Every individual is unique so every tube feeding plan is different. In many cases, it’s absolutely fine to simply stop using formula and start onto a diet of homemade blended food or a commercial food based product. A gradual transition usually isn’t necessary for adults, however, for children, it’s best to slowly introduce age appropriate blended foods. Your healthcare team should guide you in this process and give you instructions on how to create safe and nutritious blended meals. I like to remind my patients and their caregivers that a tube fed diet can be whatever they want it to be. It can be formula or food or any combination of the two. Whatever works best to meet individual nutrition goals.
If you've been on standard tube feeding formula and are looking to incorporate some fresh foods into your diet, you may want to consider blending a small amount of a highly nutritious easy-to-blend food into your usual formula. This approach allows you to include fresh food in your diet without having to make a major change to your usual routine. Plus, by using foods that are high in natural vitamins and antioxidants, you’re giving your nutrition a major boost.
If you blend in foods in small amounts, there is virtually no impact on the formula viscosity or volume, and the risk of a blockage is negligible as long as you stick to soft foods (remove peels, stems, seeds etc) and run your blender until everything is totally smooth. After blending, the formula will have a lot of air bubbles and will seem to have gained a lot of volume. Let it sit in the fridge for an hour or so and let all the air bubbles escape before feeding.
Why did I choose these particular foods? Well, tomato paste is one of the best sources of lycopene, an antioxidant, and is perfectly smooth to start with. In fact, it was probably unnecessary to blend it with the formula. I think I could have simply put it in the bottle with the formula and shaken it. I chose to use apple and cinnamon mostly just for an apple pie effect, plus they both have antioxidant properties too. I went with cocoa as it is rich in polyphenols and being a powder, it's a really easy addition. Plus, everyone loves chocolate! I chose sweet potato because it's a simple starchy food that is highly digestible and imparts a nice colour. Spinach was an easy choice- just a few leaves go a long way and it breaks down so easily when blended. Finally, I decided to use just 3 blackberries because of their beautiful purple pigment from concentrated anthocyanins, another kind of antioxidant. The downside of blackberries is that they are quite seedy so it was necessary to use a wire mesh strainer to remove the seeds after blending. None of the other foods required straining.
Remember, if you plan to include some fresh foods in your formula based diet, the first thing to do is speak to your healthcare team and get their input and approval.
For more information on getting started with blending, make sure you sign up for the Natural Tube Feeding email list. You will immediately receive the Natural Tube Feeding Mini Guide in your inbox!