What Is a Soft Diet?

A soft diet doesn't have foods that are hard to chew or swallow. It also doesn't have spicy, fried, or gassy foods. A mechanical soft diet means you don't eat foods that are hard to chew or swallow.

Why Should I Follow a Soft Diet?

A soft diet is often needed after some types of surgery or illnesses. It may also be needed by people who are having radiation therapy to the head, neck, or belly. A mechanical soft diet may be needed if you are having trouble chewing food or if you have a hard time swallowing.

Soft Diet Basics

The foods you can eat on a soft diet may be naturally soft or they may be mashed, chopped, or cooked until they are soft. Foods that you can't have are:

  • Tough meats
  • Raw fruits and veggies
  • Chewy or crispy breads
  • Nuts and seeds

Your doctor may also tell you not to eat spicy, fried, or gassy foods.

The foods that you're able to eat on this diet can vary from one person to the next. Work with your doctor or a dietitian to find out the types and textures of foods that you can eat. Use this chart as a guide.

Eating Guide

Food Group Foods You Can Eat Foods You Can't Eat
Grains
  • Cereal without nuts or dried fruit
  • Refined bread, crackers, muffins, pancakes, or waffles
  • Pasta
  • Plain, white rice
  • Whole-grain bread, crackers, muffins, pancakes, or waffles
  • Wild or whole-grain rice
Veggies
  • Soft-cooked or canned veggies
  • Raw salad greens or tomatoes
  • Cooked potatoes without the skin (except fried or chips)
  • Fried potatoes
  • Hard, raw veggies like carrot sticks
  • Cooked veggies with large seeds or tough skins
Fruits
  • Soft raw fruits without skin
  • Cooked and canned fruits without skin
  • Dried fruits
  • Fruits with skins, seeds, or pits
  • Coconut
Milk
  • Milk and milk drinks
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese, cottage cheese
  • Cheese with nuts or seeds
Meats and Beans
  • Tender meat, pork, poultry, and fish
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Smooth peanut butter
  • Deli meats, such as salami or pepperoni
  • Bacon
  • Anything fried (including fried eggs)
  • Shellfish
  • Fish with bones
  • Nuts and seeds
Fats and Sweets
  • Ice cream, sherbet, and frozen yogurt
  • Pudding
  • Plain chocolate
  • Cake and cookies without hard pieces like chocolate chips, raisins, nuts
  • Products with seeds, dried fruit, nuts, or other hard pieces
  • Fruit or nut pies
Other
  • Salt, pepper, herbs, and mild spices
  • Sugar, jelly, honey
  • All beverages Note: If you have trouble swallowing, you may need thickened liquids.
  • Popcorn
  • Fried food
  • Jam with seeds
  • Spicy food or condiments

Tips

  • Use a blender to puree foods, such as soup or fruit.
  • Remember to chew foods before you swallow them.
  • To preserve nutrients when cooking foods:
    • Steam or microwave veggies.
    • When boiling potatoes, peel after cooking.
  • Work with a dietitian to make a meal plan based on your needs.