As you may know I had radiotherapy to my throat in April. Its now late July and my throat still hurts when I eat. I’ve searched the Internet for sore throat foods and read through so many pages. They’re all so similar its as if they’ve been written by the same author (or they’ve just copied from one another)! Mash potato, eggs, jelly, ice cream, then add various herbal teas, concoctions with garlic and cinnamon, and peddle a few health foods, etc etc. Done.
I’m going to try to expand on this slightly to at least explain what is needed and give some real meal ideas. So if you’ve had radiotherapy, you’re trying to cook for someone who has, or you just want to find sore throat foods for whatever reason I hope I can expand on other posts here.
What foods can’t you eat?
Unfortunately Its actually more a case of what foods can you eat. I’ve been experimenting – tasting my husbands food, kids foods, taking a risk with my own meals. Its depressing how much I can’t eat. There is lots I could tolerate with the right painkillers and by swishing with water every bite but it can get pretty painful!
The good news is that I do think I’m improving ever so slowly – some foods that I couldn’t tolerate at the beginning of the healing process I’m slowly coming to be able to eat.
It gets pretty tedious making the same stuff all the time so try to experiment to see what new foods you can tolerate. I also batch cooked sauces, vegetables in white sauce (see pic above), sausages with the skins soft or cut off and bought in microwave mash potato and ready meals that I knew would be ok.
So there are two issues with food at the moment – texture and acidity.
The skin of the mouth and throat have been through a lot. Healing is still taking place. So scratchy foods, dry foods or hard foods are a big no no. Adding liquid or a sauce will help as will mashing or pureeing the food. The puree diet in hospital is deliberately dry as it is aimed at patients with dysphagia (something else I suffered)!
By making the food dry it takes longer to swallow so the patient has time to control his or her throat movements. Unfortunately that means it scratches like hell going down for patients with a sore throat. Asking for extra gravy is sometimes fraught with danger depending on the food staff! A good stew, casserole, or the inside of a pie is the sort of consistency that is nice and easy to swallow.
Solutions: Add a sauce (plain Béchamel, and gravies work well), mash or puree the food, soak in liquid, opt for foods that ‘slide’ down the throat.
When you put a food that is acidic into your mouth you’ll get about 1 second of the flavour you remember and love. Then your mouth heats up until it feels like it is on fire. It’s like when you bite into a pizza that is too hot and you burn the roof of your mouth on the cheese. If the acidity is mild, or the morsel small, you may be lucky enough to be able to swish with water and continue eating. But some of the worst offenders mean getting up from the table to brush your teeth and get going with the three different mouthwashes you’ve been given for a full three minutes each!
Solutions: Unfortunately the main solution is to simply avoid acidic foods – some foods you can look up but I can’t seem to find a definitive list of what foods are acidic and which are not. Don’t be fooled by the ‘alkaline’ diet – that only splits foods depending on the effect the food has on the body, not the actual pH value of the food itself. You can reduce the ‘sting’ of food by the ever present glass of water, and big globs of crème fraîche.
Foods to definitely avoid
- Tomatoes and tomato based sauces (acidity)
- Chocolate (acidity 😫)
- Nuts (texture, unless you can get them virtually to a powder)
- Sweetcorn (texture, I found this surprising but they hurt)!
- Salad (texture, unless you put globs of sauce on it I suppose)
- Spices/Spicy foods
- Chips (too crispy/scratchy)
- Rice (too dry and scratchy)
- Bread/Toast (too dry, unless soaked in soup)
- Chewy sweets (these get stuck in your teeth meaning the stinging is prolonged)
- Baked Beans (the tomato sauce is too acidic)
- Pretty much all fruits, even bananas to start with
Foods I believe are good to go
Some of these do have a tiny bit of sting to them but its mild and I find I can cope fine.
- Mash potato (add extra butter or milk if necessary so its not too stiff to swallow)
- Bread (softened in soup or other liquid, see my Milky Bread breakfast recipe below)
- Eggs (poached is best as the white is slidey and the yolk is runny)
- Béchamel sauce (butter, flour and milk. You can make a batch and store in the fridge – it goes hard but softens when heated)
- Crème fraîche
- Some yoghurts (experiment with brands but the plainer the better or opt for kids yogurts)
- Gravy (thank goodness for gravy powder)!
- Hollandaise sauce
- Salt, pepper and herbs (though to start with salt was a little stingy)
- Weetabix when softened with milk
- Huel (Powdered food)
- Ice cream
- Horlicks & Ovaltine
- Black olives
- Minced meats
- Sausage meat (I cook regular sausages so the skin is still soft or cut the skin off)
- Sliced cooked ham cut into small pieces
- Any meat really so long as you cut it up finely
- Tuna (mix with crème fraîche instead of mayo)
- Fish, chopped small, cooked to not be dry
So what meals can I have?
- Poached eggs with a little salt and pepper and a sprinkle of cheese (see pic above)
- Milky Bread (I toast some slices of white bread, rip into small pieces in a bowl, add sugar to taste and cover with milk. I then microwave for 3 minutes. Milky Bread looks pretty awful but is soft and filling, and the pieces slide down your sore throat.)
Lunch and Dinner
- Jacket Potato (leave the skin) with crème fraîche and tuna
- Lasagne (make the meat sauce with gravy rather than tomatoes)
- Shepherds Pie
- Mash Potato, soft-skin cooked sausages, gravy and greens mixed with a béchamel sauce
- Omelette with cheese and chopped up ham
- Pasta with white sauce and vegetables
- Ice cream
I’ve found it surprisingly easy to choose a suitable option from restaurant and cafe menus – though sometimes its only one option. However you can modify many meals by getting extra sauce meaning more ‘scratchy’ foods can be eaten – just cut them up small enough and eat them with enough sauce.
Any chef should be able to accommodate your needs, especially once you explain the situation. The only troubles I’ve had have been trying to get across a simple white sauce to a foreign waitress where everything just got lost in comprehension and translation – after offering a red wine jus, a white wine sauce then just extra gravy the message finally was understood!
Explain to the waiting staff that you’ve had treatment to your throat then ask the chef to make you extra gravy or a plain béchamel sauce. All restaurants should have flour, butter and milk so this should never really be a problem!
I’m sure if I were more adventurous, or more willing to accept the pain I’d experiment more with foods and be able to help you find more sore throat foods. But once I did find things I could eat I stuck to what I knew!
I’m also pretty convinced that there are foods that don’t make sense on both lists – perhaps I tried something acidic on a day when my pain meds were working great, or tried something that should be okay but I was having a bad day. All I can say is I’m sorry!
I hope to update this post when I find new foods to add to the lists, I’ll also update when I can finally start eating ‘normally’ – I hope its soon!!!
Kim Debling is a Hampshire, UK based designer and Director of her own company Kestrel Design Ltd. She is mum to Rose and Harvey and wife to her best friend Steve. She’s fighting off Stage 4 Lymphoma and sharing her story along the way, mainly via YouTube. Kim is passionate about being happy, mental wellbeing and in particular art and creative pursuits as therapy during tough times. She teaches online at Udemy, has published books and has art and printables available for sale.