This blog post is about a useful, if prosaic, product we use in the initial phases of re-feeding at Kartini Clinic. I hope this post is helpful to parents looking for feeding alternatives for their child with an eating disorder. And I would prefer to report on a generic product, but I have not found one: Benecalorie® is made by Nestlé and sold as a nutritional supplement. We have found it extremely useful when we need to add calories but do not want to use sugary additions such as ice cream, a common way to introduce higher caloric levels into early re-feeding.
I stumbled across Benecalorie® about 10 years ago. Prior to that, we had used Boost Plus or Ensure Plus as nutritional supplements when we needed extra calories, but these added so much extra fluid to a child’s diet that we were at risk of “water loading” them ourselves, as many children needed 3-4 cans a day. Additionally, these supplements come in a metal or plastic can or bottle and were heavy to carry around. They are thick and sweet tasting. Benecalorie® is something we can add to real food: a container of it needs no refrigeration, is very small and light and has no intrinsic flavor. It’s lactose free (but does contain some milk protein), it’s kosher, gluten free, and has no cholesterol. It’s made largely of sunflower oil and adds 7 grams of protein in the form of milk casein to anything it’s mixed with.
At Kartini Clinic we choose to mix it with yogurt, for the health promoting potential of yogurt and because with yogurt, fruit and ice, Benecalorie® makes a delicious smoothie. The addition of Benecalorie® does slightly alter the texture of the smoothie, making it thicker, although it does not alter the taste.
This food additive is also practical for traveling with a child with an eating disorder when food administration can be unpredictable and hard to organize. If you cannot find whole milk yogurt, for example—which is all we use at Kartini Clinic—you can drop a Benecalorie® into any kind of yogurt and have some peace of mind that your child is getting a powerhouse snack.
Unfortunately, Benecalorie® is hard to find in regular stores like Costco or Walmart or various pharmacies. We order it online and have it delivered to our door. It’s also available through Amazon.com. I encourage families who are travelling overseas in the summer and worried about their “in recovery” or even “recovered” child to buy a case and take it with them. Each little container is only 1.7 fl oz and very light compared to other liquid supplements. As I mentioned, no refrigeration is needed.
Now don’t get me wrong, this food supplement is just that: a supplement. It is rarely a food for life, just a practical crutch in the early phases of re-feeding. It is not “delicious” or “hyperpalatable”; people give it up as soon as they are able. We phase it out once a child is weight restored, does not need this high caloric intake and can maintain on “real food” alone.
Full disclosure: Neither I nor anyone else at Kartini Clinic has any commercial interest whatsoever in this (or any other) supplement or commercial product.