Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Product Review: Real Food Blends

Being told your child is going to need a feeding tube, is heart breaking. Not only does it initially feel like a failure, or a loss of hope that your child will be able to eat, but there's a lot to deal with when a g-tube is placed and it's a pretty scary situation at the beginning. Not only that, but I have yet to hear from a parent that anything other than formula was suggested for their child's enteral nutrition. Sure, there may be the option of one formula brand versus another formula brand, but that's it, formula is the only option given to parents.

I believe in nutrition as a form of healing and unfortunately, corn syrup doesn't rank high, or at all, on the list of foods leading to a sustainable and energetic lifestyle. This is why when I saw that my son was not thriving on formula, I had to make a change, and that change began with whole foods.

Julie Bombacino is another mom who quickly learned the effects formula had on her son. She did her research and began feeding her son a blended diet rich in good fats, protein and calories that weren't based on unpronounceable ingredients and mainly comprised of corn syrup. Julie realized the need for tubies to have an option other than formula, and she also had the knowledge and wherewithal to become the founder and CEO of the company Real Food Blends.

I think it is incredibly exciting to see this company develop and launch their first few meals. Recently, Isaac had the opportunity to try out the three meals offered by Real Food Blends, and I have to say, it was so convenient and I loved having a break from mixing up my own blends and doing all of the cleanup that is involved. Unfortunately, Isaac can't share his own opinion, but he didn't have any adverse reaction to the ingredients. I did slightly thin the Quinoa and Chicken Meals with water or hemp milk since Isaac doesn't need quite that many calories and fat in eight ounces, but it was great because I was able to get a little more than one feeding out of each pouch. I also thinned the meals because Isaac is very particular about his feeding routine and cooperates best when we use the pump for his feedings. Using the pump requires that the blend be relatively close to the thickness of formula.

Now, as for the ingredients. It really is made out of real food. Check it out:

Salmon Oats and Squash: Water, Squash puree, salmon, pomegranate juice concentrate, rolled oats, flaxseed oil. 

Quinoa Kale and Hemp: Water, Kale, Grape Juice Concentrate, Hemp Powder, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Quinoa, Cinnamon 

Orange Chicken, Carrots and Barley: Orange Juice, Cooked Chicken, Carrots, Pearl Barley, Grapeseed Oil, Water, Ginger, Roasted Sunflower Seeds

As stated on the company's web-site: "We are not medical professionals and are not making any medical claims about our food.  Our meals are truly just real food.  Please work with your medical team before making any changes to your diet, especially if you are tube-fed."

The company's Advisory Board does include a dietitian and the first two meals are FDA approved and the chicken meal is USDA approved. Real Food Blends also makes no claim that their blends provide complete nutrition and readily state, "The same way that oral eaters need to eat a wide variety of foods over the course of a day or week to achieve necessary nutrients, our meals are just that – meals. They are not intended to be anyone’s sole source of nutrition. They are each well-balanced and together offer a good variety. We developed these first meals with the intention that someone who is living off 6 or 8 cans of formula a day could easily add some nutritional variety to their diet by replacing a can or two with some real food meals. Those that already blenderize for tube-feeding can use our meals as a convenient option."

A big consideration for families with high medical costs is always whether or not insurance will cover enteral nutrition and all of the other medical supplies that are required for tube feeding. Real Food Blends is working hard to gain insurance coverage and reimbursement for families caring for a loved one with a feeding tube. Just last week, they were able to announce this exciting update: "We are pleased to announce that Real Food Blends™ products have been approved by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) for code B4149.  The code B4149 applies to enteral formula, manufactured blenderized natural foods with intact nutrients, includes proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, may include fiber, administered through an enteral feeding tube, 100 calories = 1 unit." 

Please check the Real Food Blends web-site for more information regarding Medicare and Medicaid coverage. 

I think it's revolutionary that Julie saw a need for children and adults dependent on enteral nutrition, and she did something about it. Even for someone like me who is already creating my own blends, Real Food Blends has it's time and place. This past weekend, in preparation for an overnight trip to visit family, I packed up two days of blended meals for Isaac and was counting on the fridge in the hotel room to be cold enough for his food, and it wasn't. I had to dump all of that food I'd prepared for Isaac. Thankfully I always travel with formula, so I had that on hand, but I wish I'd had Real Food Blends instead. If you are already used to blending your own meals, that's great, and I know that Julie is not trying to use her company to replace the work you are already doing at home. What she is trying to do, is provide convenience for traveling or hospital stays. 

Please also take a moment to read an adult tubie's review of Real Food Blends. Not only does he endorse this product, but he also shares what it feels like to live on a formula diet. Most children with special needs are unable to verbalize how food makes them feel. I have to observe Isaac's mood, bowel movements, sleep and energy levels in order to know anything about how what he eats is making him feel. It really is amazing what a difference in diet can do for a person, especially someone who is already battling a host of medical issues. It seems that in cases such as these, medical professionals should be more willing and open to the clear benefit of a healthy diet. Now that Real Food Blends is on the market, I think it will help more parents begin the conversation with dietitians and physicians in an effort to move from formula to whole foods for their loved ones who depend on enteral nutrition. 


Julie Bombacino's story (founder and CEO, Real Food Blends)
Product Endorsement: The Blog of the Traveling Tubie 
Nutrition Facts, Real Food Blends

To order Real Food Blends click here!


  1. Dear Sierra,
    Great post! Julie is my niece, and AJ is my great-nephew! We are so proud of them, and love Julie's passion for sharing her experiences! Best of luck to you and Isaac--hope you are having a great day!

  2. It's great that this mom has come up with something so useful and healthy and necessary. You've worked so hard to ensure Isaac gets real food as much as possible ~ I could almost *feel* your pain when reading that you had to throw away 2 days worth of blended food. I would have cried!