Are you, or is someone you love, on a real food diet but needs to be on a liquid diet for awhile? If so, this DIY Meal Replacement Shake - a natural "Pediasure® alternative" is for you. It's a super helpful recipe for those who want to eat Real Food but have an eating challenge.
As a speech therapist, part of my job (about 60% in the nursing home) was swallowing evaluations and rehabilitation. As we age, sometimes we lose the ability to eat real food and swallow safely. This difficulty could be related to age, strokes, mental diseases like Alzheimer's.
Eating issues aren't only for the older community. In my family, I have two nephews who had swallowing issues at birth. They had feeding tubes placed within their first year of life.
They are both still primarily fed through feeding tubes at ages 10 and 3.
According to Endonurse.com, about half a million people in the US rely on feeding tubes for their nutrition.
Who Uses Liquid Meal Replacement Shakes?
Even when your child can eat, sometimes they choose not to.
I hear all the time about parents who are encouraged to feed their toddlers or picky kids Pediasure to make sure they are getting all the essential nutrition they need to grow.
Maybe your child falls into one of these categories:
- Picky Eater
- Labeled Failure to Thrive
- Kids with Oral Aversions
- Dealing with Sickness (When they are too weak to eat)
What is in Pediasure?
Pediasure is full of highly processed ingredients and is full of sugar. Here are the ingredients in Pediasure:
Water, Sugar (Sucrose), Corn Maltodextrin, Milk Protein Concentrate, High Oleic Safflower Oil, Soy Oil, Whey Protein Concentrate, Medium-Chain Triglycerides. Less than 0.5% of the Following: Soy Protein Isolate, Short-Chain Fructooligosaccharides, Cellulose Gel, Magnesium Phosphate, Potassium Citrate, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Phosphate, Artificial Flavor, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Phosphate, Salt (Sodium Chloride), Cellulose Gum, Choline Chloride, Ascorbic Acid, Soy Lecithin, Monoglycerides, C. Cohnii Oil, m-Inositol, Potassium Hydroxide, Carrageenan, Taurine, Ferrous Sulfate, dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, L-Carnitine, Zinc Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Niacinamide, Manganese Sulfate, Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Cupric Sulfate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Folic Acid, Chromium Chloride, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenate, Sodium Molybdate, Phylloquinone, Cyanocobalamin, and Vitamin D3. Contains milk and soy ingredients.
Sugar is the second ingredient... And this is a healthy food?
One issue with sugar is that it makes us even more sick and fuels diseases...
It is also well researched that placing a feeding tube in an individual does not guarantee " improving nutrition, maintaining skin integrity by increased protein intake, preventing aspiration pneumonia, minimizing suffering, improving functional status, or extending life." (To PEG or Not to PEG--PEG is using a feeding tube)
Could this research be a result of what we are feeding these people who are unable to eat real food?
There is another option - Making Your Own Meal Replacement Shakes
My sister, Aleecia, began to research on her own after finding no support for feeding real food for her boys through their tubes. They needed nutrition, but canned Pediasure was not going to be her answer.
She found information on using a high-quality blender for making blends that were full of vitamins and nutrients that she could make herself using whole foods. She has been blending their own food since the fall of 2006.
My sister's boys are healthy. They are rarely sick, despite their disease process (PMD). Having a healthy immune system is very important when you are dealing with compromised strength and tone.
Benefits of a meal replacement shake / Pediasure® Alternative
1) Customized diet
If your child is showing deficiencies or needs more fat, you can add those into the blend easily. My sister will add extra coconut oil, avocado or even liver to her boy's blends. The customized nutrition makes sure they are getting the vitamins and minerals they need.
2) Knowing what you are feeding children
You can make a blend of whole foods using the food you are feeding your whole family. Did you cook sweet potatoes for dinner? Add those into the blend. Did you make fried eggs cooked in coconut oil? You can add that to the blend too! There is no need to worry about what preservatives or additives are in the food.
3) No added sugar
Remember the second ingredient was sugar in the ensure? When using whole foods, the energy comes from natural sources like vegetables, protein and fat.
4) Improved health
Since you are able to customize their diet and limit sugar, you should be able to see the improvement in your kid's health as well. Here is a real life example of how feeding a child a whole foods blend improved her health:
5) Saves Money
As with most things you can make yourself, making your own food supplements at home is also cheaper. You don't have to pay the manufacturing cost and you are already buying food for your family.
What about convenience?
Yes, blending your own food does take more time than opening a can.
My sister has been blending her own Real Food meal replacements since the fall of 2006. She uses a Blendtec blender. On the road, she brings an ice chest and her blender everywhere she goes.
If you are unable to blend your own whole food for your kids or need a portable option there are companies who make whole food meal replacements. You can buy Whole Food Meal Replacements from Functional Formularies (not an affiliate) and even Whole Foods carries a Real Food line of supplements now.
When you have to make the choice to supplement, know that there is another option other than Pediasure or Ensure. It could help improve your child's health and give you the peace of mind of knowing you are still giving them the best nutrition.
Learn more about feeding whole foods to kids with feeding tubes here: Laura of Ancestralize Me wrote her Master's Paper on "The Use of Blenderized Tube Feeding in Pediatric Patients: Evidence and Guidelines for Dietetic Practice." She explains in her research how families are able to blend their own food and use whole foods successfully.
Following is Aleecia's Whole Food Blend Recipe:
This is my sister's blend for her boys. She makes this 4x a day to feed both of them.
- Starch options include beans (see How to De-Gas Beans), potato, rice, and oatmeal (or other gluten-free grains). Skip this for a low-carb option. Use sweet potato or other on-plan starch for AIP.
- For protein, bacon, beef, chicken, eggs, and cheese (use vegan proteins if necessary) are good choices. Use a quality protein powder for a sweet version.
- Fruits that would work well are apple, orange, banana, etc. Use berries for a lower-carb option.
- Green peas, green beans, broccoli, and salad mix would work great for veggies or greens.
- Here is a great brand of stevia.
- This recipe is a crossover if you are on the Trim Healthy Mama plan.
DIY Meal Replacement Shake | Natural Pediasure ® Alternative
- 1 cup starch (rice, oatmeal, etc. See Recipe Notes for options)
- 4 ounces protein (meat, chicken, protein powder. See Recipe Notes for options)
- 1 piece fruit
- 1/2 - 1 cup veggies or greens
- 1-2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
- Enough liquid to fill to the 4 cup mark on blender. Use either water or stock. (about 1-2 cups)
- Optional: Raisins or Seeds, Cocoa, Stevia Extract, etc. for a sweet version.
- Blend everything together well for 1.5-3 minutes.
- On a Blendtec use "Soup" setting and run for 90 seconds, if it needs to blend again, run another 90 seconds.
- Using a Vitamix, blend on high for 60 seconds or more, until smooth.
Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is merely an approximation. Optional ingredients are not included and when there is an alternative, the primary ingredient is typically used. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of the nutritional information given for any recipe on this site. Erythritol carbs are not included in carb counts since they have been shown not to impact blood sugar. Net carbs are the total carbs minus fiber.
Sweet Shake Version and Where to Buy Protein Powder
The above recipe is a savory one. If you decide to make a sweet version of this shake, you can of course do so. Use a high quality organic protein powder instead of animal protein. Collagen hydrolysate is a good option but it isn't a complete protein.
Here are some protein powders that are good choices:
Orgain is great tasting but some people have digestive upset from it so just note that if you decide to try it. I used to, but I don't any longer.
Have you ever needed to supplement your child's diet? What method did you choose?
Angela Parker, SLP, CCC is head writer of GrassfedMama.com. She was born and raised in Louisiana, but moved to Richmond, Va recently for a new adventure. She has been married for almost 10 years to her high school sweetheart and has two little girls: Aidalyn and Annaleigh. She’s a speech therapist by trade, but decided to be a stay at home mom while her girls are little. Her passions include health, wellness, healing through nutrition, medicines, cooking with whole foods, and natural parenting. Check her out at Grassfed Mama. Follow her on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Face