Oral Nutritional Supplements (ONS) are ready-to-drink liquid or powdered formulas with added nutrients including carbohydrate, protein, vitamins and minerals. They are usually prescribed by dietitians or doctors to people who have difficulties meeting their daily nutritional needs from food. These could include people who:
Suffer a loss of appetite that persists over a period of time
Experience unintentional weight loss*
Are on tube feeding
*It is recommended to consult a doctor to examine the cause of unexplained weight loss.
There is an increasing range of ONS in the market, making it overwhelming to choose one that best suits the needs of you or your loved ones. Here is an overview of the common ONS you may come across.
Common Types of ONS
Standard milk feeds (e.g. Ensure, Boost Isocal, Jevity)
Most of the feeds come in vanilla flavour. Some contain fiber. They are suitable for most people. 1 serving (200-250ml) generally provides 240-270kcal, 30-45g carbohydrate, 8-10g protein and 6-9g fat.
Milk feeds suitable for diabetes (e.g. Glucerna, Nutren Diabetes, Diaben)
They contain fiber and have lower carbohydrate content to help with blood sugar control. 1 serving (200-250ml) generally provides less than 30g carbohydrate, 10-16g protein, 8-17g fat and 3-5g fiber. Some are designed to provide more nutrients in less volume.
They come in different flavours and provide more nutrients in less volume. Some contain twice the amount of nutrients in standard milk feeds. They are suitable for people with very poor appetite or people who are advised to restrict their daily fluid intake for certain medical conditions. 1 serving (125-200ml) generally provides 300-400kcal, 35-55g carbohydrate, 12-20g protein and 10-16g fat.
Juice-based feeds (e.g. Fortijuice, Resource Fruit Flavoured Beverage)
These are fat-free feeds suitable for people who are unable to tolerate milk feeds. They are not suitable for people on long term tube feeding as they lack the essential nutrients for our bodies to function optimally. 1 serving (200-240ml) generally provides 250-300kcal, 8-9g protein and 55-67g carbohydrate.
Other ONS (e.g. Novasource Renal, Nepro LP, Peptamen, Souvenaid) are developed for specific groups of population. These supplements usually contain nutrients that are targeted at specific medical conditions. Consult a dietitian or doctor before making any purchase as this type of ONS may only be effective with the right dosage over a recommended period of time.
If you do not have swallowing difficulty or other medical conditions that restrict oral food intake, you should continue to have regular meals and snacks while using ONS to optimise your overall nutritional intake.
For people with dysphagia (i.e. swallowing difficulty), thickener (e.g. Thixer, ThickenUp) may be required to achieve the recommended fluid consistency.
While some of these feeds contain lactose, majority of them contain minimal lactose and thus are suitable for people with lactose intolerance.
ONS should be stored in a cool dry place before opening and can be consumed chilled, warmed (in a hot water bath) or at room temperature. Most supplements can be stored in the fridge up to 24 hours after opening.
At JagaStore, you will find a range of ONS that may be suitable for you or your family members who are unable to meet nutritional needs from usual dietary sources. If you have queries regarding ONS or tube feeding regime, please discuss with a dietitian or doctor.
About the Author: This article is written by Ong Sik Yin for Jaga-Me. Sik Yin holds a Master’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Flinders University. She is an Accredited Dietitian of Singapore (Singapore Nutrition and Dietetics Association) and an Accredited Practising Dietitian (Dietitians Association of Australia). She is an advocate of building a supportive ecosystem and conducive environment to promote health and wellness. She has over 10 years of experience providing nutritional advice and sharing her knowledge in hospital settings and public forums.
At Jaga-Me, we believe that healthcare should be a social good – it is a basic human need, and should be available to as many people as possible. We aim to deliver the highest quality care through innovation and a commitment to building meaningful relationships.
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