If you are suffering with TMJ, your jaw pain may make it hard to eat many different foods. Before you seek help, you might try eating a soft diet for a week or so to see how well it allows your muscles to relax and reduces your jaw pain. Although it should ideally only be a short-term solution, it’s still important to try to eat a healthy diet even while you’re trying a soft diet. A soft diet requires that your food be soft and easy to chew. It’s not the same thing as a blended food or liquid diet. These are all normal food options, just selected from the soft side.

Here’s some ideas for a healthy soft food diet. One quick tip: an Instant Pot is a great tool for softening foods quickly while retaining flavor and nutrition.

A bowl of mixed quinoa sits on a wooden counter top

Grains

About a quarter of your daily food intake should be in the form of grains, ideally half of them in whole grains. Good choices for whole grains on a soft diet include oatmeal and cereals made with whole grain. It’s easy to fit cereals into a soft diet if you allow them to soak in milk to obtain an easy-to-eat consistency. Obviously, some cereals taste better this way than others–you might have some experimenting to do. Well-cooked brown rice is another excellent choice. Properly cooked bulgur or quinoa can also be great options. Avoid crusty breads, pizza, hard biscuits, and cereals with nuts or fruit.

Looking for a recipe? Try this Instant Pot Mexican quinoa!

Fruits and Vegetables

It’s important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, ideally a mixture of colors. Fresh fruit can be good if it’s ripe, soft, and typically without the skin. The best melt-in-your-mouth Colorado peaches are a great example of fruits you can enjoy on a soft diet, or a ripe Rocky Ford cantaloupe. Another great choice is garden ripened tomatoes, sliced. For greens try spinach or well-cooked broccoli. You can eat carrots and other crunchy vegetables if they’re well-cooked or shredded. In the summer, people are probably wanting to give you tons of zucchini from their gardens, so take a few and dig in. In the fall, pumpkins and other winter squash are a great choice. Avoid hard or fibrous fruits like apples and pineapple. Also avoid corn, especially corn on the cob.

Here’s a guide for cooking vegetables in your Instant Pot, including several recipes.

Dairy

It’s easy to get dairy on a soft diet, and this can also be used to help make sure you’re getting enough protein. You can drink milk, eat soft cheeses, such as ricotta or cottage cheese, eat yogurt, ice cream, and soft dairy desserts. Cream cheese also works well. Don’t eat hard cheeses unless melted or crumbled. Avoid ice cream with nuts or other hard chunks.

Proteins

In addition to dairy, soft protein choices include eggs, beans when cooked soft, and tofu. Tender cooked meat, chicken, pork, or fish is also good. Pulled pork, for example, is a delicious soft diet item. Ground meats are good, but avoid sausage with skins, and don’t bite into a tall hamburger. Finely chopped prawns and scallops work, too.

Consider this recipe for Instant Pot Mongolian chicken. Just remember to cook the carrots until they’re nice and tender.

Another great choice is beans and legumes. Whether we’re talking about lentils or beans, there are many options for preparing these seeds in a tasty way. Lentil soup can easily be made a complete protein and it’s very tasty. Pinto beans can be the basis for a taco bowl, though you might want to avoid the shells or chips. Use rice instead. Beans and legumes are also high in magnesium, which can improve your sleep and might help curb migraines.

Try this recipe for Instant Pot golden lentil soup.

A Soft Food Diet Doesn’t Have to Be Bland

A soft diet can actually be a really tasty way to spend a week. There are many great recipes that will allow you to eat well while resting your jaw joint. And by the time you’re just starting to get sick of eating soft food diet, your jaw should be recovered.

If it’s not better after a week or so of soft food, it’s time to talk to a dentist about TMJ. Please call (303) 691-0267 for an appointment with a TMJ dentist at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado in Denver.