For the millions of Americans experiencing dysphagia — the medical term for having difficulty swallowing or chewing — finding food that is equally nutritious, flavorful, and easy to eat can often seem impossible.
By Erin Embry, Clinical Assistant Professor, Graduate Advisor, and Speech@NYU Program Director
So in an effort to reframe that mindset, students and faculty at Speech@NYU, the online master’s in speech pathology from NYU Steinhardt, created “Dining with Dysphagia: A Cookbook”, a recipe book that provides more enticing options for those struggling with the condition.
Although dysphagia is most common in elderly adults, it is a condition that can impact just about anyone including veterans, children with developmental disabilities, and those diagnosed with diseases such as Parkinson’s, head and neck cancers, and stroke. People who care for others with the condition are often tasked with preparing pureed food that fulfills their nutritional and medical needs, but unfortunately these foods are often bland and unappetizing. Likewise, a minimal focus is placed on aesthetics and the foods are presented as “mushy.” But by taking the time to focus on enhancing the flavor, aroma, and of course, taste of easy-to-swallow foods, these typically dull dishes can be elevated to a higher level.
While developing the eight recipes found in “Dining with Dysphagia,” students experimented with a variety of ingredients that are softer in texture such as fish, potatoes, and ground beef to create diverse dishes that appealed to both the eyes and the taste buds. In fact, these recipes were chosen as a result of an annual cooking competition at the school called NYU Steinhardt’s Dysphagia Iron Chef Competition. Dishes were judged on taste, texture, aroma, and overall enjoyment of eating. The recipes from this year’s competition can be found in the cookbook and include Asian Chicken Meatballs, Vegetarian Chili, and Chocolate Chia Pudding, among others.
Even though the initial inspiration for “Dining with Dysphagia” was to provide more options for those who have difficulty swallowing, the cookbook also serves as an opportunity to start a larger conversation about dysphagia, a condition that can affect anyone from any walk of life. When we begin to discuss this condition on a broader scale, further progress can be made toward improving the quality of life for those who suffer from dysphagia by providing new food options that not only nourish the body, but also the soul.
To learn more about the “Dining with Dysphagia” cookbook visit: https://speech.steinhardt.nyu.edu/dysphagia-cookbook/about/.
With a dual degree in both Communication Sciences and Disorders and Health Policy and Management, Erin Embry’s approach to teaching and leadership promotes interdisciplinary collaboration at all levels of academic, clinical and professional training. She is the Director of the Speech@NYU online MS program in Communicative Sciences and Disorders and the graduate student academic advisor. Embry teaches courses related to the clinical process, swallowing disorders, and professional issues. She is actively involved in department and school-wide curriculum development with a focus on cultivating collaborative efforts of various disciplines in the educational and healthcare settings. With over 15 years of experience as a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist, Embry has devoted her clinical and academic career to adults with acquired brain injuries and progressive neurological diseases.