Tips for Making Family Mealtime Gatherings Easier to Swallow

Jennifer Brush, MA,CCC/SLP with Karen Betz

Summer holidays, cookouts, and family picnics can be hard on someone who has a swallowing problem.  This week I have asked Karen Betz to serve as a guest for our blog.  Karen recently started a business called Smoothe Foods.  Karen was a caregiver for both of her parents. Her father is her inspiration for creating Smoothe Foods. 
He had Alzheimer’s with complications including dysphagia, which is the medical term for a swallowing disorder. Karen’s detected he was not eating because he could not swallow regular foods. Karen and her mother fed her father baby food which was neither nutritionally sound nor designed for adult consumption. Needless to say, it was emotionally degrading for her father as well as for other family members. Unfortunately, many family members people do not detect this and believe their parent does not want to eat. This leads to malnutrition, dehydration and ultimately a visit to the emergency room. Karen’s mission is clear; offering people a wonderful pureed meal, especially when they have so few options, has been a passion of hers for years. Serving the unsung foodie, the forgotten community – is her pleasure.

For those with dietary or eating restrictions, the thought of eating around a dinner table filled with loved ones and family members may be an intimidating, overwhelming thought: What can I eat? Will I be able to eat? What if complications happen in public?

Fortunately, Smoothe Foods, a leading wholesome soft and pureed food distributor, is a resident expert with these types of questions, as much of their clientele struggle with dysphagia (swallowing issues) caused by diseases such as  Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Parkinson’s or poor digestive functions, eating disorders, bariatric complications, and complications from dental and general surgeries.

 “Incorporating loved ones into family dinners can be tricky, especially during the holidays when group meals are frequent,” said Karen Betz. “Fortunately, we’re here to help to make everyone’s memories of holiday gatherings be positive ones.”
In addition to the advice of a physician, Smoothe Food’s holiday and picnic meal-inclusive tips are as follows:

Plan, plan, and plan some more.

  • While impromptu meals may happen, it’s important to plan meals ahead of time. Make it a point to set aside a date in advance to invite your loved ones, and give them a list of acceptable foods to bring. Using shared sites, such as Google documents, is a great idea to help put together an organized sign-up sheet.

Simply ask, and get creative.

  • Ask your loved ones how you can make them feel comfortable. Instead of serving hard breads for an appetizer, serve pureed soups that are easy to eat and digest. And, instead of hard desserts, like crunchy cookies, consider puddings and soufflés that can be as easily elegant as any finale to a meal. If group meals are still a definite no go, then opt for other group activities like craft nights or movie-watching gatherings, so that everyone can partake in the fun.


  • If you’re not able to host a dinner party and are invited by another host, ask what foods might be present. If the host is under a considerable amount of stress or may not be able to accommodate, it’s perfectly acceptable to decline. Instead, dine on a meal at your home that everyone can enjoy. At the end of the day, holidays are about family and friends, and not always about spotlighting as a social butterfly.


  • Serving buffet style helps draw attention away from the “special” diet your loved one requires. Whether they need pureed meals, chopped foods, gluten free foods, etc… a buffet will open up new tastes and textures to the whole family!

Finally, let Smoothe Foods be an easy solution to any difficult situation. The line of quality meals are not laden with fillers, and are a far cry from the traditional products on the market, which are powdered, canned, or boxed. The Smoothe Food menu boasts items like spinach lasagna, three bean chili, tangy vegetarian Swedish meatballs, filling shells with peas & mushrooms, and even cherry cheese blintz that can be served at dinner parties or packed and taken to others’ homes.

For more information on products and ordering, visit www.smoothefoods.com.

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