As summer is in full swing and most of us are spending more time grilling than cooking, it is a good opportunity to review the problems and pitfalls of safe food consistencies.  It cannot be said often enough, but food is more than sustenance it is an event.  Sharing a meal, sitting together and talking, laughing and creating memories are so critically important to who we are as friends and family.  Often, these social events are made more difficult when we have a friend or loved one who is displaying issues with dysphagia (trouble eating).  Often times, as we get older, or have increase medical issues, these problems with eating, chewing and swallowing will be exacerbated. Here is a quick, non-exhaustive list of foods to avoid or modify to ensure safe swallowing habits. 


There are few foods that out fear into the hearts of treating SLPs like hotdogs.  They are basically the same diameter as the windpipe to start.  They are both soft and solid and make a perfect airway obstruction.  Hotdogs with thicker skin can often times be more difficult to chew for someone with poor dentition. 

Ways to Modify:

It is possible to puree a hotdog and “repress it to the shape of a dog then place it on the bun.  Cutting them into bite-sized pieces can also be beneficial.  Skipping them all together gives SLPs the biggest sigh of relief. 

Fruit Salad: (Grapes)

Anyone with children will be able to explain the fear of grapes.  Fruit salad and grapes in general are often bite sized pieces of fruit that are a perfect diameter to block an unprotected airway.  Grapes tend to be slippery and, when whole, difficult for some to manage in the oral cavity.

Ways to Modify:

Cut the grapes into halves or quarters.  Use increased juices to soften the fruit a bit.

Hamburgers: (with all the fixens)

Burgers are typically ground meats and are easier to chew and swallow than a solid meat such as steak.  Where we find trouble is in a couple areas.  First, a lower quality pressed patty may be more difficult to break apart.  Make the patties yourself or invest in a good quality meat.  Also we run into the issue of mixed consistencies.  By this I mean, unless you are like my daughter, there is more than the bun and patty.  Lettuce, tomato and onions add flavor but also change the consistency and size of the burger.  Leaf lettuce is notoriously difficult to chew and while trying to chew it, other parts of the meal may be moving onto the airway. 

Ways to Modify:

Make simple burgers, add condiments, like ketchup to keep a cohesive bolus (food ball) in the mouth.  Substitute sloppy joes for burgers. 

I hope this helps and please contact us for any specific questions.