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High calorie drinks

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This page tells you about how to boost your diet by having high calorie and protein drinks. There are several ways to have these drinks including


Making your own

You can make your own energy filled drinks by liquidising combinations of milk, fresh fruit, yoghurt, honey or sugar and ice cream as a smoothie or milkshake. Try adding a handful of pumpkin or sesame seeds to add a few extra calories. The best thing about making your own drinks is that they usually taste great and you can control the flavour.

Make a smoothie by blending fresh apple, strawberries, banana or other soft fruit with fortified milk, fruit juice or yoghurt in a liquidiser or blender. Supermarkets sell mixed fruit and frozen smoothie mixes which work well if you are making your own. 

To make a nutritious milkshake, mix fortified milk with either puréed fruit or a fruit yoghurt and top with a scoop of ice cream for extra energy.

Make a chocolate and banana milkshake with chocolate flavour milk and whizz in a blender with a banana. This is delicious and nutritious and easy to eat if you can't face a meal.


Ready made drinks (liquid supplements)

High calorie meals in a drink or energy drinks are also called liquid food supplements or sip feeds. They can be useful short term if your appetite is poor and you can't manage to take in enough nourishment. You can use them to replace a meal or to boost your calorie intake between meals.

There are several ready made commercial brands available on the market. You can buy these from your chemist but they are quite expensive. Your doctor can give you a prescription for them. Prescriptions are free if you live in Scotland and Wales and you can apply for a certificate if you have cancer to get them free.

If you are feeling tired and not interested in food, the drinks can be an easy way to boost calories and protein. But some people don't like them all that much. Many come in different flavours such as chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and banana. There are also savoury ones in the form of soups. You may need to try several before you find one you like. Your dietician may be to suggest recipes or other ways to make supplements more palatable.

Some of them have enough nutrients and calories in them to replace your meals, but it is always best to carry on eating if you can. Some drinks should be used alongside meals, to give you more energy. The 2 types are

Balanced supplements

You can buy these supplements over the counter and in some supermarkets. They come as a powder that you make up into milkshakes, soups, hot drinks or cold drinks. They include products such as Meritene and Complan.

Complete meal supplements

These products contain the nutrients to replace a meal. Your doctor, GP or dietician can prescribe them. A district nurse or specialist nurse can help arrange a prescription for you. It's possible to buy them yourself but they are expensive. If you use them you should be monitored by your doctor or dietician. These supplements come as a liquid in a carton or bottle, and are either milkshake style or fruit juice style. The milk based ones include

  • Ensure Plus
  • Fresubin Energy
  • Fortisip
  • Resource shake
  • Ensure Plus Yoghurt Style
  • Fortifresh Yoghurt Style
  • Clinutren

and the fruit based ones include

  • Ensure Plus Juce
  • Fortijuce
  • Clinutren Fruit
  • Resource Fruit
  • Provide Xtra

In most cases you have these between meals and carry on with your normal diet as well. Drinking between 2 and 3 cartons a day gives you a substantial boost to your overall nutritional intake. You should not take more than your doctor or dietician recommends, as the drinks contain vitamins that could be harmful in large amounts. Tell your doctor, dietician or pharmacist if you are taking any other vitamin supplements.

If you are taking certain medicines you may need to avoid taking them soon after or before having the drinks. The drink may change how much of the medicine is absorbed. You can ask your doctor, pharmacist or dietician about the best times to take your medicines and have the drinks.


Adding powder to water or milk

You can get tasteless high protein and energy powders to add to food or drinks to get extra calories in. The different types of powders are described below.

Energy powders

  • Polycal
  • Maxijul

Nutritionally balanced powders

  • Scandishake
  • Enshake
  • Calshake

Protein powders

  • Maxipro
  • Protifar

These can be expensive so it's best for your doctor to prescribe them if you need them. Protein-only powders should only be used if your doctor prescribes them for you.


For more information

Find out about

Free prescriptions for people with cancer

Adding calories to a soft diet

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Updated: 25 February 2014