Fact sheetDiet specifications

Published on 1 Nov 2011

Diet supporting patient consumption - finger food

This document is part of the ACI Diet Specifications for Adult Inpatients. It is not to be used for patient education.


To provide a diet that is easy to eat without cutlery.


All food items must be able to be picked up with the fingers in one hand only. Sandwiches should be cut into halves or quarters.


Patients who are required to lie flat (eg those with spinal injuries, or those having brachytherapy for gynaecological, prostate or lung cancer). A finger-food diet may also be used for patients with Alzheimer’s disease, other dementia or cognitive impairment, or certain neuromuscular disorders.

Nutritional adequacy

Nutritionally adequate if appropriate choices made.


Foods offered should be energy- and nutrient-dense and good sources of fibre. Adaptive equipment (such as plate stabilisers and guards, spouted cups and mugs with handles) and the advice of an occupational therapist may be useful.


Suitable for use in paediatrics when combined with an age-appropriate diet.

Specific menu planning guidelines

Allowed Not allowed
Hot main dishesFinger foods (e.g. chicken nuggets, meatballs, fish fingers, cutlets, peeled boiled eggs, chicken legs, sausages)Wet dishes
Sauces, graviesFor dipping (including portion control sauces) Sauces or gravies served with main dishes
Starchy vegetables / pasta / ricePotato or kumara chips or wedges, or baked or steamed cubesCooked rice, noodles
VegetablesAll in bite-size pieces (eg carrot sticks, broccoli florets, beans)Peas, corn or vegetables in sauces
SoupsNone (unless able to be served in closed mug or consumed with straw) -
SandwichesAll sandwiches, cut into halves or quarters-
Salads, dressings

All, cut up or small pieces (eg cherry tomatoes)

Mayonnaise and dressings

Breads, cerealsBreads, muffins, crackers, dry breakfast cereal, muesli barsBreakfast cereals with milk
Spreads All -
Hot breakfast choicesPeeled boiled eggs -
FruitAll; whole pieces preferred (e.g. apples, bananas, grapes, plums)Fruit requiring a spoon to eat
Yoghurt - All

Cakes, pastries or slices

Ice-cream sandwiches or cones

Soft desserts such as custards or jellies requiring a spoon to eat
Milk and cheese All -
BeveragesAll (may need to be served in closed mug or consumed with straw) -
Biscuits All -
MiscellaneousOne high-energy mid-meal per day -


  1. Agency for Clinical Innovation. Nutrition standards for adult inpatients in NSW Hospitals. Sydney: ACI; 2011.
  2. Maher AK, editor; Iowa Dietetic Association. Simplified diet manual. 10th ed. Ames: Blackwell; 2007.
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