Nutritional Drinks for the Elderly

Two older adults sitting across from each other drinking nutritional drinks and lifting small weights.

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Undernutrition is a common problem among the elderly. Drinking can be an easier way to get nutrition for many seniors. Let’s explore nutritional drink options.

*This article contains affiliate links. I may earn a commission from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. 

Nutritional Supplements

Nutritional supplements are what is most commonly thought of when it comes to nutritional drinks for the elderly. 

Seniors are at increased risk for unavoidable weight loss and malnutrition. Supplement drinks are a common way to add additional calories. 

There are many brands on the market that come in a variety of flavors. 

Most have comparable products across companies, even store brands. It is most important to choose one based on palatability and affordability. 

Supplement Options

It can be confusing to decide which nutritional supplement to choose when being faced with so many options. 

The fanciest supplement drinks don’t do any good, however, if your loved one won’t drink them. 

It may take some trial and error to find one that is well accepted. Changing up flavors can help prevent getting tired of the same thing every day. 

Ensure by AbbottⓇ 

Ensure products are made by a company called Abbott. There are a variety of different types of Ensure

  • Original
  • Plus
  • Complete
  • Max Protein
  • High Protein
  • Plant Based Protein
  • Clear
  • Compact
  • Original Powder
  • Surgery Immunonutrition 
  • Pre-surgery Clear 
  • Enlive

Shop Ensure supplements here. 

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Ensure Original 

Ensure Original is a basic nutritional supplement providing 220 calories and 9 grams of protein. 

Ensure Plus

Ensure Plus provides more calories and protein than the original, in the same volume. It has 350 calories and 16 grams of protein. 

Ensure Complete

Ensure Complete is marketed as a meal replacement drink. It has 350 calories and 30 grams of protein. 

It also includes additional nutrients that may be beneficial for immunity, bone health, and digestion.

Ensure Max Protein

Ensure Max Protein is more of a protein supplement drink. It contains 150 calories, 30 grams of protein, with only 1 gram of sugar. 

There are several flavors that also contain caffeine. 

Ensure High Protein

Ensure High Protein has less protein than the Max version, containing 160 calories and 16 grams of protein. 

Ensure Plant-Based Protein

Ensure Plant-Based Protein is vegan and completely non-dairy. It has 180 calories and 20 grams of protein.

Its protein comes from fava beans and peas. 

Ensure Clear

Ensure Clear is a “juice” type nutritional drink that is appropriate for clear liquid diets.

It contains 180 calories and has 8 grams of protein. 

Ensure Compact

Ensure Compact is similar to the original, but is more concentrated, providing similar nutrition in a smaller amount.

It has 220 calories and 9 grams of protein in only 4 ounces. 

Ensure Original Nutrition Powder

Ensure Original Nutrition Powder is a powder option of the original formula. Instead of coming ready to drink, it is a self stable powder that can be mixed into water.

It provides 250 calories and 9 grams of protein for every prepared serving. 

Ensure Surgery Immunonutrition

Ensure Surgery Immunonutrition has arginine and omega 3 fatty acids to help support surgical recovery. 

It has 330 calories and 18 grams of protein.

Ensure Pre-Surgery 

Ensure Pre-Surgery is a clear carbohydrate drink. It has the antioxidants zinc and selenium to help prepare for surgery. 

It has 200 calories and 50 grams of carbohydrates. 

Ensure Enlive

Ensure Enlive is a shake that has HMB, which is a metabolite of the amino acid (building blocks of protein) leucine. It is designed to help support muscle health. 

It contains 350 calories and 20 grams of protein.

Boost by Nestle

Boost products are made by the company Nestle. They also have a variety of types of nutritional supplements in different flavors. 

  • Original Nutritional Drink
  • High Protein 
  • Plus
  • Very High Calorie
  • Glucose Control
  • Women Nutritional Drink
  • Breeze
  • Soothe
  • Glucose Control MAX 30 g Protein
  • Original Nutritional Powder

Shop Boost products here. 

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Boost Original Nutritional Drink

Boost Original is Nestle’s basic supplement. It contains 240 calories and 10 grams of protein.

Boost High Protein

Boost High Protein is similar to the original, however contains double the protein. 

It has 250 calories and 20 grams of protein for those with higher protein needs.

Boost Plus

Boost Plus is a higher calorie supplement. It provides 360 calories and 14 grams of protein. 

This is a great option for someone needing more calories, but unable to tolerate a large volume. 

Boost Very High Calorie

BoostVery High Calorie is even more concentrated than the Plus version. It has 530 calories and 22 grams of protein. 

This supplement would benefit those in need of a meal replacement drink. Such as someone who relies only on liquids for their main source of nutrition. 

This could also be an option for someone who needs to restrict their fluid intake for cardiac reasons or related to kidney function. 

Boost Glucose Control

Boost Glucose Control is formulated for people with diabetes to help manage blood sugar response. 

It contains 190 calories, 16 grams of protein, along with 3 grams of fiber. 

Boost Women

Boost Women has additional nutrients to support skin, hair, bone, and thyroid health. 

It has 180 calories and 15 grams of protein. 

Boost Breeze

Boost Breeze is a clear liquid supplement option in fruit flavors. It has 250 calories and 9 grams of protein. 

This can be used for people needing clear liquids. It may be better tolerated during times of nausea. 

Boost Soothe

Boost Soothe has cooling properties to help with mouth discomfort. It has 300 calories and 10 grams of protein. 

Boost Glucose Control MAX 30g Protein

Boost Glucose Control MAX is similar to the regular Boost Glucose Control, as it is formulated for people with diabetes. 

However, it has more protein. It contains 160 calories and 30 grams of protein. 

Boost Original Nutritional Powder

Boost Original Nutritional Powder is comparable to the Original ready to drink formula, but in a powder form. 

It is to be mixed in water for 220 calories and 10 grams of protein. 

Orgain

Orgain is a supplement company that uses less artificial ingredients and utilizes organic ones whenever possible. 

They have ready to drink options and powders in a variety of flavors. 

  • Organic Nutrition Shake
  • Vegan Organic Nutrition Shake
  • 20g Clean Protein Shake
  • 20g Plant-Based Protein Shake
  • 26g Organic Protein Grass Fed Protein Shake
  • Organic Protein Powders

Shop Orgainproducts here.

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Organic Nutrition Shake

Organic Nutrition Shake is Orgain’s basic all in one supplement. It has 250 calories and 16 grams of organic protein. 

It is gluten free, Kosher, non-GMO, USDA organic, and made without soy. 

Vegan Organic Nutrition Shake

Orgain’s Vegan Organic option is similar to their original product, however it is completely plant-based. It is made without any soy, dairy, or lactose. 

It has 230 calories and 16 grams of plant-based protein. 

Clean Protein Shake

Clean Protein Shake is a supplement that focuses on providing additional protein instead of overall calories. 

It has only 130 calories, 9 grams of carbohydrates, with 20 grams of protein. The protein source is whey protein from grass fed cows. 

Plant-Based Protein Shake

The Plant-Based Protein Shake is similar to the Clean Protein shake, but its protein is from plant sources. This product is vegan. 

It has 140 calories, 8 grams of carbohydrates, and 20 grams of plant-based protein. 

Organic Protein Grass Fed Protein Shake

The Organic Protein Grass Fed Protein Shake is similar to the Clean Protein shake, but has more protein. 

It has 160 calories, 15 grams of carbohydrates, and 26 grams of protein. The protein is from milk and whey from grass fed cows. 

Organic Protein Powders

Orgain does not only have great ready to drink options, but they have a variety of powders that can be mixed into water, oat, or almond milk.

Cow’s milk would work as well for non-Vegans. 

They have various flavors with most providing 20-21 grams of protein per serving. 

These powders come in bulk containers or individual packets, which would be great for travel. 

Vanilla and chocolate protein powder in four different scoops with a glass of milk in front on a grey background.

Premier Protein

Premier Protein is a nutritional drink company that has a line of ready to drink protein shakes and protein powders. 

They are formulated for providing additional protein more so than extra calories. They are also lower in sugar than most options because they have artificial sweetener.

  • Protein Shakes
  • Clear Protein Drink
  • Protein Powder
  • Plant Protein Powder
  • Cozy Cocoa GoodnightTM

Shop Premier Protein products here. 

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Protein Shakes

Premier Protein Shakes come in a wide array of flavors, ranging from cake batter to cookies and cream. 

They have 160 calories, 1 gram of sugar, and 30 grams of protein. 

Clear Protein Drink

Premier Protein Clear Protein Drink is a fruit flavored clear liquid option. It has 90 calories and 20 grams of protein from whey. 

Protein Powder

Premier Protein Powder is similar to the ready to drink shakes, but in a powder form to be added to water or milk. 

They contain 150 calories and 30 grams of protein from whey per serving. There is even a caffeinated option. 

Plant Protein Powder

Premier Plant Protein Powder is a vegan version. The protein comes from plant-based sources such as peas and rice. 

It has 150 calories and 25 grams of protein per scoop. 

Cozy Cocoa Good NightTM

Cozy Cocoa Good NightTM Protein Hot Cocoa Mix is a more unique product. It is a hot chocolate mix with 10 grams of protein from milk and only 50 calories. 

It also has magnesium and zinc to help support a calming evening routine. 

Clear Liquid Supplements

Some people dislike the “milky” consistency of most nutritional supplements. 

Many who are lactose intolerant get concerned about drinking these supplements even though most are considered lactose free. 

Clear liquid supplements can be a great option for these individuals. They have fruity flavors and are more “juice-like.” 

Many of these options still get their protein from whey, so may not be appropriate for someone with a true milk allergy. 

Some may need a clear liquid diet for a short period of time due to medical problems. Clear liquid supplements can help maintain nutrition during these periods. 

Examples of clear liquid nutritional drinks include Ensure Clear, Boost Breeze, and Premier Protein Clear Liquid Protein Drink. 

Disease Specific 

Many companies tailor nutrition drinks to specific disease conditions, such as diabetes or kidney disease. 

Diabetes

People with diabetes may experience blood sugar spikes from regular supplement drinks due to the sugar content. 

Some drinks are specially formulated to minimize this response, while still providing additional calories and protein. 

Glucerna is a diabetic option from Abbott. It has several variations ranging from about 150-250 calories and 10-30 grams of protein.  

Boost Glucose Control is Nestle’s diabetic version of a supplement. It has 190 calories, 16 grams of protein, along with 3 grams of fiber. 

Premier Protein’s drinks are all suitable for diabetes. They are low in sugar since they contain artificial sweeteners. 

If food intake is extremely low, regular supplements may be more appropriate even for people with diabetes. This can help prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).  

Kidney Disease

Nutritional needs can vary for people with impaired kidney function depending on where they are at in their disease process. 

Protein may need to be limited to reduce stress on the kidneys. Lower protein supplements are more desirable in these situations. 

Suplena by Abbott is a specific formula for people with chronic kidney disease, but not ready for dialysis. It has 420 calories and 10.6 grams of protein.

A specialty formula like this is not always necessary and can be expensive. Choosing a lower protein supplement option can be a great substitute. 

There are also supplements formulated for people receiving dialysis. They are high in calories and protein to replace these losses during dialysis treatment. 

Examples are Nepro by Abbott (420 calories, 19 grams protein) and Novasource Renal by Nestle

Protein Supplements

Protein supplements are frequently used when someone needs extra protein without necessarily needing more calories. 

The most common instances for the elderly needing a protein supplement are dialysis patients or to support wound healing

These supplements can be especially expensive. Other, cheaper nutritional drinks can be just as effective. 

It is common practice to try other nutrition supplements before moving on to exclusive protein supplements, since they contain protein as well. 

Prostat and Juven are common protein/wound supplements used in healthcare, but can be utilized at home in extreme cases. 

Premier Protein drinks are a ready to drink option with most containing 30 grams of protein. 

There are countless protein powder options available online or in grocery stores, drugstores, and supplement stores. 

These can be less expensive than ready to drink options. 

They are also more versatile, as they can be blended with different ingredients for extra nutrients and different flavors. 

Scoop of protein powder, two glasses of protein shakes, and two blender bottles with blueberries on a vine in the shape of a heart surrounding everything.

Homemade

Homemade nutritional drinks can be a great tasting and frequently less expensive option to commercial supplements. 

Protein powders and be utilized or even just powdered milk, in addition to milk (or milk alternatives) for extra protein. 

Peanut butter, fruits, and even leafy greens can be added for additional nutrients. 

Homemade drinks may not be an option for everyone, since they do take some preparation, but they can be better accepted due to taste versatility. 

Need a blender to make nutritional drinks? Shop my favorite one here. Blends smooth every time and even has single serve containers. 

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Older couple cutting up fruit and adding it to a blender to make nutritional drinks.

Who Needs Nutritional Drinks?

Many elderly folks are at increased risk for malnutrition for a number of reasons. When intake is poor they are at greater risk for overall health declines.

Food first is always the most ideal option, but is not always practical. Many times consuming liquid calories becomes easier for older adults. 

This is when nutrition drinks can be helpful for maintaining weight and nutritional status. 

Providing between meals is ideal, as to not further interfere with food intake. 

But some may get to the point in their disease progression that they are needed at meals as well. 

People with increased nutritional needs may benefit from supplements also. This may include people with wounds, infections, fractures, and dialysis.

However just because a condition increasing nutrient needs is present, does not automatically mean a supplement is warranted.  

If meals are well accepted and weight is maintained then supplements are likely unnecessary. Consult your healthcare providers if there’s a concern. 

Pros vs Cons of Supplements

Pros of nutrition supplements include:

  • Weight loss prevention
  • Increased calories
  • Increased protein
  • Convenience 
  • Effective
  • Better fluid acceptance

Cons of nutritional drinks: 

  • Filling
  • Replacing meals
  • Potential intolerance
  • Taste profile 
  • Cost

Other Nutritional Drinks

There are other nutritional drinks besides supplements that can offer benefits, outside of calories, for the elderly. 

Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented, fizzy tea drink that can have digestive benefits.

It is available in various flavors at most grocery stores. It does require refrigeration. 

Various glass containers of kombucha sitting on butcher block and small cutting board with raspberries and blueberries.

Kefir

Kefir is a fermented milk drink. It has live probiotics that can help gut health. It is lower in lactose than milk and contains protein and calcium.

Kefir in glass and metal strainer on blue background.

Smoothies

Smoothies can be bought ready to drink or be made with various ingredients. 

Milks, yogurts, fruits, and/or vegetables can be blended together for easy to consume nutrients. 

6 colorful smoothies made with different fruits.

Milk Alternatives

Lactose intolerance becomes more common with age. Many milk alternatives are available including: 

  • Lactose free cow’s milk
  • Soy milk
  • Oat milk
  • Almond milk
  • Cashew milk
  • Coconut milk
  • Rice milk

Some may prefer milk alternatives (other than lactose free cow’s milk) if they are consuming a more plant-based diet or are vegetarian/vegan. 

Milk alternatives in glass bottles with their coordinating source in small wooden bowls.

Probiotic Drinks

In addition to Kombucha and Kefir, there are many probiotic drinks coming onto the market. 

There are now even pop and sparkling drinks that contain probiotics, which can offer health benefits.

Practical Takeaways

There are countless options for nutritional drinks for the elderly. It can be overwhelming to decide what to try. 

The main factors to consider when choosing a supplement or drink is taste profile for acceptance and cost. 

Health conditions and nutritional needs are important, but if the options are disliked then even the fanciest supplements don’t do any good. 

Pros vs cons of nutritional supplements.


*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made from this article.

2 thoughts on “Nutritional Drinks for the Elderly”

  1. Lori, Great overview of all the different products on the market and so easy to read! Thank you for providing us with an excellent resource for our patients!

  2. Thank you for this excellent breakdown of the various nutritional drink options for older adults at risk for unintended weight loss.

    I wonder whether including an article for older adults on how to supplement nutrition in terms of macronutrients to support the maintenance of bone and muscle while avoiding unintended weight gain might be worthwhile. The phenomenon of sarcopenic obesity (high body fat, low muscle mass) is a rising issue in older adult populations across the globe.

    Thank you again for another information packed article!

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