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Texture-modified meals developed for patients with swallowing difficulties

SINGAPORE — Come next April, caregivers will be able to order ready-made, texture-modified meals for older patients who have difficulty swallowing food. These pre-packed meals, formulated by Changi General Hospital (CGH) and produced by Singapore-based nutrition company Health Food Matters (HFM), will feature 14 different South-east Asian dishes such as dim sum chicken and seafood otah.

Texture-modified meals developed for patients with swallowing difficulties

Changi General Hospital develops ready-to-eat texture-modified Asian meals for those with swallowing difficulties. Photo: Wee Teck Hian

SINGAPORE — Come next April, caregivers will be able to order ready-made, texture-modified meals for older patients who have difficulty swallowing food. These pre-packed meals, formulated by Changi General Hospital (CGH) and produced by Singapore-based nutrition company Health Food Matters (HFM), will feature 14 different South-east Asian dishes such as dim sum chicken and seafood otah.

Caregivers may order these meals online via the HFM website, and prices will be made available closer to their launch date. CGH said that about one in three elderly patients at the hospital have difficulty swallowing food, a common problem among stroke, Parkinson’s disease and dementia patients.

Difficulty in swallowing, also called dysphagia, is also present in 68 per cent of older residents in nursing homes and 64 per cent of stroke patients. These patients must be fed with food of specific textures, such as smaller-sized and softer solid food. This helps to minimise choking and aspiration (inhaling food into the lungs).

Ms Magdalin Cheong, deputy director of the hospital’s department of dietetic and food services, said that all the dishes in the ready-made meal range have enough nutrients to meet the recommended daily intake for one meal.

Ms Grace Gan, co-founder of HFM, said that the meals would add variety to the patients’ diets beyond the staple steamed-fish-and-porridge meal.

Ms Gan, who is also a speech therapist, met many patients who told her about their loss of appetite due to dietary restrictions.

HFM started operations in September 2014 and began selling specialised foods last December. CGH developed the first batch of meals after it partnered with HFM last September. Its patients with dysphagia were given the food as part of a trial this January. Previously, CGH served them more “plain” meals, such as steamed fish and chicken with oyster sauce.

Dr Lee Chien Earn, CGH’s chief executive officer, said that the trial “progressively” improved on the recipes and took into account the types of food left untouched on the tray, and surveys with patients on their preferences. ILIYAS JUANDA

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