All About Food Additives

Posted by Brianna Maguire on Nov 13th 2020

Your family’s health and wellness is a priority, so when you or a loved one is struggling to eat, finding the right food additives can be critical. Specially formulated to target weight gain and maintenance, overall calorie counts, and advanced nutrition, these additives mix with your favorite foods and beverages to provide the nutrition you’re missing. Whether you or a loved one faces difficulty swallowing, severe food allergies, or just needs some extra calories in their diet, these additives have everything you need for you or your family to feel your best.

Learn about:

What are food additives?

Food additives are supplements that can be mixed into food and drinks for added nutrition. They often feature high-calorie counts, and essential vitamins and minerals. Most come in powder-form, but some are liquids or a butter-like consistency. For those with severe allergies, some of our food additives can be mixed with water and consumed alone, and are completely hypoallergenic.

Food additives make it easy to enjoy the food and drinks you already love, with the extra calories you need to feel your best.

What are the different kinds of food additives?

There are different kinds of food additives because there are different kinds of needs! While the additive that’s best for you is ultimately up to your doctor, we offer supplements for all kinds of needs, like:

Thickeners, like Thick-It

For those with swallowing difficulties, thickeners offer a convenient way to keep enjoying your favorite beverages. You can just add a few scoops to the drinks you already love - juice, coffee, iced tea, and almost anything else - to make them easier to swallow. Whether your doctor has recommended honey-thick, nectar-thick, or spoon-thick consistencies, you can adjust the amount of thickener you add until the consistency is just right.

Calorie Enhancers like Benecalorie

Some food additives are specially designed to add extra calories. These are ideal for those that need to gain weight, have food sensitivities, are facing malnutrition, or are on fluid-restricted diets. Often liquid consistencies, you can just mix these into the foods you love, for the extra calories you need.

Amino-Acid Based Foods and Food Additives, like Duocal and EleCare Jr.

Amino-acid based foods are powder-form food additives designed for those with severe food allergies, or with sensitive stomachs. While they’re typically used alone (mixed with water to create a formula), they can also be added to food and beverages for extra calories and nutrition. Keep in mind that while some - like Duocal - can be used in cooking or baking, others should not be heated or frozen (but can be mixed into smoothies, puddings, and other food types). These additives also come in formulas that are suitable for infants (as a replacement for baby formulas).

Who should use food additives?

Food additives are first and foremost for those that have been recommended to use them by their doctor. Some situations where a food additive could be beneficial are:

  • Increasing their caloric intake
  • Gaining or maintaining weight
  • For those with difficulty eating
  • Children that need more calories
  • Fluid-restricted diets
  • For those that are malnourished
  • Difficulty swallowing, or those that need thickened beverages and foods
  • Those facing involuntary weight loss
  • Those that have nausea or sensitive stomachs (most additives are unflavored and unscented, making them easier to consume)
  • Those undergoing chemotherapy or radiation, that are experiencing decreases in appetite and energy

Who shouldn't use them?

Food additives are not ideal for:

  • Those who haven’t spoken to their doctor about using them
  • In some cases, as sole-source nutrition
  • Weight loss
  • Those who are tube feeding (with the exception of amino-acid based foods)
  • Children younger than one year old (with the exception of EleCare Infant)

How do I use these?

Each food additive has its own unique instructions but in general:

  • Add the amount of additive specified on the packaging to your favorite foods and beverages
  • It’s very important that you carefully follow the instructions on the packaging, as well as your doctor’s recommendations
  • Some additives can be heated (cooked, baked) and frozen, while others shouldn’t be - be sure to consult the product description for more information
  • If using a thickener, add the exact amount of powder recommended (otherwise, you may end up with a product that’s much too thick)

What features exist?

Amount of calories

If you’re looking to hit a certain calorie count each day, it’s important that you make note of each food additives’ calorie count.

Age of user

Some of our products are specially designed for infant use, while others are best for toddlers and children.

Various textures (buttery, powdery)

Some additives are powders, while others are a little more oily or liquids. While this is mostly personal preference, more oily additives tend to work better in thicker foods and beverages (mashed potatoes, milkshakes, etc).

Ability to thicken food and beverages

Some additives thicken the food or beverages they’re added to, which is ideal for those that have difficulty swallowing.


While some additives do have flavor, you’ll likely want to look for unflavored options, to keep recipes and preparation simple.

Ability to be heated

If you’re looking to cook or bake with a food additive, double-check that it can be heated - some products cannot

Ability to be frozen

Some additives cannot be frozen - keep in mind, though, that these can still be added to things like milkshakes and smoothies (added during the blending process)

Amount of protein

Some additives have extra protein (for those that aren’t getting protein in their diets), and some have no protein (for those that are sensitive to protein).

Suitable for pediatric use

Kids have special nutrition needs! That’s why some of our additives are specially designed to support growth and nutrition for children.

Suitable for lactose intolerance

For those with lactose intolerance, you’ll want to look for lactose-free options. Keep in mind that many of these are still not suitable for those with galactosemia (an intolerance to the sugar component of lactose).

Gluten-free, Kosher, and Halal

Most of the food additives we offer are gluten-free, Kosher and Halal.

How do I choose?

First, talk to your doctor about what’s right for your needs. Then, ask yourself: Why am I looking for a food additive?

"I’m looking for extra calories."

If you’re just looking for extra calories, a calorie additive like Benecalorie is likely the best choice for you. They easily mix with your favorite foods, and are easy to cook or bake with.

"I need more protein in my diet."

Calorie additives like Benecalorie contain high-protein levels. Steer clear of products like Duocal, which are ideal for high-calorie needs, but don’t contain protein.

"I’m looking for pediatric nutrition or toddler formula."

If you’re looking for pediatric nutrition, you’ll likely want to go with EleCare, Jr. or Duocal, though you should check in with your doctor about what’s right for your needs.

"My child has severe food allergies."

For severe food allergies, look for amino-acid based foods that are hypoallergenic.

"I have difficulty swallowing."

If you have trouble swallowing, thickening additives like Thick-It can change the consistency of your favorite beverages, making them easier to swallow.

Carewell's recommendations

Our caregivers love brands like EleCareThick-ItDuocaland Nestle.

Some of our caregivers’ favorite food additives are:

Packaged in convenient single-serve pods, you pour this calorie additive into your favorite foods to instantly add extra calories and protein. This highly-concentrated pod adds 330 calories and 7 grams of high-quality protein to whatever you add it to.

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A convenient solution for those with difficulty swallowing, this powder can be added to any beverage or pureed food to achieve a desired consistency. You can even add this powder to nutritional shakes, for those that struggle to meet their nutritional needs with food alone.

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Duocal is a powder additive that offers high calories with no protein, making it ideal for those with sensitive stomachs or for those that are on protein-restricted diets. Note that Duocal should not be used without first speaking with your doctor.

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Brittany's pro-tips

  1. Try not to add the oily supplements (like Benecalorie) to thin foods and beverages. The consistency is sort of like butter, so it works best in thicker, creamier foods like mashed potatoes, milkshakes, or alfredo.
  2. For the amino acid-based foods, you’ll want to use whatever you mix up within 24 hours, and always refrigerate what you don’t eat immediately
  3. If you’re using Thick-It, follow the instructions on the container precisely. It may seem like your food or beverage isn’t the right thickness, but that’s because Thick-It can take up to a minute to thicken substances. If you add more powder because you think it isn’t thick enough, you’ll end up with a food or drink that’s much too thick.
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