Adding Calories During Special Needs Diets

Did someone just say adding calories to our diet? Most of us seem forever engaged in a love-hate relationship with much of our beloved foods, so adding calories sounds almost absurd. That is, until we are faced with catastrophic situations (in our case, my husband’s cancer) where the danger of wasting away from malnutrition becomes clear and present.

There was a three to four month period in my food-enthusiast husband’s treatment when he couldn’t tolerate the sight or even the topic of foods. He seemed to have turned on one of his favorite things and was getting skeletal. I had to think, and think fast, as time was of the essence. Adding calories was a must. My plan was easier said than done:

Adding calories to a maximum, in a minimum volume of food.

As a life-long nutrition-driven chef, cooking instructor and cookbook author, I am constantly developing ways to sneak super nutritious ingredients into my unsuspecting family and fans’ food (there, the secret is out!) at all times.  I would rack my brains to come up with some foods he would make an exception for and not reject out of hand, and adding calories to them, while I tinkered like crazy with my Nourishments blend.

I remember the hospital staff exhorting my husband to do pretty much what amounts to “stuffing your face”, and not worry about the quality of the food’s contents. Eat lots of danishes, ice cream, potato chips, they would urge. This advice to someone fighting for his life always struck me as outrageous, especially coming from a place dedicated to treating and healing. Call me reverse chic, but I never say, “it is so good you will think you are eating junk!“. So sorry but I cannot understand this logic. I say “if you put in only healthy ingredients, it is guaranteed to come out good!” This is precisely the mindset that informed all my mad-scientist food-tinkering.

With three to four Nourishmentss a day, mixed with a little milk, milk alternative or juice, I would get close to 1600 calories. My husband is a tall guy, and we needed to get his weight back up at all costs, so I needed more daily calories than that. The solution to adding calories was mixing my Nourishments with a larger recipe. Among the unladylike ways I found to augment the caloric content of my Nourishments blends were a few preparations that became our lifeline.

Incidentally, Levana Nourishments bends are suitable for everyone looking to gain weight, not just sick people: picky children, frail elderly people, depleted post-op patients and so on). The following ideas for adding calories are just a few suggestions, but you will get a good idea how to whip up a perfect and perfectly nutritious meal in minutes, and add your own, based on your own preferences.

As always when feeding your loved ones and adding calories is a challenge, think plain, blended, smooth, comfort-food-like dishes.

Smoothies: Here I should mention my blender became my best friend, indeed my partner in crime. I could whip up a smoothie with my Nourishmentss, starting at about 300 calories and ending up with a whopping 600 or 700 calories, each of which nutrition-dense and wholesome. I did my magic-in-a-glass by throwing a very rich yet unobtrusive ingredient along with one of my Breakfast Levana Nourishments (Vanilla Bean, Cocoa-Coffee or Mixed Berry): an avocado; 1/4 cup of nut butter; a scoop or two of ice cream; a big splash of heavy cream; a bid dollop of coconut butter; a handful of seeds or nuts; full-fat yogurt, ricotta or cottage cheese.


Soups: Soup is a great place to sneak in lots of fantastic nutrition-packed ingredients. The great think about my Soup Nourishments is that they are, literally, the soup. Not just a good base for a soup, but indeed the soup itself. Anything else you might want to add to my soup Nourishments is just an accessory, for added texture.

I simmer 1/2 cup (one packet) of my Garden Vegetable Soup or my Mushroom Medley Soup on a stovetop with 3-4 cups of water and 1-2 tablespoons olive oil (for vegetable) or toasted sesame oil (for mushroom), and sometimes add a handful of quick-cooking grain such as tiny red lentils, old-fashioned oats, quinoa, millet etc… Talk about adding calories: A 250-calorie serving of soup (which is the caloric content of 1 packet of Levana Nourishments Soup) goes up to about 600 calories with the addition of oil and grain and nothing more.  Serve as is, or garnish with scallions, tomatoes, herbs etc…


Pancakes, Muffins, and Omelets or Frittatas: Make a basic pancake or crepe (thinner pancakes, my favorite) recipe, throwing in a packet of your favorite breakfast Levana Nourishments blend. Or make my basic Muffin recipe, throwing in a packet of your favorite Levana Nourishments breakfast blend. Or throw a packet of your favorite soup blend with eggs for a quick omelet or frittata. For variety, always mix and match Nourishments flavors, garnishes, fillings and toppings.



Dips, Pasta and Burgers: Throw a packet of Levana Nourishments Garden Vegetable or Mushroom Medley Soup in your favorite dip, pasta sauce or burger.



3 Responses to Adding Calories During Special Needs Diets

  1. Liese Ericksen January 6, 2017 at 12:16 pm #

    I hear about your product from a friend of mine in Seattle. My brother has mesothelioma and is being treated at the University of Chicago. I am interested in your product for him. Please let me know if it is available anywhere. I tried to buy a sample pack but it said I could not.

    Liese Ericksen

    • Levana Kirschenbaum January 13, 2017 at 11:27 am #

      Hi Liese, so sorry to hear. Our production is starting next week, and our product will be available online starting February 1st Please Gd.
      I wish your brother complete recovery.

      • Levana Kirschenbaum March 29, 2017 at 3:00 pm #

        Liese I am just making sure you are aware our site is taking orders! You will love our product!

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