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Tay-Sachs, Canavan, GM1 and Sandhoff diseases

Tips For Swallowing More Safely

Before the meal

  • Eat when well rested, considered a short nap or rest before a meal.
  • Create a calm and relaxed eating environment. Turn off the television and radio.
  • Remember that anxiety makes choking worse, so try to keep the mood light and cheerful.
  • Sit in an accessible spot at the table, just in case choking occurs and a person has to quickly come to their aid.
  • To conserve energy try eating several (4-6) smaller meals throughout a day rather than three large ones.

During the meal

  • Allow plenty of time; food may need to be reheated.
  • Eat slowly, pausing between bites and sips (try tapping the table with the     utensil between bites to remember to go slower).
  • Eat sitting upright with head angled toward plate and remain upright for 30 minutes to reduce reflux and choking.
  • Limit talking.
  • Don't try to drink with a mouthful of food – the contrasting texture can be confusing and prompt choking.
  • Cut all solid foods in small pieces.
  • Use a salad fork or coffee spoon

Table Setting

  • Use non-slip table mats.
  • Weighted utensils with thick handles are easier to hold; regular cutlery can be converted by slipping the handles into appropriate lengths of foam rubber tubing.
  • Bendy straw in a plastic cup can be easier to manage for some people.


  • Soft, blended or pureed foods are generally easier to swallow.
  • Avoid dry, tough and stringy foods that might get stuck in the throat, such as crackers, popcorn or tough cuts of meat.
  • Liquids with the consistency of honey or milk-shake are generally easier to swallow. Dry mashed potatoes or baby rice cereal can be used to thicken meat and vegetable dishes. Tapioca or Jell-O are good for desserts. Corn-starch based commercial thickeners can be used in any food or liquid. Experiment with different brands to find a flavor you enjoy.
  • Avoid acidic and spicy foods. If aspirated, these types of food are more likely to cause pneumonia.
  • Start a food diary to keep track of what you ate and what strategies you tried and how easy/difficult it was to swallow.

Develop a Swallowing Plan with your Speech-Language Pathologist.