Recipe: Nutrient-Rich Shake for Picky Eaters

Feb 7

No, this isn’t one of those recipes to help you lose weight. This one is for the picky eater in your house…especially your picky eating special needs child.
A few months ago I shared that one of my children is on the spectrum. PDD-NOS, to be specific. Following that post, many of you reached out expressing how much my organized special needs binder helped or you asked questions about other ways one could organize these mounds upon mounds of paperwork. You even e-mailed to ask for help with resources for your child.
Whatever the case, please know that as a parent of an ASD child, I will always be available to answer questions. Whether organization-related or not.
Since the binder post received great feedback and caused many of you to respond and comment to one another, when there is something worth sharing on the topic I’ll blog about it. In this case, I’m talking about picky eaters on the spectrum.
My son is a very picky eater. Sure, everyone has children with picky eating habits. All parents are not immune to this frustration. It wears down even the best of us. But children on the spectrum take picky eating to entirely new heights. A level of epic proportions, if you will. Truth is that developmental delays and picky eating go hand in hand. Over the last year, my son’s menu of already limited items continued to dwindle down further. During this phase I’ve spent a lot of time talking with therapists, his pediatrician and researching the topic on my own (online, at the library and with friends). I’ve tried all sorts of tactics, including hiding the foods I would like to see him eat inside regular foods.
Yup, that does not work.
Over the last 2 months, the amount of food he eats has really become an issue. Just when I think he can’t surprise us anymore, he does.
A few weeks ago I started reading this book
And this one
Then I double-downed by taking him to the nutrition clinic at the local children’s hospital.
Bam. Don’t mess with mommy!
After a thorough assessment with a clinical nutritionist, we left with a plan. The main focus points for now are to continue with his current vitamin supplements (which he does enjoy eating) and add in some high-calorie, nutrient-dense recipes. Which brings me to this milkshake recipe.
Again, while this is a nutrient rich shake, it’s high calorie…and high fat. Please proceed with caution.
Oh, and it’s totally delicious. Your pickiest eater will love it and ask for more. Even your non-picky eaters.
Here are the 3 ingredients: ice cream, half-and-half, and Carnation Instant Breakfast…

To a blender or processor, add 1/2 cup of half-and-half and 3/4 cup of full-fat ice cream. I chose vanilla…

Then sprinkle in one entire packet of carnation instant breakfast powder – I used the rich chocolate flavor…

Blend and serve…

Then watch it magically disappear.

This is intended to be a “breakfast” smoothie, but it tastes good no matter what time of day. I’ve been making it a few mornings a week, not every morning as he requests.

The shake has a little less than 500 calories, 53g carbs, 13g protein, and 25g fat.

When the nutritionist suggested creating recipes from Carnation instant breakfast, I was questionable. For some reason I thought it was more of a “junk food” type product. Then she handed me a sample that listed all of the vitamins and minerals. I figured it was worth a shot. In case you haven’t seen a box of these packets for a while, here’s some great info straight from the box itself…

If you have a child with picky eating habits, here are some great articles/websites I found online:

* autism research institute: the picky eater

* autism speaks: encouraging picky eaters with autism to try new foods

* thinking persons guide to autism: feeding issues and picky eaters

* she knows: healthy recipes for picky eaters with autism

* autism-help: fussy eating and autism

* usda choose my plate: picky eaters section on their site

* usda choose my plate website: has great info on many other topics, like how to be a healthy role model for your child, a breakdown of daily food plans, how to add more vegetables each day and ideas for kid-friendly veggies and fruits.

I’ve discovered there is a lot of info out there on this topic, but you should always first begin with your child’s pediatrician or therapist. Our pediatrician didn’t have a whole lot to offer on the topic, which is why he sent in a referral to Children’s.

As more recipes get the thumbs up, I’ll share here. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any tips to share as well!

comments +

  1. Nadia says:

    Thank you so much Sam. I love when you share new information you learn. That is a great quality you posess 🙂

  2. michele says:

    this is awesome information that i'm going to pass along. my niece is on the spectrum, and we need all the resources we can get!

    thank you so much.


    • thank you! SO glad to know it may help your niece. i hear you…it's all about resources for these little guys!


      • Stacy says:

        Hi. I have a 9 yr old son having trouble with weight gain and growth. He is underweight. He goes to encologist. They want him to have 500 caolories shake everynite before bed. Im looking for more recipes. Thanks stacy

  3. Betsy Brock says:

    I have triplet boys with autism. They are 19 years old now and I can certainly relate to the self imposed limited diets. All three of mine have that issue…and all three are different from each other! ha. Best of luck to you! I'm going to take a look at that book and see if I can get any pointers myself! Thank you!

    • oh my gosh – you're my hero!!! THREE boys with autism!? how DO you do it!!!!!!?????

      the book has been a great read – was given to me from the therapy school we attend. hope you will find something new and useful should you read it!

      all the best to you and your boys!

  4. Great idea! I too reach for the instant breakfast when my 2 year old is being picky. Her list of food is always getting smaller and we are to the point that I can hardly get her to concentrate on eating unless I am feeding her or I have her strapped to the high chair.

  5. Oh, this brings back memories. When my son was 2-3 {he's now 14}, he wouldn't eat anything. Like NOTHING. My friends kept saying "my doctor said that kids won't starve…they'll eventually eat when they get hungry enough." WRONG. My doctor confirmed that this is NOT the case for kiddos with autism. We eventually had him on meal replacement drinks (Ensure), but the first baby step was good ol' CIB. You're spot on – it's great for them! I still give it to my (not on the spectrum) 8 year old who is picky 🙂

  6. TheFiveDays says:

    Love this post! My two kids with autism are both selective eaters but in different ways (got to keep it challenging, right!). My youngest had a feeding therapist for awhile who was wonderful and introduced me to the food chaining book. Really helpful!

  7. Great tip. I would have never thought about Carnation Instant Breakfast. I have a son with Asperger's and he's not the picky one – it's my daughter. I'm going to have to try this on her. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Thank you so much! One of my children has autism and will not eat much. He is so skinny it bothers me! I have not taken to a nutritionist yet but I might just do that now. thank you again for sharing!

  9. Tracy says:

    Thank you so much! I am going to try the smoothie. My son is 14 and still picky and over the past year he literally grew 4 inches so now he is a walking bean pole. I love him to death, of course, and his lack of nutritional intake really worris me. Thank you again!

    • Samantha says:

      I can totally relate – so tough to get those nutrients in. And my guy is still rail thin. I am still making these all the time. At this point I’ll do anything to get the fat and calories in!


  10. Janel says:

    I have 2 young kids with autism who are extremely picky and underweight. I cannot wait to try this on both of them! Thank you so much! It is rare that I find something that sounds like my kids will even try. I am so excited!

    • Samantha says:

      I am SO glad!!! My son drinks this up…obviously, I’m careful because it has a lot of fat, but he’s so thin and wanted to help him bulk up a bit. He loves it still – even a couple years later. Hard to believe I wrote this post so long ago!

      Thank you for the comment!

    • Lenore says:

      I am in the same exact boat as Janel! And I had the same reaction when I found this Pinned and looking yummy! Thanks for sharing this information!

  11. Janice Templin says:

    This sounds like exactly what I need for my husband! He’s on chemotherapy and currently weighs 124 lbs. I’ve been told to give his as much fat and calories as I can, but he’s really sick of the recommended Ensure Plus. This shake has 150 more calories and 14 more grams of fat. And, if necessary, it can be put in a feeding tube. Yay! Thanks for sharing!

  12. viani says:

    I’m also looking for solution for my kid. However, Carnation instant breakfast has artificial flavor. Although it may solve the weight problem, but it may create another different problem due to its artifical flavor content.

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