My Nothing-But-Neocate Diet

From time to time, clinicians and parents of children with allergies ask me if I’ve ever tried the Neocate formulas. We here at Nutricia have certainly tasted them all, but tasting and consuming are not the same. After lots of questions from parents about what their little one is feeling and whether or not it’s normal, and given my indiscriminate palate, I decided it was time to really give Neocate a try.

My plan? To go on a nothing-but-Neocate diet for two days. What, exactly, would be allowed? Neocate: specifically any of the Neocate products and a few allergen-free artificial flavors. I decided I could still have plain tea (lack of caffeine could be a real problem for me!). I also decided that, given my usual fiber intake from foods, I would also supplement my all-Neocate diet with prebiotic fiber.

Some folks might say that adding fiber is cheating. However, we already include fiber in Neocate Junior with Prebiotics. I took the guidance that I (as a Registered Dietitian) would give anyone: to avoid a sudden and drastic change in fiber intake, up or down. I was able to find a fiber supplement derived from inulin. Inulin is the plant source of the prebiotic fiber that’s included in Neocate Junior with Prebiotics, so this would be similar. And the use of other allergen-free artificial flavors? I figured that was okay too, because dietitians who work with children and adults with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) allow these when the patients follow an amino acid-based (or “elemental”) diet.

What wasn’t allowed? Anything else! 

With these rules in mind, I used my approximate calorie needs to design a “meal plan” and dove right in.

Day 1 Menu

  • Morning Snack: Neocate Infant DHA/ARA
  • Breakfast: Neocate Infant DHA/ARA
  • Lunch: Neocate Infant with DHA/ARA + artificial lemon-lime flavor
  • Dessert: Neocate NutraNeocate Junior, Chocolate (“Chocolate Pudding”)
  • Afternoon Snack: Neocate E028 Splash Orange-Pineapple
  • Appetizer: Neocate Junior with Prebiotics, Unflavored + artificial grapefruit flavor
  • Dinner: Neocate E028 Splash Grape + Neocate Junior, Chocolate (“Chocolate Covered Raisin”)
  • Dessert: Neocate Junior with Prebiotics, Unflavored + artficial ‘cookies ‘n cream’ flavor

Day 1 Experience:

Day 1 started with Neocate Infant DHA/ARA. Does this taste like standard infant formula or milk? Nope. Because Neocate products have amino acids instead of whole protein, Neocate Infant DHA/ARA has a different taste and a thinner consistency (it’s more watery). To me it has an herbal undertone, which isn’t so bad, and is something most infants either don’t notice or get used to after a day or two.

Smaller amounts were fine, but a full 350 calories of plain Neocate Infant DHA/ARA was a bit much, even for me! By my last “meal” of Neocate Infant DHA/ARA at lunch I decided to try adding some artficial lemon-lime flavor. So far, so good. I was surprised that I wasn’t ravenous later in the day – I had my doubts that an all-liquid diet would keep me satisfied, but it really did! I managed to go to bed without any food cravings that day. No stomachaches and nothing out of the ordinary. Day one, done!

Day 2 Menu:

  • Morning Snack: Neocate E028 Splash, Tropical Fruit
  • Breakfast: Neocate E028 Splash, Orange-Pineapple + Neocate Junior, Unflavored + artificial strawberry flavor (“Fruit Salad”)
  • Lunch: Neocate Junior, Tropical
  • Dessert: Neocate Nutra + Neocate Junior with Prebiotics, Unflavored + artificial cherry-vanilla flavor (“Chocolate-covered Cherry Pudding”)
  • Snack: Neocate E028 Splash, Tropical Fruit
  • Appetizer: Neocate Junior with Prebiotics, Unflavored + artificial strawberry flavor
  • Dinner: Neocate E028 Splash, Orange-Pineapple + artificial strawberry flavor + Neocate Junior with Prebiotics, Unflavored
  • Dessert: Neocate Nutra + Neocate Junior, Chocolate + artificial strawberry flavor (“Chocolate-covered Strawberry Pudding”)

Day 2 Experience:

Day 2 started with some definite hunger, but the morning snack took care of that. When I arrived at work I found a donut on my desk from a coworker – enter the cravings for solid food! It was definitely tough to avoid the snacks around the office that day, but I made it through. The toughest part was probably dinner time. I usually make dinner in our house, so cooking and not eating the food was difficult. (No french fries?!?)

By the end of the day all of the different flavors began to taste pretty similar to me, probably because I tried so many flavor mash-ups. I will say that I definitely found the Neocate E028 Splash an easy option. It seems silly, but it was so easy to grab a Splash instead of having to prepare a meal. I really see how convenient this can be for kids and families on the go, not to mention adults like me!

All things considered, the all-Neocate diet wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought, and in some ways it actually made life easier. (I’m terrible at meal-planning, which makes for some very last-minute dinners!) I really appreciated having all of the different flavor options and the ease of Splash in a ready-to-go format. That said, a third day might have gotten a little routine, so I have a lot of respect for the children and adults who have to stay on an amino acid-based diet for a long period of time. It has to be especially those who have had “real” food, know what it tastes like, and must give it up for a period of time.

And the question many parents would like to ask: How did I feel after two days of Neocate? Pretty normal, actually! There are rumors that amino acid-based diets cause constipation, but that’s not true. My stomach felt a bit more “active” at times, but I never felt queasy, had diarrhea or constipation, or really felt any different than I usually do. I didn’t have any big swings in hunger or fullness, and it was nice not worrying about whether or not I was getting a balanced diet: Neocate took care of that for me. For parents of children who are going from a solid food diet to Neocate (such as those with EoE who are starting an elimination diet) you may want to check with your child’s healthcare team about using Neocate Junior with Prebiotics, which has fiber to help maintain gut health. 

Update, 2014: Neocate now offers Neocate Junior with Prebiotics, VanillaNeocate Junior with Prebiotics, Strawberry, and Neocate Splash, Unflavored! I look forward to trying this experience again soon with the full Neocate portfolio!

Feel free to share any questions you have about my experience! How about you, parents: have you ever tried a full serving of Neocate? If so, what did you think?

Rob McCandlish, RDN

Published: 05/12/2011
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