By: Jamie Hinchey, MS, CCC-SLP

On this week’s episode of Tube to Table, we are talking about blenderized diets and how they help children on feeding tubes and help support kids who are in the weaning process. To discuss this topic in detail, we sat down with Julie Bombacino, the founder of Real Food Blends. Julie is telling her story of how she started the Real Food Blends company and her child’s tube feeding journey. She discusses how her family transitioned to a blenderized diet, what benefits they immediately saw, and how they started the conversation with their medical team about this transition. Julie and Jennifer will also talk about what the research shows about the benefits of blenderized diets for the tube-fed population. They will discuss the importance of looking at the whole-child when making a transition to blenderized diets and how that helps the child’s overall health. 

You can download this episode from ItunesStitcher, Spotify, Google Play, or listen to it below:

A Little History: 

Julie’s son experienced chronic constipation, vomiting, and reflux while on his feeding tube. They tried different schedules, rates, formulas, and were unable to find something to remedy the situation. She found support through tube weaning groups online, and began to learn more about blending real food and putting that through the feeding tube. This was a scary transition for her family, since at that time, the recommendation for a blenderized diet was not very common. They were able to transition their son to blended foods very quickly and saw an immediate difference in his vomiting and reflux. As they started to use blended foods for all feedings, their family went looking for something that would be easier for families rather than blending their own foods all of the time. There was nothing that they could find that was shelf-stable and easy to pack or take with you on the go! 

Real Food Blends: 

The inspiration started there for Real Food Blends where they focus on providing whole foods in an easy, convenient, and safe way for children. Although they like to say “fresh is best” for blenderized foods, that is not always realistic for everybody, with a tube or without. It is not easy to always have fresh blended foods ready to go. Julie and her husband created this company because they started to think about how children eat different foods everyday and it didn’t feel right to feed their older child something different everyday, but their son on the feeding tube had to have the same thing. Real Food Blends now has 6 different meals with only real foods and ~5-7 ingredients in each (protein, healthy fat, whole grain, fruit/vegetables).

How to start this transition? 

Many families are stuck in a spot where that leap to changing anything is so scary and it can feel as though it is not their “place” to make these decisions, but it is! It can be hard for families to transition from the medical side of the feeding tube to family mealtimes, but shifting the mentality from “session” to “meal” is very important. The mentality should be that your child is a child who needs breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with a few snacks depending on their age. Shifting this mentality will help parents with the transition to a blenderized diet. 

What does the evidence show us about blenderized diets vs. Formula? 

Throughout the many years of formula only feeding via tube, there has never been any research showing that a “formula only” diet is better than a “whole food” diet. Julie points out that prior to there being formula in the early 1970’s, if you were on a feeding tube, you were likely eating what was in the cafeteria, blended into the tube. Over the past 7-8 years, there has been a growing body of evidence on blenderized foods. One study that Julie cites reviews children who have had nissan fundoplications, and when a blenderized diet was introduced, the gagging, nausea, and reflux had improved. When looking at blenderized diets in the pediatric population, there is an increased interest in oral eating. This could be because the child is smelling different smells, burping up different tastes, less vomiting/reflux, less constipation, and feeling better overall. The volume tolerance may also go up as part of a blenderized diet, which can help the child get into more of a routine and build more hunger opportunities.  All of the research mentioned here can be found at Real Food Blends website as well.

Who is this intended for? 

The two main questions that Real Food Blends looks at are: Is there a working digestive system? Are they over the age of 1?

If so, then you could be a candidate for using real food. It is important to apply the same USDA guidelines to people in the tube-fed population. Real Food Blends has made that accessible for people to follow the recommendations to eat a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low sugars.  

There is a lot more information on the Real Food Blends website linked above, where people can order trial packages to sample the food. It is not require a prescription, but if you are interested in insurance coverage, then the doctor must write the order for it. 

Check out Real Food Blends at their website or find them on facebook at Facebook.com/realfoodblends  

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