Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Product Endorsement

I am so jealous of Julie Bombacino. "Who is Julie Bombacino," you ask? She is a mother who started a company in 2012 that makes real food blends for tubies (RealFoodBlends.com). Why am I jealous? Because I wish I had that idea myself. Instead, I'm sitting on my ass writing about the HUGE difference her company will make on those of us who tubefeed. Not to mention the dramatic effect she'll have on companies that manufacture formula and tout their product as "nutritious." 

Let me share my experience eating Julie's meals, as opposed to pushing an 8 ounce can of TwoCal HN through my tube. 

First of all, what are the ingredients in a typical formula like TwoCal HN? They don't have it on their cans, but I did find it on their website.

475 calories of fun!

Water, Corn Syrup Solids, Sodium & Calcium Caseinates, Corn Maltodextrin, High Oleic Safflower Oil, Sugar (Sucrose), Medium-Chain Triglycerides, Canola Oil, Fructooligosaccharides, Potassium Citrate, Magnesium Chloride, Calcium Phosphate, Natural & Artificial Flavors, Soy Lecithin, Sodium Citrate, Ascorbic Acid, Choline Chloride, Taurine, L-Carnitine, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, Manganese Sulfate, Cupric Sulfate, Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Vitamin A Palmitate, Folic Acid, Biotin, Chromium Chloride, Sodium Molybdate, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenate, Phylloquinone, Cyanocobalamin, and Vitamin D3.

No meal is complete without a helping of dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, right? Also, what the hell are Fructooligosaccharides? They sound delicious, whatever they are. I actually had to look them up. There's a wikipedia page devoted to Fructooligosaccharides, believe it or not. They serve as an alternate artificial sweetener and are touted for their prebiotic (not probiotic) health benefits. You learn something new every day. So TwoCal has Fructooligosaccharides going for it, if nothing else. How about Ensure Plus? They also supply ingredients on their website:

I prefer vanilla; Betsy likes her chocolate. Either way, it's crap.

Water, Corn Maltodextrin, Sugar, Milk Protein Concentrate, Canola Oil, Soy Protein Isolate, Corn Oil, Pea Protein Concentrate. Less than 0.5% of the Following: Natural & Artificial Flavor, Magnesium Phosphate, Potassium Citrate, Soy Lecithin, Sodium Citrate, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Salt, Choline Chloride, Ascorbic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Carrageenan, Ferrous Sulfate, dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Zinc Sulfate, Niacinamide, Manganese Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Cupric Sulfate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Chromium Chloride, Folic Acid, Sodium Molybdate, Biotin, Sodium Selenate, Potassium Iodide, Phylloquinone, Vitamin D3, and Cyanocobalamin.

No Fructooligosaccharides but I see dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate again. There are a lot of similarities. Sugar is high on both lists. At least Ensure has pea protein concentrate; that's a recognizable vegetable, right? Also, both products seem to contain a lot of corn. 

Boost Plus? I can't tolerate their formula at all, but here's an image of their ingredients:

Once again, sugar and corn are prominently featured and there're those Fructooligosaccharides again. I get a formula called Jevity whenever I'm staying at the hospital. It's supposed to be strictly for tubefeeding. Jevity is made by the same company that makes TwoCal. Here are the ingredients for their formula:

Don't know if I get the 1.0, 1.2, or 1.5 Cal but this is what it looks like

Water, Corn Maltodextrin, Corn Syrup Solids, Sodium & Calcium Caseinates, Soy Protein Isolate, Canola Oil, Corn Oil, Fructooligosaccharides, Medium-Chain Triglycerides, Soy Fiber, Oat Fiber, Calcium Phosphate, Magnesium Phosphate, Potassium Citrate, Gum Arabic, Soy Lecithin, Potassium Chloride, Carboxymethylcellulose, Sodium Chloride, Ascorbic Acid, Choline Chloride, Sodium Citrate, L-Carnitine, Taurine, Zinc Sulfate, dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Ferrous Sulfate, Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, Manganese Sulfate, Cupric Sulfate, Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Beta-Carotene, Vitamin A Palmitate, Folic Acid, Biotin, Chromium Chloride, Sodium Molybdate, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenate, Phylloquinone, Cyanocobalamin, and Vitamin D3.

Corn and Fructooligosaccharides. Plus some Carboxymethylcellulose. That's a new one. Why did formula companies have to fill their products with all these complex ingredients, rather than just use actual food?? Before Ensure and TwoCal and all the rest came along, people used to get blended meals through their tubes. We need to get back to our "tubie roots" because it's much healthier. Everyone in the "Blenderized Diet" community can attest to the dramatic difference eating real food has on our health.

So, let's walk through the way I feel putting formula through my tube. In the morning, I often have a can of TwoCal because it's more convenient than preparing a meal, I'm lazy, and one can doesn't make me nauseous the way 5 cans a day would. So here's my open can this morning:


And here's how I feel when I eat it:

Note the look of revulsion.

TwoCal, or any formula, feels really heavy in my stomach. Like I've just ingested a brick. I don't feel satisfied at all. If I have to subsist on TwoCal all day, eating nothing else, I have a hard time getting down the amount I need. Before I started eating blended foods, my nutritionist had me take at least 6 cans of Ensure Plus ("preferably 7," he said) every day. Typically I couldn't do more than 4 or 5. Desperate to get calories, I got a pump through the VA so I could slowly pump in formula overnight. I couldn't stand being tethered to a pump, but it was the only way I could stomach any of the formulas I tried. 

Then I found blended food. Sort of sounds like a religion, I know. But my life has gone from a downward spiral to actually enjoying eating again. 

Anyway, let's take a look at Mrs. Bombacino's ingredients for the "Salmon Oats & Squash" blend. It's right on every box: 

Pretty much just what it says

Good until January 2017 so I can start stocking up for the zombie apocalypse!!

Water, squash puree, salmon, pomegranate juice concentrate, rolled oats, flaxseed oil. 

That's it. I recognize every one of those ingredients. The other night I had the pleasure of eating a "Salmon Oats & Squash" blend. First, here's a picture of Grace doing the happy dance when I got a package of blended meals:

I told her the box was full of chocolate. Am I a bad father?

Once you open a box of the salmon blend it looks like this. Sort of like an M.R.E. pouch. So maybe tubies could be in the military! Or all our soldiers should have feeding tubes!!! Just something to think about.

MRE flashbacks...
The pouches are designed to stand on their own. This is so that you can draw up a syringe-full right out of the pouch and plunge it in the tube.

It actually smelled really good!
Personally, it's easier for me to pour it into my tube directly, rather than pulling it up into the syringe with the plunger first (see my Mechanics of Tubefeeding post) so I dumped it out into a measuring cup to make it easier to pour. Here I am eating a Real Food Blend:

I know it's hard to tell, but that's my happy face

It was just like eating a regular blended meal. Easy on my stomach. I felt completely satisfied, even with such a small amount. This is more of a child-size portion, just 8 ounces. I could easily have eaten two of these in one sitting. No nausea. Could I ingest 2 cans of Ensure, one after the other like that? Not a chance.

These meals will be so vital to me when I'm traveling! They're easy to pack. They're shelf-stable, without needing refrigeration. I like the gluten-free "Salmon Oats & Squash" blend, but they also have a gluten-free quinoa blend and a chicken blend. Mrs. Bombacino says that they are working on more adult-size portions. Seriously, EVERY TUBIE NEEDS TO GO OUT AND BUY THESE BLENDS!!!!

No, I'm not just urging other tubies and tubie moms to buy Real Food Blends. EVERYONE needs to buy these meals, and I'll tell you why. I'm tired of visiting someone else's house and being asked, "Can I get you anything to eat?" Then I have to put that wry expression on my face and say, "Sorry, no, I eat through a feeding tube." More often I'm too tired to go into detail about my health issues, so I say, "No thanks, I'm not hungry." This leaves my host thinking I'm impolite, too good for their food, angry words are exchanged, I'm never invited back, yada yada yada, we exchange death threats. It's a whole big thing.

For all those times, you need to buy at least a decent selection of Real Food Blends. To make people like me feel at home. "Would you like something to eat, Brian? What's that you say? You eat through a tube? Well actually, I have a selection of delicious blended meals I can offer you." This would make me feel so welcome. So included.

You know what? If you don't get a salmon meal, then I'm not coming to visit you. Ever. How about that? I know the vast majority of you are thinking, Fantastic!! I don't want that guy on my street, much less in my house!!! However, for those of you who enjoy my company. If you beg me constantly to come by, just for an hour, at least. If you wait by your front door every day hoping for a glimpse of me, then this message is for you!! Yeah, I'M TALKING TO YOU, MOM!!! ...no? uh...ok....THEN I'M TALKING TO YOU, GRAMMY!!! She can't say no because she doesn't use the internet, so HA!!!!!!

So, if you'd like to be a good host, then please buy a nice selection of Mrs. Bombacino's meals. Like I said, she should be coming out with adult-size portions soon. Here's the link again: RealFoodBlends.com or they're on Amazon (link)! 


  1. Hey Brian -- thanks for a great post. You remind me of my friend Eric, whose blog and book live on (www.youstartwithatube.blogspot.com). Back when my son was on a feeding tube, I calculated what an average kid who is given 1000mL of Pediasure/day would get over a month:
    16 cups of corn syrup/sugar
    7 cups of safflower, soy, and MCT oil
    6 cups of isolated protein from milk
    & a bunch of vitamin/mineral supplements.
    I can't tell you how much it means to hear an adult say what formula feels like and I had to grin, even a little wickedly, when I saw all those labels you posted.
    Bon appetit, sir, and your daughter's sweet face says it all: Yes! Food! And if you're ever in my neck of the woods, I'll have some boxes handy. ;-)

    1. Hi Olga: I would like to breakdown as you did the product: Peptamen Junior 1.5 cal to show my daughter's doctor. But I can't figure out how you did it. Any advise? Thank you, Lea

  2. Thank you. Eric and I corresponded a few times about our shared tubie woes. I appreciate you saying that I remind you of him, but I think he was a much more eloquent writer than me. I sure miss his voice on the internet!

    1. Brian - thank your for taking the time to write this up, take the pictures and the fantastic commentary of those pictures:) Without adults like you (and Eric...RIP!), I doubt I ever would have known about BD for AJ, much less started Real Food Blends.

      And don't be to jealous, it's been a long, crazy, winding road filled with ups, downs, potholes, yield signs, traffic cops, etc. etc. (Seriously enough to fill a book - the naysayers, the people that tried to stop this from getting to market, the crazy hunt for commercial quantities of hemp milk...it's been such a strange ride.) So happy to be on this side now and that tubies are embracing the meals. Today, a parent posted that they tried our meals (just 3 TBSP to start) with their 10-year-old that never had real food. That's kind of amazing to me and makes the ride worthwhile.

      Best to you - thank you again for sharing.

    2. Thank YOU for your awesome product!!! I think you'll be hearing many more stories like that 10-year-old's. My best to you and your family, especially AJ. :-)

  3. I love the idea of shelf-stable blends for travel. I know they'll make traveling with my son so much easier! Have you looked at Liquid Hope, an organic blenderized food for tube feeding? I'm curious to know what you think about it.

    1. We love Liquid Hope. Its organic. When I make my sons food I choose organic and low sugar so Liquid Hope is our choice for shelf stable food.

  4. No, I hadn't heard of this Kara I'll have to check it out. Kind of bummed there's only one kind of meal available for purchase? I'm not vegan and too much legumes tend to give me a bad reaction. Thanks for telling me about it though.

    1. Brian, what I like about Liquid Hope is that it is organic and that each ingredient was specifically chosen to promote healing and optimum health. My tubie is my 21 month old son and because he has low immune function, I love the idea of strengthening his body's natural defenses by using food as medicine.

    2. Yes, I agree it looks like a great formula, all organic, "real" food. I think it is far, far better than regular canned formula! There were just two things I don't like about it. The first is the fact that it has garbanzo beans and legumes bring out my eczema pretty bad. The second reason gets back to why I like Real Food Blends. As an adult, I like to have choices when I eat. If I eat the same formula, 3 or 4 times a day, seven days a week, then eating becomes a chore. Pushing food in my tube is just a dreary distraction. Don't get me wrong, I think liquid hope is a great choice for your 21 month old. But I like to have choices, and I can intersperse Real Food Blends with my own blended meals to keep variety in my life. Thank you very much for sharing the info about Liquid Hope and I'm glad to hear it has such wonderful benefits for your son's immune system! Take care!!

  5. Dear Brian,
    I love your happy face! What a great post! Julie is all kinds of awesome, and I'm not just saying that because she's my niece! Thanks for your post—have a great day!

    1. Thank you so much for checking out my blog, Dee! Take care!!

  6. i am horrified by what ensure and the other companies use in their nutrition. i would never be able to tolerate that! thank you for telling us about this great company

  7. I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

  8. I will give this technique a try and see what happens, otherwise I just kind of ignore the bubble after other t:slim users told me not to worry about it. Thanks for sharing Scott's video.

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