Food · Inspiration/motivation · Living with PKU

PKU and Nutrition – challenges and goals

I recently took a nutrition class through Thrive to Five, a local community organization to support parents of young children. It was awesome. I’ve always enjoyed learning about nutrition, plus, as a stay-at-home mom, it felt SO GOOD to sit in a classroom (with my 2 year old in the complimentary childcare next door) and be a student again. I learned a lot.

I took Nutrition 101 in college, and I got my degree in public health. So choosing foods to create a healthful life is not really a new concept to me. But as l sat and listened in this class to ideas about how to incorporate more whole foods and less packaged ones into my diet, I realized that there is a disparity between what I know about nutrition, and what I actually do.

There could me many reasons for this– diet is a complicated thing.  I am busy and tired from taking care of a two year old and a baby. Healthy food can be expensive and take more effort. But I think at the top of the list of excuses for my lack of effort in the area of good nutrition is that I have PKU.

Challenges With PKU

A lot of the staples for a healthy diet – whole grains, lean meats, healthy snacks such as yogurt, nuts, cheese, for example, are off-limits for a person with PKU.

At the same time, things that are the first to go in a reformed diet, are some of our staples- starches like rice, pastas, bread, low-protein products, processed foods.

Then there is the fact that food is also very emotional. Having such a limited diet can be very challenging. When you find a food you can eat, that you like, you latch onto that whether it has a low-glycemic index or not!

My Goals

However, this does not mean my nutrition is a lost cause. First of all, can I just say (again) how grateful I am for the discovery of PKU, the development of treatment, including the diet and the medical formula, for my own health, and for my mother’s efforts to provide healthy meals and snacks for our family growing up. I am definitely not the worst eater in the world. But, in the words of a friend I had in college, “it’s funny how few vegetables  you eat considering they are some of the few foods you can have.”

I have room for improvement.

One thing the teacher of this nutrition class emphasized that I really liked, is the importance of balance and small changes.

So while I, unlike my husband, can’t eat quinoa for breakfast or larabars and kefir for a snack, I can do things to increase the nutritional quality of my daily intake of foods.

The first thing I’m going to do is pretty basic:

Eat more vegetables.


There is just no question that vegetables are highly nutritious, full of fiber, and that they crowd out other more empty calories in your diet.

Also, as someone with mild PKU, vegetables are something I do not need to worry about Phe wise. So I really have no excuse there.

I think sometimes when it comes down to it, vegetables don’t sound very appealing! But the truth is, the more you eat them, the more you get used to the taste and like the feeling of eating healthy food. Plus, vegetables actually keep you full longer than high-carb foods which spike your blood sugar and then drop it.

The nutrition class reminded me of one strategy for getting more vegetables: smoothies. So I recently made this beet smoothie for myself and my family. Beets are a superfood, and one I honestly never eat. Anyone have a recipe recommendation for cooking beets? In the meantime, this smoothie was a little kale-y but gave me the satisfaction of eating two servings of vegetables in one drink. And my two year old actually like it. Success!

I will keep you posted on my continuing efforts to eat a more nutritious diet.

What have been your challenges and successes with nutrition and PKU?


2 thoughts on “PKU and Nutrition – challenges and goals

  1. Hi I have niece and nephew with PKU. They do not eat many veggies either. I do have many red beat recipes that you might like at SpinachTiger. Did you know you can grate them and eat them raw. Make a great salad. Very satisfying.

  2. A great way to incorporate beets is beet and pumpkin salad. You can experiment with the dressing but keep the base lemon and olive oil (adding different herbs). Then you can add other low phd or free things like Bio Cheese or croutons made from your PKU bread. I haven’t yet started cooking for my little girl (she is only just starting solids) but I am constantly thinking of things I eat and how I can make them PKU friendly.

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