Blenderized Tube Feeding: 5 Steps for Getting Started from a Registered Dietitian

a woman's hands cutting fruits and veggies on a table next to a blender cup and tube syringe

My guess is your tube feeding journey has come with lots of challenges. No matter how much effort you put in, you continue to struggle. You’re following all the advice even when it makes life harder, yet you or your loved one are just getting by, not truly thriving.

You’re frustrated because the “solutions” presented to you are just covering up the symptoms, not actually fixing the real problem. So you find yourself on this never ending spiral, completely burnt out.

You’ve heard real food could be the game changer, but you’re not sure where to start. And you’re already so busy, you need someone to take work off your plate, not add to it!

I am a Registered Dietitian with over 7 years of tube feeding experience, and have helped many families successfully switch to a blenderized diet, and I know you can too! There’s a practical way to introduce real food into tube feeding that not only works well but can also give you back some time in your day as your child begins to feel better.

To make this process simpler, I’ve created a five-step plan to walk you through at your own pace. Rather than feeling overwhelmed, you will quickly gain confidence you can create nutritious meals for tube feeding in no time.

I hope you’re getting excited, this can be such a fun journey with the right support!

Step 1: Set Yourself Up for Success

fruits and veggies on a cutting board

Before starting your journey, it is essential to get an updated height and weight, especially for children. Keeping track of growth closely through the first year will help you catch slow or excessive weight gain so you can make adjustments before it becomes concerning.

The next step is to inform your health care team. Now I’m guessing you are here because aren’t getting the support you need, so you may be thinking, why do I need to tell them. I hear you. It is frustrating to be told you can’t provide real food through a feeding tube when there are obvious health benefits over synthetic formula. 

However, by being open and sharing your experience, you can help your team learn alongside you. Most dietitians are eager to learn and gain more knowledge, they just lack proper training in this area and feel unsure. By working together, you can help the next family who is interested in a blended diet.

Plus, I’ve created a large database of recipes that mirror the calorie concentration of formula for you to use. This means you can easily transition from formula to blended food without worrying about calorie intake. It’s an approach your team can get behind because they can do all of their usual calculations and monitoring!

Still hesitant or not sure how to start the conversation? Download my “Talking to Your Health Care Professional Guide” for tips on how to best prepare for the conversation. 

If your team will not support you and your family’s decision, consider finding a different dietitian or a team who will. There are many out there, including myself, who would love to support you.

Step 2: Choose One Blended Diet Recipe

The next step is to figure out what you are going to blend first. Now this is the part that can feel overwhelming, but remember, I have a lot of recipes for you so you don’t have to think about what to blend!

The Blended Tube Feeding Made Simple contains 40+ recipes in 3 different calorie categories: 1.1 calorie per mL, 1.3 calorie per mL, and 1.5 calorie per mL. They are designed to make it easy to swap out your formula for blended food and not worry about getting the calories or nutrients “right”.

You’ll start by selecting just one recipe. We will introduce new foods one at a time, and replace meals slowly, so one recipe is plenty for a while. And remember this recipe does not need to be perfect, it will not be your only source of nutrition through the transition!  

Not having to think about what to blend as you’re getting started takes a lot of the stress away. Families in the Blended Tube Feeding Made Simple Membership love this convenience! They also have access to starter recipes with just a few ingredients, so they can take things a little slower if they need to. Plus, lots of fun holiday and seasonal recipes and sick day and bowel regularity recipes included too.

If you don’t have to take as calculated of an approach, you can consider taking a different approach! For example, if you’re an adult who had been eating by mouth and now has a feeding tube for a medical reason, you don’t HAVE to follow recipes.

Instead, you could make a plate just like you would to eat by mouth. Add it to the blender with liquid and blend, that’s it! After all, a feeding tube is just another way to get nutrition into the body, the food is just prepared a little differently. You’ll learn more about this soon.

In my experience, starting with recipes lessens the learning curve. Just like when people are learning how to cook, using recipes can be helpful because there is less trial and error! But over time, they understand how things work together and no longer have to follow recipes. It can be the same with blended tube feeding!

Step 3: Gather Blenderized Food Equipment

While there are tools to help make this process more efficient, you just need the basics to get started. You likely have most of these things already! Here are the essential tools for getting started on a blended diet:

  1. Measuring cups and spoons
  2. Food scale 
  3. Food thermometer
  4. Fine mesh strainer
  5. Storage containers (freezable deli containers, breast milk bags or freezer safe mason jars are popular options!)
  6. High-powered blender

I highly suggest investing in a high-powered blender like the Vitamix or Blendtec, as they can completely liquify food! Both companies typically offer some kind of medical discount. If you’d like to learn more, don’t hesitate to contact me!

fruits and veggies in a blender

Pro tip: Keep a fine mesh strainer on hand. There may be times your high-powered blender doesn’t catch all the food and you won’t want to throw it out!

To see a list of my favorite blended tube feeding products, head to the recommended product page. There are links to the products listed above, and a few more tools you may find helpful later in your blending journey.

Step 4: Introduce New Foods and meals Slowly

Now it’s time for the fun part, actually blending and providing real food! If the last sentence made you feel overwhelmed, don’t stress! We are taking things slowly, remember? This does not have to be a total overhaul, you’re allowed to just test drive for as long as you need.

For those just getting started, here are a few things to think about and steps you can take to go at your own pace.

1. If needed, test out new foods for an allergy or intolerance:

  • To do this, you can either purchase a pre-made puree of the food you would like to introduce, or you can puree it yourself with water and add one tablespoon of the puree to a formula meal.
  • Do this once a day for two to three days, monitor symptoms, then try the next food until all new foods have been tested.

2. Just replace one meal (or a small volume) to start:

  • It is important to introduce meals slowly, especially if fiber is new to the diet. In my experience, going too quickly can cause GI discomfort which forces you to take a few steps back. This can feel defeating!
  • Replace just one meal to be blended food and continue with just one meal replaced for three to five days, or longer if needed. If you want an even slower introduction, start with half formula and half blended food for that one meal replaced. 

3. Continue to replace meals as tolerated:

  • Every three to five days (or slower if needed), replace another meal.
  • Work towards how ever many home-cooked meals you wish to provide versus commercial formula. It is okay if you do a combination for a while to get a system down, or continue a balance of both long-term. It does not have to be all or nothing! 

4. Rotate in new foods and/or recipes:

  • If the transition takes longer than a couple of weeks, consider rotating in a new recipe every one to two weeks for more nutrient variety. Just be sure to test the new ingredients first if needed.

If this part still feels overwhelming, more support is available! Blended Tube Feeding Made Simple provides families with a straightforward, step-by-step guide to transitioning to real food for tube feeding. You’ll also find short form videos and downloadable handouts for each step, perfect for quick reference or sharing with other caregivers. Plus, you’ll join a friendly and supportive community and have direct access to me, you don’t have to navigate this alone!

Step 5: Optimize Your Blenderized Diet

After the first few weeks, you should be feeling more confident in your ability to make and provide blended meals! Here are a few things to think about:

Nutrient Variety: It’s easy to get into a routine, but it’s important to give a variety of nutrients to stay healthy. Start slowly introducing new recipes and making changes to existing recipes, like swapping out chicken for beef. I also want to encourage you to remember a feeding tube is just another way to get nutrition into the body. Tube feeding doesn’t have to be boring, with real food everyone in the family can be included (like in holiday meals), and this provides even more nutrient variety!

Growth: Monitor weight closely to make sure you’re giving enough calories. If growth has been slower than expected or you’ve seen weight loss, slowly increase the volume of meals (even just adding 5-10 mL to a meal every week or so can make a difference!). You can also focus on blending higher calorie foods or adding calorie boosters to your meals. You can find some fun, high calorie ideas in this post!

Hilarie Dreyer holding a pink blended meal

Hydration: Make sure to check in with your health care team on your hydration needs. Blended food typically contains less water than formula, typically estimated to be around 75% water, but this can vary greatly. So you may need to increase water intake, especially as you add in more fiber. Try giving this additional water between meals or before meals for better tolerance. You can find more tips for managing fluids in this post.

And with that, you’re well on your way to providing nourishing, home-cooked meals for yourself or your tube fed loved one! I hope this has helped make the process simpler and more enjoyable!

Take care and happy blending!

Hilarie, RD, CSP

*Disclaimer: The information and education provided here is not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional medical advice. Always check with your own medical professional before trying to implement any information provided here

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