Please Sir… I Want Some More

1 Jul

On the pureed diet, I was really starting to feel like an orphan.  I’d drool over my next opportunity to shovel hot mush into my mouth.  It was another month of unintentional weight loss.  I lost somewhere between 3-5 pounds.  There’s a definite lack of “meal appeal” when textures and colors follow the same trends day in and day out.  Plus, as noted in the book “Drop Dead Healthy” by A.J. Jacobs, pureed foods have been shown to help people lose weight.  They tend to fill up your stomach the way soup does: liquid heavy and calorically light.  Speaking of A.J. Jacobs, I’m pretty sure he’s my “brotha from anotha motha”, because we seem to have similar ideas toward the world.  If you’ve never read an A.J. Jacobs book, he’s another self-proclaimed “guinea pig”.  A.J. is more diverse in his approach, test driving biblical principles and outsourcing, for example, but he also unsuccessfully tried to get his spouse to go on a juice fast with him in the name of science.  I feel ya, A.J.  I feel ya.

Yesterday, the only liquids I drank were thickened.  If drinking thickened water sounds gross to you, let me assure you…

It is.

It really, really is.

There are 3 standard consistencies that beverages may be thickened to for a person with dysphagia: nectar-thick, honey-thick, and spoon-thick.  You use the same thickener, but add specific quantities to achieve desired results.  I made my water nectar-thick (and that was bad enough).  I made my smoothie “spoon-thick”, creating a sort of globby pudding.

I went back and forth between complaining to my coworkers about how thirsty I was and trying to glug down as much “water” as I could.  The thickener I used is basically modified corn starch.  Therefore, every time I went for a sip, it felt as though I was drinking tepid watery grits.  Just typing that kind of makes me want to puke.  Imagine what drinking it feels like. :-/  It doesn’t quench your thirst at all.  If anything, I think it may have just made me thirstier!

On a typical day, I drink about 4-6 glasses of water.  Yesterday, I choked down about 2!  I decided applesauce could be my saving grace!  On my way home from work, I picked up a jar with the determination and vigor I used to have toward ice cream acquisitions.  The applesauce did help a little, but it was a catch-22, because the fruit sugar made me feel thirsty in a different way.  Luckily, my meals were so water-logged, I didn’t feel too dehydrated by the day’s end.

My mind is made up!  Family members take note: if I am too much of a vegetable to sign the waiver, you will take matters into your own hands if you love me at all.  I’d rather aspirate on thin liquids than glug that garbage for any period of time!  You can take away my chips and solid meats, but thickened water?  Them’s fightin’ words!

Cravings experienced: None!  No lies!  This doesn’t mean I was overly thrilled to eat hot mush three times a day.  I just didn’t have any intense cravings for specific foods.

Sins to confess:  No outright defiance.  The sins were similar to those mentioned previously.  Since pureed foods are an art form all their own, a few mistakes were made.  In general, I tried to focus on an end result that didn’t require ANY chewing.  When I achieved that, I would call it good.

Here’s what I ate my last day on the pureed foods diet: (I ate a lot of ground seeds to force in calories and use up, because they won’t be allowed on my July diet)

Breakfast:White Mush (pureed scottish oats with deseeded kiwi slices, lemon juice, cinnamon, & ground sesame seeds)Mid-morning snack: Brown Mush (Banana, cocoa powder, ground sesame seeds, & coconut milk smoothie turned “pudding” with food thickener) :-/
Lunch: Green Mush (pureed cooked split peas with gluten-free grain blend, premade green veggie blend [can’t even remember what was in it – collard greens & spinach?], nutritional yeast flakes, ground sesame seeds, curry powder, sea salt, & cayenne pepper)
Supper: Gray Mush (pureed black soybean “hummus” with gluten-free grain blend, ground chia, flax, and sesame seeds)Dessert: Pink Mush (Raspberry applesauce + small amount of carob powder)

For the record, I didn’t eat any more pureed eggs or burgers during the remainder of the experiment.  While the taste wasn’t too terrible, the very idea of these foods in a blender makes me ill.  Don’t even get me started on the notion of thickened milk!

Baby Food for Grown-Ups:

Here are 3 recipes I actually enjoyed during my pureed plunge…

Sweet Butternut Squash Sauce (Makes 1 serving):

*1/2 cup cooked butternut squash meat (no skin!)

*1/2 cup cooked sweet potatoes (peeled)

*~1/2 cup water (or just enough for processing)

*1/2 tsp cinnamon

Put all ingredients into a blender/food processer and blend away!  It is delicious served hot or cold.

Peas Porridge Hot (Makes 3-4 servings):

*2 cups cooked split peas

To prepare split peas: Soaking overnight is not required, but I prefer to.  Rinse ’em whether or not you choose to soak ’em.  Bring 6 cups of water and 2 pounds of split peas to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until peas are tender.  Warning: this can take a couple of hours.  In my experience, they are resistant little bastards!  P.S.  You will have lots of extra peas!

*2 cups cooked spaghetti squash innards (mashed potatoes would work too if you aren’t feeling too adventurous)

To prepare spaghetti squash: Cut spaghetti squash width-wise, remove seeds, and place on an oiled cookie sheet.  Heat in a 400 degree oven (~30 minutes or until the insides are mushy enough to be extracted).  It’s really that simple!

*1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes (optional)

*Handful of raw baby spinach leaves

*Water (sufficient for processing)

Blend all ingredients using as much water as necessary.  Once you’ve reached pea pudding, pour desired portion into serving bowl.  I used a microwave to heat the mixture through.  Before eating…  **Stir in the juice of 1 lemon and a dash of salt & cayenne pepper.  Optional additions: some type of smooth delicious fat: guacamole, sour cream, hummus, coconut oil, almond butter, etc.

Chocolate Banana “Ice Cream” Smoothie? (Makes 1-2 servings)

**NOTE: I had to wrestle my results from Derek after letting him taste it. 🙂

*1 banana (frozen is best, but mine wasn’t, so I added ice cubes)

*1-2 Tbsp cocoa powder

*~1/2 cup light coconut milk

*Ground sesame seeds (~2 Tbsp?)

*Ice cubes

*Vanilla extract/powder (optional)

Blend!  I apologize for the lack of direction on this one, but it was created on a whim.  You’ll have to experiment with the addition of milk, seeds, & ice in order to achieve a soft-serve/smoothie-type creation.

Bye Bye Baby (Food) Lessons learned: A regular concern in long term care facilities is resident malnutrition and dehydration.  As people age, they tend to experience more digestive discomfort due to diminishing stomach acid.  This can make eating less pleasant.  Living in a nursing home can cause an overwhelming sense of control loss.  Depression may ensue, dampening the desire to eat.  Certain medications may quell this urge even further.  With age, thirst mechanisms are also compromised.  On top of this, many follow some variation of the dysphagia diet: food texture modifications and/or thickened liquids.

As a dietetic intern at a nursing home, I noted one of the most important jobs of my preceptor.  During lunch, we would always go to the cafeteria.  Observations were made and encouragements were put forth:  “Try to eat all of your potatoes, Evelyn” & “Don’t forget to finish your water, Roy”.

The truth is…

If someone put pureed meatloaf  & thickened water at my fingertips on a daily basis, I’d probably end up malnourished and dehydrated too!  Like the nurses who tell you to cut back on sweets while putting out their cigarettes, dietitians may be the first to admit that many of us would sooner starve than put our meals in a blender and stir modified food starch into our wine glasses.

However, due to the blah nature of my diet, I spent more time pursuing other interests.  A coworker of mine told me that she tends to eat fast, because it is the least important part of her day.  While I have a preference for eating healthy foods in a slow manner, I told her that I sometimes wish I could follow that philosophy as well.  It’s nice to be so busy doing other things that eating becomes just one more thing that needs to be done to keep going.  Destroying the tendency of tying food to emotion can be very liberating.  In fact, as noted by my ally, it can be an indispensable tool for people with food restrictions.

Next diet: Low-copper Diet for Wilson’s Disease.  Update coming soon…

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