Feeding tube awareness week 2023: Blenderized tube feeding shouldn’t be a secret
I want to tell you more about something that I feel passionate about for feeding tube awareness week – blenderized tube feeding!
To be completely honest, it hasn’t always been something on my radar as a Registered Dietitian.
I was never taught about blenderized tube feeds when I was training to be a dietitian. The only thing we learned about was all the different commercial formulas – the stuff in the can made from ingredients in the factory.
Don’t get me wrong – those standard formulas have their place and I’m not anti-formula feeding either.
Recently, I’ve had more and more of my patients asking about using blenderized foods in their feeding tubes and I started learning along with them about how to make that possible.
Now, I want to share with fellow healthcare professionals and tube feeders alike, that blenderized tube feeding IS a thing, it’s safe and can provide many benefits.
If you or someone you love has a feeding tube or you’re a health professional wanting to know more about blending food for your tube feeds, let’s hang out for a bit and chat more about how it can work for you or your patients.
If this is new to you, let’s first clarify what I mean by blenderized tube feeding.
What is blenderized tube feeding?
Blenderized tube feeding means mixing food with liquids in a blender so it becomes a smooth, liquid consistency. Then it can be put through your feeding tube, just like other standard, commercial formulas.
You may choose to use only blenderized food only or mix blenderized food with formula. You may also choose to use food at certain times and commercial formula at other times.
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing!
Just like eating food by mouth, blenderized tube feeding can be individualised. It can be a blend of what works for you and your family.
If this is sounding good so far, let’s get into why you might want to try blending food for your feeding tube.
Why blend food for my feeding tube?
Blending can offer a variety of benefits – nutritionally, socially and physically.
Variety in nutrients
As a dietitian, I tell people to try to eat a variety of foods, try to make foods yourself when you can, eat foods with lots of different colours and enjoy your food!
Unlike standard tube feeding formulas, blenderized tube feeds allow you to get some more variety than the same old stuff from the can every day.
We always hear that a healthy diet is one that minimises processed foods, so why not tube feeds too.
Of course the food we eat provides our bodies with nutrients and energy we need to grow, stay strong, and to do our daily activities but it’s also much more than that.
Shared meal times
Do you have memories in the kitchen with a parent or maybe even grandparent, learning a family recipe? And when you had finished making that wonderful meal together, you got to sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labour together.
Food brings us together as families, as a community, and enjoying meals together at the table offers connection – whether eating by mouth, or by tube.
Parents who blend for their children say they have a greater sense of fulfilment by preparing their child’s food versus opening a can of formula.
If you are on a tube feed, you can participate with grocery shopping, preparing the food and feeding the same foods that the rest of the family is eating.
And last but certainly not least, you may feel better on blenderized tube feeds.
Improved GI symptoms and tolerance
Often I hear adults on tube feeds report GI concerns like nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, and in children, retching, gagging, and vomiting.
For some, switching to a blenderized tube feeding (or even a blend of food and formula) may help to improve those awful GI symptoms.
Research has shown that blenderized tube feeding can help reduce GI symptoms like gagging, retching, vomiting in children (4, 5, 6). If this sounds familiar, head over to by blog about tube feeding formula and how it could me making you feel unwell.
Although most of the studies with blenderized tube feeding is in children, it is becoming more common in adults as well. And good news is that adults are having positive impacts on thier GI symptoms, and quality of life too! (7).
So there are benefits, but you want to know if it’s considered safe too, right?
Is blenderized tube feeding safe?
Blenderized tube feeding is considered safe when you:
- Are medically stable and have the appropriate feeding tube size
- Have the proper equipment
- Use safe food handling practices
- Are educated about adequate nutrition to thrive (8, 9).
Discussing your options with your healthcare team is important when making any choices with your tube feeding.
You should always work with your physician and dietitian to figure out if blenderized tube feeding is a safe option for you.
Here are some questions that will need answering before starting:
Is your feeding tube an appropriate size?
Tube size is important. It has to be a large enough diameter to let your blenderized food flow through the tube easily and not risk blocking it.
Generally speaking, if you have a feeding tube size of 14 French or greater, then you should not have a problem with blenderized tube feeding (10).
“French” is just the unit for measuring feeding tube diameter (from outside wall to outside wall).
If you have a smaller tube, you may have to use thinner blends. In this case, your blend may not be as dense and it may be harder to get all the calories you need.
You will need to work with your healthcare team to figure out if you can get what you need and if blending is safe with your type of tube.
How long have you had your feeding tube?
If you have just had your tube inserted, your healthcare team may ask you to wait to start blends.
They may want you to wait until the tract (where your feeding tube goes into your body) “matures” (10). This just means that it is healed so that your stomach (if you have a feeding tube in your stomach) has adhered to your abdominal wall (on the inside) (11).
This makes reinserting a new tube easier if your tube happens to get blocked and need replacing.
Safe food handling
Food safety is important no matter how you get your food – through your mouth or through your tube.
If you are on a commercial tube feeding formula, you don’t have to worry as much about how long it is at room temperature. These formulas are made to be able to hang out for hours and even overnight.
With blenderized tube feeding, you can’t let your tube feed run overnight. You wouldn’t want to eat meat that had been sitting out all night on the counter, so you wouldn’t put it through your tube either!
This is why blenderized tube feeding is suited to you if you can tolerate a bolus schedule, or more of a mealtime schedule than a continuous, long feed.
Still with me? Here’s what you’ll need to get started.
Tools for getting started
Equipment for blenderized tube feeding
A good blender is pretty essential for preparing your blenderized tube feeding.
You want your blend to be the consistency of a runny pancake batter to make sure it will flow nicely through your feeding tube and minimise the risk of blocking your feeding tube.
Although some people who blend use ‘regular’ blenders. If this is you, you will want to add the step of straining after blending to ensure there are no clumps that could get stuck in your feeding tube.
You will also need syringes to administer your blenderized tube feed.
The syringe draws up the food, then connects to your feeding tube. Next, using the syringe, it is pushed through the tube and into your body.
Some people also use feeding bags, and it is a matter of personal preference.
Using a feeding pump can also be done with blenderized tube feeding, although sometimes a little more finicky.
Connect with a dietitian
Dietitians go through very rigorous training including a university degree, practical training (an internship) and then have to write an intensive exam to become a dietitian.
We are specialised, regulated healthcare professionals dealing with how to assess nutrition needs of healthy individuals AND those with medical complexities.
Blenderized tube feeding can offer benefits but also has risks if not done appropriately and with the support of your medical team
If you want to incorporate blenderized tube feeds into your tube feeding regimen, and want to make sure you are getting all the proper nutrients to grow and thrive, find a dietitian to help you along the way.
If you are ready to get started but worried it’s going to mean long hours in the kitchen, download my FREE GUIDE to getting started and decrease your feeling of overwhelm. I’ll help you get started and grow your confidence so you can start to feel better and get all the benefits of real food.
Just because you have a feeding tube, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy real food!