Before the meal
- Eat when well rested, considered a short nap or rest before a meal.
- Create a calm and relaxed eating environment. Turn off the television and radio.
- Remember that anxiety makes choking worse, so try to keep the mood light and cheerful.
- Sit in an accessible spot at the table, just in case choking occurs and a person has to quickly come to their aid.
- To conserve energy try eating several (4-6) smaller meals throughout a day rather than three large ones.
During the meal
- Allow plenty of time; food may need to be reheated.
- Eat slowly, pausing between bites and sips (try tapping the table with the utensil between bites to remember to go slower).
- Eat sitting upright with head angled toward plate and remain upright for 30 minutes to reduce reflux and choking.
- Limit talking.
- Don't try to drink with a mouthful of food â€“ the contrasting texture can be confusing and prompt choking.
- Cut all solid foods in small pieces.
- Use a salad fork or coffee spoon
- Use non-slip table mats.
- Weighted utensils with thick handles are easier to hold; regular cutlery can be converted by slipping the handles into appropriate lengths of foam rubber tubing.
- Bendy straw in a plastic cup can be easier to manage for some people.
- Soft, blended or pureed foods are generally easier to swallow.
- Avoid dry, tough and stringy foods that might get stuck in the throat, such as crackers, popcorn or tough cuts of meat.
- Liquids with the consistency of honey or milk-shake are generally easier to swallow. Dry mashed potatoes or baby rice cereal can be used to thicken meat and vegetable dishes. Tapioca or Jell-O are good for desserts. Corn-starch based commercial thickeners can be used in any food or liquid. Experiment with different brands to find a flavor you enjoy.
- Avoid acidic and spicy foods. If aspirated, these types of food are more likely to cause pneumonia.
- Start a food diary to keep track of what you ate and what strategies you tried and how easy/difficult it was to swallow.
Develop a Swallowing Plan with your Speech-Language Pathologist.