can also lead to feelings of embarrassment.

To ensure those with dysphagia can continue to enjoy holiday celebrations with family and friends—as well as the festive flavors that accompany the season—consider the following meal planning tips.

  • Following a modified diet of thickened foods and drinks can help make swallowing easier and safer while encouraging more enjoyable, confident consumption. Plan ahead to ensure modified foods and liquids that are safe for your guest are available during holiday meals. To learn more about modified diets, including food and drink consistency levels and terminology, visit, and when looking for appropriate food and drinks for your guest, look for IDDSI labeling, including colors, numbers and descriptors as shown on our Thick-It® Clear Advantage® Thickened Apple Juice. 
  • If your guest is able and interested, invite them to help prepare the meal. This allows them to anticipate what they will eat and provides sensory cues that can promote saliva flow, which will aid in the swallowing process when it’s time.[i]
  • Consider purées. The holidays are a busy time, so if you can’t prepare the meal from scratch, Thick-It® Purées are a perfect solution. Ready-to-eat and made with authentic food ingredients, Thick-It® Purées are available in a variety of savory entrees, sides, and desserts – providing a satisfying and tasty meal in a form that is both easy to swallow and easy to prepare.
  • Be sure to offer your guest a proper chair, allowing them to eat while maintaining an upright position. To aid digestion, make sure the individual can sit upright for 30 minutes after eating.[ii]
  • Allow plenty of time for your guest to eat slowly.
  • Sometimes, serving too many foods at once can be overwhelming for those with swallowing disorders. Consider serving your guest one or two dishes at a time.
  • Help your guest remain independent while dining by providing adaptive eating tools such as plates with large rims, cups with wide bases, and non-slip placemats that allow them to feed themselves.
  • Monitor your guest’s food intake, making sure they take small bites, pause between bites, and that all food and liquid is properly swallowed.
  • Your guest may have difficulty swallowing, but remember that above all, they are still human and simply want to feel loved and included in family celebrations. Enjoy the quality time together!

Have you ever planned a holiday meal for someone with dysphagia? Help other caregivers by leaving your tips and strategies in the comments, or by sharing your stories with us online using #MyDysphagiaStory and #ThickIt

[i] Jennifer Bradley, “Social Aspects of Dysphagia, Today’s Caregiver, May 2017,
[ii]Rinki Varindani Desai, “Caregiver’s Guide to Dysphagia in Dementia,” National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders, July 2017,

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