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Motor Neurone Disease - Eating & Drinking

This leaflet gives you information about eating safely and eating well in Motor Neurone Disease.

Eating, drinking and swallowing

Eating, drinking and swallowing can be a problem for people with MND. If you are having difficulty with this, it is important that you see a Speech & Language Therapist (SLT) for their assessment and input. Your GP can refer you to your local Speech & Language Therapy Service. Here are some ideas to help make eating, drinking and swallowing easier.

Maintaining your food intake:

  • Eat smaller portions, have ‘seconds’ and/or pudding
  • Keep ‘snacks’ handy to eat between meals
  • Choose softer textures which take less effort to chew and swallow
  • Add moisture to your food with gravy, sauces or custard for example
  • Dunk your biscuits in your tea/coffee

Making meals easier to manage:

  • Make sure you are sitting comfortably, as upright as you can , ensuring you are well supported
  • Keep distractions to a minimum
  • Try not to talk while you are eating or drinking
  • Allow plenty of time for meals and do not rush meals
  • Don’t put yourself under pressure, eat and drink slowly; “little and often” is the key

Difficult Textures

These are the types of food people often find difficult. You may need to avoid:

  • Stringy, fibrous texture eg pineapple, runner beans, celery, lettuce
  • Vegetable and fruit skins eg broad beans, peas, grapes
  • Mixed consistency foods eg cereals which do not blend with milk, mince with thin gravy, soup with lumps
  • Crunchy foods eg toast, flaky pastry, dry biscuits, crisps
  • Crumbly items eg bread crusts, pie crusts, dry biscuits
  • Hard foods eg boiled and chewy sweets and toffees, nuts and seeds
  • Husks eg sweetcorn and granary bread

Drinking

  • Ensure you take a small mouthful of drink
  • Drink slowly and do not ‘guzzle’ your drink
  • Rest momentarily in between sips of drink
  • A straw or a special ‘spouted’ cup may be helpful
  • Remember it is important to keep well hydrated, drink plenty throughout the day and evening
  • Do contact your local Speech & Language for more advice if drinking is a problem

Hints and tips for eating well

It is important to stay healthy, eat well and to maintain a steady weight. If for example you have a difficulty swallowing, find meals are taking longer to eat, or you have lost your appetite it can be hard to eat more. Here are some ideas:

? Have your main meal at the time of day you feel most well

? Try to eat every 2-3 hours ? Keep a store cupboard of easily prepared foods, eg tinned meats and fish, UHT milk and fruit juice, dried mashed potato, packet soups, instant puddings

? Save drinks for in-between or after meals, drinking before or with a meal can fill you up

? If you are finding cooking difficult try using ready prepared/convenience meals, or try cold foods if the smell of cooking is putting you off eating

? Avoid low fat, low sugar, no added sugar and diet products. Instead try to use full fat or full sugar products.

? Use 1 pint of full cream milk or enriched milk every day

To make fortified milk:

Take four tablespoons of dried milk powder,(eg Marvel, Five Pints) and make a paste with a little milk. Whisk in the remainder of the one pint of full fat milk. Store in a refrigerator and use as ordinary milk.

Increasing calories and protein

  • Try to have protein foods such as meat, fish, egg, cheese, dhal, quorn or tofu at least three times a day
  • Try to have a pudding once or twice a day, eg thick and creamy yoghurts, tinned rice pudding, sponge pudding and custard, trifle, mousse, fruit pie, crumbles, keer (sweet rice)
  • Don’t forget to accompany desserts such as fruit pie, crumble or sponge pudding with a sauce eg custard or cream
  • Include high calorie snacks eg sugar, jam, honey, sweets, chocolates, cakes, sweetmeats
  • Try to add butter, margarine or olive oil to foods when cooking as this will increase your calorie intake or fry foods rather than grilling or steaming
  • To potatoes try adding, cream, grated cheese, full fat fromage frais
  • To sauces try adding cheese, cream, milk powder, ghee, butter/margarine, peanut butter
  • To vegetables try adding butter/margarine, cheese/butter sauce

Snack ideas and light meal ideas

? Drink milk and milky drinks such as milkshakes, hot chocolate and milky coffees, use full fat versions where possible

? Individual desserts, eg thick and creamy yoghurt, chocolate mousse, fromage frais, custard

? Toast (using white bread and with the crusts cut off) or crumpet with butter and jam

? Toast or bread (using white bread and with the crusts cut off) with scrambled egg, cheese, baked beans, spaghetti,

? Omelette with grated cheese

? The insides of a Jacket potato with cheese, tuna mayonnaise, baked beans, egg mayonnaise

? Tinned macaroni cheese/ravioli

? “Cream of” soup with additional milk, cream, cheese

? Boil in the bag or oven ready fish with sauce and mashed potato.

Supplements

In some cases you may benefit having a special nutritional supplement in addition to your regular fortified meals and drinks. These can be drinks, powder-based or puddings that are generally prescribed by your GP under guidance from your local dietitian.

If you have diabetes please speak to your dietitian or GP as some of this advice may not be suitable for you.

Signs of difficulties to be aware of:

  • Difficulty chewing the food
  • Difficulty holding the drink in your mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Coughing when eating or drinking
  • Loss of appetite and/or disinterest in eating and drinking
  • Feeling easily tired when eating and drinking
  • Experiencing recurrent chest infections
  • Loosing weight in spite of a good appetite and eating well

If you notice one or more of these signs, it is important that you see your GP and ask for a referral to your local Speech & Language Therapist for their specialist advice.

  • Last Updated:
    01 October 2020
  • Review Date:
    01 October 2023
  • Author:
    Melainie Taylor
  • Summary:

    This leaflet gives you information about eating safely and eating well in Motor Neurone Disease.

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