So when it comes to food that is both appetizing and accessible, good eating shouldn't be limited to highbrow foodies. This was the premise for the NYU Steinhardt Iron Chef Dysphagia Challenge, a competition during which contestants prepared food for judges to identify recipes that maximize nutrition, texture, and taste for people with dysphagia (chewing and swallowing difficulties). The event was inspired by an intersession class that brought together NYU graduate students from the nutrition program and the communicative sciences and disorders program to learn how to manage the needs of clients with different stages of dysphagia.
"Food is nurturing, and too often it's assumed that when someone is sick, we should just give them calories and nutrients. That's not what food is, and we wanted to emphasize in this intersession class that regardless of a medical condition, we should always think about the importance of food – especially when someone's sick," says Lisa Sasson, clinical associate professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at NYU Steinhardt.
Now, "Dining with Dysphagia: A Cookbook" makes the winning recipes from the Dysphagia Challenge competition accessible to all. The recipe book outlines eight easy-to-follow and easy-to-swallow recipes.
While the recipes were evaluated for the overall joy of eating good food, the judges also took into consideration that dysphagia clients come from different cultural backgrounds. Diversity in ingredients and balanced tastes should be enjoyed by everyone — even those with chewing and swallowing difficulties.
Each year, the simple act of eating becomes a serious challenge for millions. Older adults are disproportionately affected, but dysphagia can become a challenge to just about anyone, including those with diseases such as Parkinson's, head and neck cancers, AIDS, and many more. Caregivers, hospitals, and families caring for those with dysphagia prepare pureed foods in order to meet nutritional and medical needs. Unfortunately, they all too often find that the food is unappetizing and doesn't take into account cultural food preferences. Likewise, a minimal focus is placed on aesthetics; these foods are often presented as "mushy."
The recipes presented in "Dining with Dysphagia: A Cookbook" take things up a notch, elevating pureed food to a higher standard. By focusing on all of the values foodies would appreciate – enhancing flavor, texture, aroma, and, of course, deliciousness – these recipes make the joy of eating simple for everyone. Rosemary mashed potatoes are blended to perfection while tomatoes, olives, and raisins are combined for a perfect Picadillo ground beef. And for dessert? Chia seeds, full of omega nutrients and fiber, come together with chocolate perfection for a chocolate chia pudding.
"Food should always nourish the body and soul," continues Sasson, and "we should never assume that because a patient has swallowing problems that their food choices will be limited to pureed mush."
Note: You should consult with your doctor regarding your dietary or medical requirements based on your condition prior to using these recipes. They represent only suggestions to improve flavor and eating experience not a medical opinion.