Real Food Tube Feeding Formulas: A Dietitian’s Review

Various commercial blended meal pouches

Curious what commercial blenderized tube feeding product is best or if you should try one?

As more real food products are added to the market, it can be confusing (and time consuming) to know what direction to take. I hope to bring you some clarity today, but my answer may differ from what you’re expecting!

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I don’t make decisions FOR you. In my opinion, that’s not the best way to set you up for success. Instead, I want to empower you with knowledge so YOU can feel confident making decisions for yourself or your loved one.

Plus, what works for one person may not work for the other, and your beliefs and preferences about food may not be the same as someone else! That’s why the aim for this post is to not determine one product as best, or whether or not it is appropriate for you.

Instead, expect to learn what commercial real food products are available, the main differences between them, and my key takeaways so you can decide what’s best for you. You’ll also learn how these real food formulas have provided relief from digestive issues for many families I’ve supported, making tube feeding a whole lot easier for them.

Why a Commercial Blenderized Formula May be Helpful

  1. Kickstarting your real food journey by improving digestive issues and giving you more time and energy to try blending your own meals!
  2. Making a home blended diet more doable especially on busy days, during hospital stays, or for travel.
  3. Providing real food if you have no desire or capacity to make meals yourself right now (or ever).

If you’re like most families I work with, you’ve been thinking about trying some real food but are completely overwhelmed managing digestive issues and can’t imagine learning something new.

But what if you didn’t have to do a complete overhaul to use real food and start seeing improvements?

Many families have had success switching from a synthetic thin formula to a commercial real food product first. With this easy change, digestive issues finally started to improve without adding more work to their plate!

This also meant they were cleaning up less vomit, spending less time on the phone with their team, and the feeding plan was MUCH more manageable. And this provided the momentum they needed, but more importantly, space and energy to try blending some food at home to test things out!

a Real Food Blends package next to a Blendtec blender and tube feeding tools

There’s also a misconception that a blended diet is an all or nothing approach, but that could not be further from the truth.

Think about how people eat by mouth. Do you know many people who ONLY eat home cooked meals from 100% real food? Most people, no matter how “healthy” they try to be, will go out to eat, order in, or eat packaged foods.

That’s why when I work with families, I help them find a well-tolerated commercial blenderized product to use on busy days, for travel or hospital stays, or when their freezer stock is gone and they just don’t feel like cooking.

It takes a lot of stress away, and provides a much more practical approach to providing real food for tube feeding when you have something to fall back on! And these families find it easy to use formula or blended food interchangeably, because the recipes inside Blended Tube Feeding Made Simple are calorie matched to their formula. It’s an easy swap!

Or maybe you want to try real food but have no desire to make any of your own blended meals right now (or ever). That’s okay too. Commercial blenderized products can be used as the primary or sole source of nutrition as long as you need. Many families find a product they are comfortable with and is well tolerated, and this works best for them!

I hope this is taking some pressure off getting started with real food. So, what’s available and what should you use? Let’s jump into that next.

Real Food Blends: Blended Meals for Adults Or Children Made Out Of 100% Real Food

Real Food Blend blended meal pouches

*Image used with permission from the company

What Sets Real Food Blends Apart from the Others?

  • Consistency: Thicker than many other commercial products, aiming to enhance digestion and reduce problems such as reflux and vomiting. Read about the benefits of thicker food here.
  • Variety: 6 different meal options plus one snack. Each pouch contains just 5-8 simple ingredients, making it easy to adjust based on your specific needs.
  • Calorie: Each pouch averages ~1.4 calorie per mL
  • Allergies: No dairy, nuts or soy in any of the pouches. Depending on the pouch type, free of other allergens.
  • These pouches are 100% real food! Supplementation may be needed if these are your primary or sole source of nutrition, as no vitamins or minerals are added.

Key Takeaways:

Real Food Blends pouches closely resemble home prepared blended meals. With six options and one snack, you can provide a ton of variety and it’s 100% real food.

These simple meals make it easy to adjust to a variety of dietary needs, and the thickness has made a huge difference for digestive issues for many kids I’ve worked with.

What about Samples and Insurance Coverage?

  • Samples: Yes, Real Food Blends samples can be requested by your medical provider here.
  • Insurance coverage: Yes, Real Food Blends can be covered by insurance. Learn more here.

Functional Formularies: Plant-Based, Organic Blended Meals for Adults and Children

Functional Formulary blended meal pouches

*Image used with permission from the company

What Sets Functional Formularies Apart from the Others?

  • Consistency: Varies depending on the product, most are on the thinner side but still slightly thicker than standard tube feeding formulas.
  • Variety: Options for whole or broken-down protein, keto, high protein, and some can be consumed by mouth or feeding tube. Most people will choose one or two products to use.
  • Calorie: Ranging from 1.1-1.5 calorie per mL
  • Allergies: No gluten, tree nuts, dairy, soy, corn
  • This company really puts an emphasis on high quality ingredients, chosen based on clinical nutrition evidence to promote and support overall health.

Key Takeaways:

Functional Formularies blended meals are an organic, plant-based option that addresses diverse dietary needs and is generally well tolerated.

The thinner consistency of these meals makes them easier for individuals with small feeding tubes or feeding pumps. Children facing challenges like reflux and vomiting may find thicker products are better tolerated, but overall, these products have worked well for many families I’ve supported.

What About Samples and Insurance Coverage?

  • Samples: Yes, Functional Formularies samples can be requested by your medical provider here.
  • Insurance coverage: Yes, Functional Formularies can be covered by insurance. Learn more here.

Kate Farms Pediatric Blended Meals: Plant-Based, Organic Blended Meals for Children

Kate Farms Pediatric Blended Meal pouches

*Image used with permission from the company

What Sets Kate Farms Pediatric Blended Meals Apart from the Others?

  • Consistency: These meals are pretty thin, designed to flow easily through small feeding tubes and feeding pumps. Children who struggle with reflux and vomiting may not do as well on thin products.
  • Variety: 3 different flavors and designed to be given by mouth or feeding tube
  • Calorie: Each pouch provides ~1 calorie per mL
  • Allergies: No dairy, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soybeans or sesame
  • Direct-to-tube connection: With the Small Bolink Cap from U Deliver Medical, these pouches can connect directly to Gtube buttons or PEG feeding tubes. They can also connect directly to a feeding pump, you can learn more about that here.

Key Takeaways:

Kate Farms Pediatric Blended Meals are SUPER convenient to use with their direct-to-tube connection. They are great for kiddos working on oral intake, and provide some variety while still avoiding common allergens if needed.

These meals may not be best for kids who struggle with reflux and do better with thicker meals, but overall seem to be well tolerated.

What About Samples and Insurance Coverage?

  • Samples: Yes, Kate Farms Pediatric Blended Meals samples can be requested by your medical provider here.
  • Insurance coverage: Yes, Kate Farms Pediatric Blended Meals can be covered by insurance. Learn more here.

Whole Story Meals: Real Food Powdered Meals for Children or Adults

Whole Story Meal pouches

*Image used with permission from the company

What Sets Whole Story Meals Apart from the Others?

  • Consistency: Varies depending on amount of liquid added to reconstitute the powdered food.
  • Variety: There are 4 different pouch types – Plant-based, chicken-based and two renal support products (one is a nutritional shake for oral intake).
  • Calorie: Varies depending on how it’s used. Each scoop contains 100 calories and can be used in home blends or by itself with any liquid added.
  • Allergies: No gluten, soy, dairy, egg, corn
  • Each pouch contains 100% real food that is freeze dried to preserve its natural nutrients, with no artificial ingredients, and comes in a convenient, powdered form, ready to be rehydrated with the liquid.
  • Whole Story Meals are not intended to be a real-food supplement or alternative to other forms of enteral feeding without adding any vitamin or mineral supplementation.

Key Takeaways:

Whole Story Meals are lightweight and shelf stable, making them super convenient especially for travel (learn more about making travel easier with tube feeding here).

These products offer a ton of flexibility to provide real food in whatever way works best for you. You can easily adjust the calories, modify the consistency of your meals, and offer variety while maintaining simplicity in using real food.

What About Samples and Insurance coverage?

  • Samples: Yes, Whole Story Meals samples can be requested by your medical provider here.
  • Insurance coverage: Yes, Whole Story Meals formulas can be covered by insurance. Learn more here.

Wholesome Blends: All Natural Blended Meals for Children or Adults

Wholesome Blend pouches

What Sets Wholesome Blends Apart from the Others?

  • Consistency: Thicker than many other commercial products, aiming to reduce GI symptoms and enhance digestion.
  • Variety: 4 different meal options (including a healthy dessert blend!), designed to provide variety and to be used to like any other meal.
  • Calorie: Ranges from 1.0-1.2 calorie per mL
  • Allergies: No soy or dairy in any of the pouches. Depending on the pouch type, free of other allergens
  • Wholesome Blends are made in Australia, and are now available in the United States. They plan to continue to add new meals to their product line to suit the needs of the entire tube feeding community.

Key Takeaways:

Wholesome Blends is a family-owned business, these meals were made with love! They believe in offering variety, not consuming the same thing every day, so these meals are not meant to be the sole source of nutrition.

They are a lot like regular home cooked meals, containing fresh foods with no sugars, preservatives or additives.

More information about Wholesome Blends and how to purchase can be found here.

Compleat Organic Blends: Organic, Blended Meals for Adults and Children

Compleat Organic Blend pouches

*Image used with permission from the company

What Sets Compleat Organic Blends Apart from the Others?

  • Consistency: These meals are thicker than standard formula, but not as thick as Real Food Blends or Wholesome Blends consistency.
  • Variety: Two options, plant-based and chicken-based for both children and adults
  • Calorie: 1.2 calorie per mL for children and 1.27 calorie per mL for adults
  • Allergies: No dairy or gluten

Key Takeaways:

Compleat Organic Blend meals are a great option for those needing slightly higher calorie, but not as calorie dense as a 1.5 calorie per mL product. This slightly thick consistency has been helpful for some who benefit from thicker food to manage reflux, without giving feeding pumps or smaller feeding tubes too much trouble. You can choose plant-based or chicken-based, or use both for more variety if tolerated.

What About Samples and Insurance Coverage?

  • Samples: Yes, Compleat Organic Blend samples can be requested by your medical provider here.
  • Insurance coverage: Yes, Compleat Organic Blend meals can be covered by insurance. Learn more here.

Hilarie pouring blended food into a Bolee Bag.

I hope this information equips you with knowledge to find a tube feeding plan that helps you finally eliminate digestive issues and makes giving real food a lot more doable.

If you’re interested in exploring a blended diet for you or your loved one, we are here to help. Blended Tube Feeding Made Simple takes the guessing and busy work out of switching to real food, and in just a few months tube feeding feels a whole lot easier!

This journey is often difficult and can be a bit lonely, but it does not have to be that way. Together, we can find a solution that’s right for YOU and start making life more manageable.

Here’s to smoother feeding and brighter days ahead!
Hilarie

*Disclosures: I am a consultant for Nutricia and Functional Formularies; however, the opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

*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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