Tag Archives: PKU diet

Roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Bisque Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Bisque Soup

Fall has arrived and lately I’ve been craving butternut squash. To satisfy that craving, I tried my hand at a new soup this past weekend that incorporated both a hearty butternut squash and a couple sweet potatoes. Combined, the two vegetables make a high-vitamin, fiber-dense dish that’s also very tasty!


  • 1 large butternut squash (1,050 gm. cooked weight*)
  • 146 gm. yellow onion, chopped
  • 9 gm. (1 ½ tsp.) of minced garlic
  • 2 tbs. of butter
  • 709 gm. sweet potatoes/yams, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 907 gm. (32 oz.) Swanson’s Certified Organic Chicken Broth
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper


  • Preheat oven at 375°
  • Cut the butternut squash in half; seed it and place skin-side down on a cookie sheet
  • Bake squash for 60 minutes
  • When squash has approximately 15-20 minutes left to bake, melt butter in large stockpot
  • Add onion, garlic and sweet potatoes; cook on medium-high stirring frequently
  • Remove squash, allow to cool before removing skin and hard stems

*This is when I measured the butternut squash, which explains the “cooked” weight listed above.

  • Add squash and broth to stockpot, bring to a boil
  • Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes
  • Using a ladle or slotted spoon, transfer portions of soup to a food processor and blend until smooth before adding back to the pot; repeat 2-3 times depending on your preference for chunkiness

Yield: Approximately six 1 ½ cup servings (365 gm. each)
Phe: 196 mg.
Calories: 210

Since I’m 34 weeks pregnant and already incorporating greater amounts of phe into my diet, this recipe was purposely made with the intention of being slightly higher in phe. However, you can easily adapt this recipe for a version that is lower in phe by using a 32 oz. package of Swanson’s Certified Organic Vegetable Broth instead of the chicken broth. The adjusted nutritional values would be 170 mg. and 210 calories per 1 ½ cup serving.

Happy fall, y’all!



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Green Pepper Soup


Here’s a super easy, one-pot dish that’s become a favorite of mine for making in bulk and taking it for lunch during the work week.


  • 28 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 275 gm. chopped green pepper
  • 170 gm. chopped onion
  • 2 pks. G. Washington brown seasoning


  • Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot
  • Bring to a boil
  • Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender (approximately 1 hour)

Yield: 8 (1 cup) servings
Phe: 114 mg
Calories: 73

Add low-protein pasta or low-protein rice for more volume. Just adjust phe accordingly.


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On the hunt for aspartame-free gum

aspartame gum, sugar-free gum

Growing up on the low-protein PKU diet, I was well aware to stay clear of chewing gum that contained aspartame (also marketed under brand names AminoSweet ®, Equal®, NutraSweet® and NatraTaste®). I had a ‘safe list,’ if you will, of all the brands I could choose from, but after searching through all my familiar fav’s on a recent visit to the grocery store, it appears that nowadays you cannot find a single pack of gum that doesn’t contain aspartame.

Discovered in 1965 and later approved as a food additive by the FDA in 1981, aspartame is used in chewing gum to provide a long-lasting sweet sensation since other ingredients such as sugar, dextrose, and corn syrup dissolve soon after chewing begins. Chemically, aspartame is comprised of a small amount of methanol and the two amino acids aspartic acid and phenylalanine – the last of which we know is very harmful to PKU patients.

According to www.aspartame.org, aspartame is currently found in more than 6,000 products worldwide including soft drinks, confections, gelatins, dessert mixes, puddings and fillings, frozen desserts, yogurt, tabletop sweeteners, and some pharmaceuticals such as vitamins and sugar-free cough drops. That’s a lot of products for PKU patients to be wary of!

Thankfully, with the growing popularity of all-natural products, there’s a new selection of chewing gums hitting the market featuring xylitol, an all-natural sugar alcohol. Also, since xylitol is an anti-microbial, it helps prevent tooth decay and provide a quick breath-freshener, especially after just chugging a serving of PKU formula.

Here’s a look at some of the aspartame-free gum currently on the market. Since they’re still rather new, finding these in common grocery and drug stores is difficult, but I’ve been able to buy some online, specifically through Amazon. Depending on where you live, you may also be able to find these products at specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, Jungle Jim’s or Earth Fare.

aspartame-free gum, PKU-friendly gum

Click to enlarge image.

  • Pür Gum
  • XyloBurst Xylitol Gum
  • Epic Xylitol Gum
  • Peppersmith Chewing Gum
  • Sugar-Free Glee Gum

If you’ve tried any of these aspartame-free gum products – or have others to add to the list – just let me know in the comments section below.



Filed under Lo-pro Diet Management, Product Reviews

At-a-glance PKU Pantry Labels

At-a-glance PKU Pantry Labels

One of my recent Pinterest-inspired projects was creating burlap labels for my pantry. It’s a fun DIY project that spoke to my inner organizing freak.

Grouping similar products in baskets or other containers make it easier to find products quickly and placing ingredients in clear jars let you know when you’re getting low. Among other labels, I decided to create hanging canister labels for brown sugar, wheat starch and baking mix—three ingredients I use frequently, especially when making tasty PKU-friendly cakes, cookies and pastries.

At-a-glance PKU Pantry LabelsI use Cook for Love’s baking mix, which if you’re familiar with it, you know it is comprised of three key ingredients. To make life a little simpler, I decided to make an at-a-glance label on the backside of the baking mix canister that reminds me of the key ingredients without having to look it up online or find the recipe I printed eons ago. Also to save time, I like to make the baking mix in bulk. In fact, I have doubled the baking mix recipe in the canister shown here.

If you aren’t necessarily the crafty type, you can still take a similar approach by a using a large, sealable plastic container to make the baking mix and a permanent marker to jot down the ingredients on the outside of the container. Not as pretty, but definitely just as functional. Just remember to whisk before each use!


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Setting a standard for the treatment of PKU

new PKU guidelines, PKU standards, dietary and medical recommendations for PKU

There’s some wonderful news floating around the PKU community this week: The American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics, in partnership with Genetic Metabolic Dieticians International, have released the first-ever, specific medical and dietary guidelines for the treatment of PKU. These guidelines are based upon the National Institutes of Health (NIH) 2000 Consensus Conference for PKU, the 2012 NIH Scientific Review Conference and a review by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

If you aren’t familiar with the healthcare industry, you may be asking yourself, “What’s the difference between medical consensus and medical guidelines?” Last year (in 2013), the NIH retired its consensus development program, but since it was created in 1977, the program created agreed-upon statements interpreting what was currently known about a medical condition as well as what research gaps might still exist. These statements—like the one the NIH issued in 2000 for the treatment of PKU—are then used to develop medical guidelines. Your medical team located at your local PKU clinic will use these guidelines to support the decisions they make related to your care. The introduction of these guidelines will undoubtedly play a critical role in ensuring that all patients in the U.S. and Canada receive the highest quality of care and treatment in the management of their PKU.

Listed below are the key recommendations from the new guidelines as summarized by the National PKU Alliance. Be sure to visit the New Guidelines for PKU section on their website to read a full summary or to download the new guidelines for the medical and dietary management of PKU.

  • The guidelines refer to PKU as phenylalanine hydroxylase (PHA) deficiency.
  • The treatment of PKU is lifelong with a goal of maintaining blood PHE levels in the range of 120-360 umol/l (2-6 mg/dl) in patients of all ages for life.
  • Patients treated within the early weeks of life with initial good metabolic control, but who lose that control in later childhood or as an adult, may experience both reversible and irreversible neuropsychiatric consequences.
  • PAH genotyping (i.e. mutation analysis) is recommended for improved therapy planning.
  • Medical foods (formula and foods modified to be low in protein) are medically necessary for people living with PKU and should be regarded as medications.
  • Any combination of therapies (medical foods, Kuvan, etc) that improve a patient’s blood PHE levels is appropriate and should be individualized.
  • Reduction of blood PHE, increase in PHE tolerance or improvement in clinical symptoms of PKU are all valid indications to continue a particular therapy.
  • Genetic counseling should be provided as an ongoing process for individuals with PKU and their families.
  • Due to an increased risk for neurocognitive and psychological issues, regular mental health monitoring is warranted. A number of screening tests are recommended to identify those in need of further assessment.
  • Blood PHE should be monitored at a consistent time during the day, preferably 2-3 hours after eating.

In the coming days and weeks, I’ll take a closer look at some of the specific issues outlined within the guidelines and discuss them in more detail here on PKU Parlor. I hope you’ll stop by and chime-in with your thoughts too!



Filed under Advocacy, Lo-pro Diet Management, Research

Low-Protein Nachos

Fall is here and in the Merrifield household, that also means football! As a Pittsburgh-native and a University of Tennessee graduate, my college/NFL loyalties are split between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Even though we may not always win, getting everyone together for good food and drink is always a plus. So with this being the first football season during which I am following the low-protein diet, my husband and I have been brainstorming a few PKU-friendly party foods. Here’s a recipe for low-protein nachos recently concocted by my armature chef hubby.

Low-protein Nachos, PKU


  • 2 low-protein tortilla wraps (Cambrooke Foods)
  • 115 gm of bell peppers (cooked weight measurement)
  • 1 tbs canola oil
  • 85 gm of salsa style canned tomatoes
  • ¼ c Daiya cheddar shreds


To make tortilla chips from the wraps, follow the directions on Cambrooke Foods’ website.  Their recipe calls for six wraps, but for the purpose of this dish, I used two. If you wanted to make a larger serving, you could easily increase the number of wraps.

While the tortilla chips are cooking, sauté the peppers in the canola oil until slightly browned and tender. Since my husband was making his own high-protein version of nachos, he browned his ground beef in a separate dish and planned to split the peppers between the two of us.

Once the chips have been pan-fried and cooled on a paper towel, place them in an oven-safe dish, zero-out their weight on gram scale, and top with 115 grams of peppers. Zero-out the scale again and add 85 grams of the salsa style canned tomatoes. Top the nachos with a ¼ cup of the dairy-free cheddar shreds from Daiya Foods and place in the oven. Broil until the cheese has melted, remove and serve. Careful because the dish will be very hot!

Yield: 1 [adult] serving

Phe: 159 mg

Calories: 497

Feel free to experiment too! Add onions or olives if you like. You can also top the nachos with shredded lettuce, or if you have a bit more tolerance in phe, add a serving of guacamole. The 100-calorie snack-packs from Wholly Guacamole are perfect for one-time servings. Enjoy!


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PKU-Friendly Sweet Potato Casserole with Bananas

PKU-Friendly Sweet Potato Casserole

This recipe is an adaptation of one I recently saw demonstrated on one of our local weekend morning news shows. Using roasted bananas provides a natural sweetener and also adds fiber and potassium into the PKU diet. With a few slight changes to the ingredients and some gram-scale measurements, I was also able to figure out the amount of phe per serving. In addition to being an awesomely flavorful comfort food perfect for the approaching holiday season, this recipe yields enough servings to feed the entire family. Here’s how you make it:


  • 6 pounds (about 6) sweet potatoes
    (approximately 1,480 grams when measured after being mashed)
  • 2 ripe bananas, skins on
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup Michele’s Butter Pecan Syrup
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups of miniature marshmallows
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Peel the sweet potatoes, cut into large chunks and boil until soft (try piercing with a fork to determine when done).

PKU-Friendly Sweet Potato Casserole

Meanwhile, roast the bananas, with the skins on, for 15 minutes. Transfer potatoes to a large mixing bowl and pulse with a hand mixer until whipped. When the bananas are cool enough to handle, slice the end opposite from the stem with a sharp knife.

PKU-Friendly Sweet Potato Casserole

While holding the bananas from the stem, squeeze the contents into the bowl of mashed sweet potatoes. Add the butter and maple syrup, mix until smooth. Add the cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and salt; mix to combine. Transfer to a shallow baking pan and smooth out the surface with a spatula. Top potato-banana mixture with marshmallows and evenly sprinkled brown sugar. Bake at 300 degrees F until heated through, about 20 minutes. For the last minute or so of baking time, switch your oven to broil for that campfire roasted marshmallow consistency.

Couple of things to note: I selected Michele’s Butter Pecan Syrup for two reasons: 1.) it is completely phe free and 2.) I really wanted to add butter-roasted pecans, but as we all know, that’s a PKU no-no. If you decide to use a different brand of syrup, be sure to adjust the phe as needed. Also, feel free to have fun with the toppings. Instead of marshmallows, you may want to try raisins for a healthier option.

Yield: 8 servings
Phe: Entire recipe = 1,340 mg; 167.5 mg/serving
Protein: 3.2 gm per serving
Exchanges: 11.2 per serving
Calories: Entire recipe = 2,616 calories; 327 calories/serving
Fat: 6.2 gm per serving

* Simply divide the casserole into 10 servings for fewer mg of phe/serving.


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