Buying Guide: Specialty Nutrition Products and Beverages

Chad Birt

Written by Chad Birt on Fri Mar 08 2024.

Family eating outside.

Caring for a loved one with nutritional challenges, like swallowing difficulties, poor chewing ability, or low-calorie intake can make your job even harder. You know that healthy food and beverage options are crucial, but finding products with the right consistency and proper nutrition can be a tall order. 

We understand. Which is why we stock a variety of specialty nutrition products and beverages. Here, we provide a shoppable list of our favorite items, including customer reviews and key benefits and features.

What Are Specialty Nutrition Products and Beverages?

Specialty nutrition products and beverages are formulated for those with nutritional challenges, including:

  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)

  • Chewing difficulties caused by missing teeth, dental pain, or dental devices

  • Low-calorie intake

  • Low protein intake

  • Infants

  • Teething toddlers

  • Gastrointestinal issues

  • Feeding tubes

These products contain additives, like food thickeners, vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes, to support nutrition and make mealtimes easier. 

How We Chose the Products In This List

The specialty nutrition products and beverages featured below are a mix of our best-selling and top-rated items. Whenever possible, we’ve included real customer feedback under the heading “Hear It From a User/Caregiver.” 

Carewell’s Best Specialty Nutrition Products and Beverages

The list below contains three sections: thickened foods, tube feeding friendly, and electrolytes & hydration. Let’s take a closer look:

Thickened Foods

1) Thick-It Food & Drink Thickener, Unflavored 

Thick-It is a cornstarch-based food and drink thickener for folks with swallowing difficulties. It’s gluten-free, dissolves instantly, and can be mixed into foods and beverages of any temperature –– hot or cold. It reduces the risk of choking and aspiration, making meal and snack times easier and stress-free. 

Key Benefits & Features

  • Doesn’t change the appearance or flavor of the foods and drinks it’s mixed with

  • Kosher Parve

  • Can be used to create a honey-thick, nectar-thick, or pudding-thick consistency

Hear it from a caregiver

“This is a wonderful product. [I add] it to my mother’s drinks throughout the day to keep her hydrated. Without it, she struggles with choking on liquids.”

- Gloria G. 

Thick-It Food & Drink Thickener, Unflavored
Thick-It Food & Drink Thickener, Unflavored

Price: $12.99 - $113.94

2) Hormel Thick & Easy Pureed Meals

These Hormel pureed meals are some of our best-selling specialty nutrition products. Each serving has 250 calories, 15 grams of fat, and 14 grams of protein. The soft consistency is ideal for individuals with swallowing and swallowing difficulties, reducing the risk of pain, aspiration, and choking.

Key Benefits & Features

  • Microwave safe; Ready to serve in just 60 seconds

  • No refrigeration required, shelf-stable

  • Blended to be smooth and easy to eat

Hear it from a caregiver

“Good for people with swallowing and chewing complications. [These are] good meals to have when you don’t have time to puree yourself.”

- Jaquoyah H. 

Tube Feeding Friendly

3) Real Food Blends, Tube Feeding Formula

Real Food Blends purees might come in handy if your loved one has a feeding tube. Each blend contains five whole foods or less and several grams of fiber. There are no synthetic ingredients or added sugar and salt. Even better? They can be used with bolus, gravity, and pump feeding.

Key Benefits & Features

  • 100% real food for kids and adults with feeding tubes

  • No refrigeration is needed! Shelf stable for up to three years

  • Formulated with ingredients that support overall health

Hear it from a caregiver

“Excellent choice and [a] variety of foods! I still have to dilute the food to be able to feed via gravity or the syringe tip will clog, but my husband is happy to know it’s real food instead of a lab-created mix. 5 stars.”

- David M. 

4) Fibersource HN High-Nitrogen Complete Nutrition

Many people who use feeding tubes have elevated calorie and/or protein requirements. Fibersource’s complete nutrition formula addresses both of these issues with a high-quality casein and soybean blend. It provides 1.2 calories per milliliter, 54 grams of protein, and 15.2 grams of fiber per liter.

Key Benefits & Features

  • Formulated to support lean body mass

  • Contains 50% soluble and 50% insoluble fiber to support digestive health

  • Contains ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid (“healthy fat”)

5) Mead Johnson BCAD Infant Formula & Medical Food

This Mead Johnson medical food formula is for children with maple syrup urine disease (MSUD) –– a rare, but potentially serious inherited metabolic disorder. Children with MSUD can’t break down certain amino acids which are essential for making protein. The formula prevents amino acids from building up in the body, reducing the risk of severe, MSUD-related health problems. 

Key Benefits & Features

  • Provides essential and nonessential amino acids

  • Contains choline, an essential nutrient for brain development and healthy cells

  • Increase levels of B vitamins compared to other infant formulas

Hear it from a caregiver

“I order BCAD for my friend's kids [and] they really like it.”

- Anh T. 

6) Kate Farms  Peptide 1.0 Sole-Source Nutrition

If your loved one suffers from gastrointestinal problems, like diarrhea or constipation, you might struggle to find meals that are nourishing and free of side effects. This peptide-based nutrition beverage aims to address GI symptoms by providing proper nutrition without any digestion-related risks. 

Key Benefits & Features

  • Designed to provide nutrition and support for people with digestive issues

  • Made without common allergens for easy digestion

  • Can be consumed orally or used for tube feeding

Shop our entire lineup of specialty nutrition products and beverages.

Electrolytes & Hydration

7) Pedialyte, Electrolyte Solution

Pedialyte is considered the gold standard for hydration. It’s safe for people of all ages and optimizes fluid absorption. Many people use Pedialyte to recover after a stomach bug or virus, but it can also be used to support folks who don’t drink enough water. The added minerals (electrolytes) restore the body to balance and prevent dehydration.

Key Benefits & Features

  • Quickly replaces fluids and electrolytes

  • The #1 doctor-recommended brand for hydration in the U.S.

  • Used by doctors and hospitals for more than 50 years

Hear it from a caregiver

“Great product, great service.”

- Janice P. 

Get Fast, Free Shipping & 30% Off with Autoship

Planning snacks and meals can be time-consuming and stressful. Especially if your loved one has unique nutritional needs. But if your pantry is stocked with specialty nutrition products and beverages, there’s one less thing to worry about. 

We offer fast, free shipping on orders $49+, and signing up for Autoship is an easy way to keep everything you need available. Enjoy 30% off your first Autoship order, and an additional 5% off each order of qualifying products.

Have Questions About Specialty Nutrition? We’re Here to Help!

Caring for a loved one with special nutritional needs isn’t easy, so you probably have questions. Our friendly Care Team is familiar with all of the products we carry and can help point you in the right direction. Contact them 24/7 by calling (800) 696-CARE or sending an email to support@carewell.com.

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Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.