Soft Diet

Last Modified: April 25, 2004


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

Can you give me some suggestions for ways to increase calories and nutritional values for someone who must eat a very soft or liquid diet?  My brother has end stage adenoid cystic carcinoma of the sinuses which has greatly affected his ability to chew.



Ellen Sweeney Cordes, RD, Registered Dietitian at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

The ability to chew, swallow, smell, and taste foods can be greatly affected by any type of head and neck cancer and its treatment. While the body needs adequate calories, protein and other nutrients to maintain itself through cancer treatment, it can be a challenge to eat proper amounts while having any of the above side effects, in addition to a poor appetite. The focus, nutritionally, should be on maintaining the weight as much as possible with adequate calorie and protein intake. Concentrating on high calorie, soft foods in this case is best. Examples of some nutrient-dense foods in this category would include; eggs, fish, pasta, yogurt, macaroni and cheese, casseroles, canned fruits, puddings, ice cream, oatmeal, cream soups, and milkshakes. Also, the use of liquid nutritional supplements such as Ensure or Boost daily can add extra calories and nutrients without requiring the ability to chew. If oral nutrition intake is poor due to decreased appetite, it is helpful to spread small amounts of foods and liquid supplements frequently over the course of the day. An excellent resource for more high-calorie food ideas for chewing or swallowing problems is  The Non-Chew Cookbook. It can be ordered via the following web site,, or by calling 1-800-843-2409. As always, I also recommend requesting a nutrition consult with a dietitian at your cancer center to develop an individualized plan.


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