What are oral nutritional supplements?

Oral nutritional supplements are used to provide extra nutrients for people who are unable to meet their nutritional requirements through their usual meals and drinks. Our prescribed oral nutritional supplements are ready-made drinks and powders that contain energy (calories) and protein to help supplement your diet. They come in various flavours and consistencies including milkshakes, juice style, puddings and soups.

Why do I need oral nutritional supplements?

If you have a poor appetite, have recently lost a lot of weight or are having difficulty eating and/or drinking, it is important to make sure that you are getting as much energy and protein from your food and drink as possible. Your doctor or dietitian may have prescribed you oral nutritional supplements whilst you are in hospital.

Oral nutritional supplement examples

  • Ensure Compact

  • Ensure Plus Milkshake Style

  • Ensure TwoCal

  • Ensure Plus Juce

How often should I take the supplements?

Your dietitian will advise how many oral nutritional supplements you should take and when. Usually, they are taken between meals to prevent them filling you up and reducing how much food you can eat at mealtimes.

Will I be prescribed oral nutritional supplements when I go home?

When you were discharged from hospital, you may have been sent home with a seven-to-14 day supply of these supplement drinks to help meet your nutritional requirements whilst recovering from your illness.

Your dietitian will assess whether you need to continue taking the supplement drinks and how many you need to take.

If your dietitian thinks you will benefit from ongoing nutritional support, they will refer you to the community dietetic service. They will request that your GP continues to prescribe you supplement drinks until you are seen by the community dietitian.

Your GP may prescribe you suitable alternative supplement drinks, which may be more readily available or, cost effective, or many people may prefer the taste. Alternative brands that may be prescribed include Aymes (shake or complete) and Nualtra (Foodlink or Altraplen).

Homemade nourishing drinks?

You may find that once you are feeling better, your oral intake improves, and you want to try homemade nourishing drinks. These nourishing drinks are also a good alternative to prescribed drinks and can be taken after you have finished your prescription.

Examples of nourishing drinks include:

  • malt drinks, for example Horlicks
  • hot chocolate
  • smoothies
  • shop bought milkshakes
  • over the counter oral nutritional supplements like Build Up, Complan, Meritene shake.

Some nourishing drinks can contain more energy and protein than a prescribable supplement drink and you may find it more palatable.

If you need to restrict your fluid intake, or certain foods due to kidney disease, please discuss these ideas with your dietitian first.

Recipes for nourishing drinks

Homemade milkshake recipe


  • 40ml double cream
  • 80ml whole milk
  • 4g (1 teaspoon) sugar
  • 80g (1 large scoop) vanilla ice cream
  • 25g (1 tablespoon) skimmed milk powder


  1. Combine all the ingredients with a whisk or in a blender, and mix together.
  2. Milkshake powder, chocolate spread or fruit can be added to vary the flavour if desired.

Fortified milk recipe

  1. Add 1 tablespoon (15g) of skimmed milk powder to 200ml full fat milk.

This provides a total of 238 calories and 18g protein per 200ml glass.