New fortified food from the ice cream man is going down a treat

Sick children need more nutrients than well children and a new protein-enriched Irish-made ice cream is winning fans across the country

Providing children with a nutritionally balanced diet is a struggle for many parents, but when children become ill and are in hospital, this struggle becomes much more difficult.

Dietitians dealing with sick children are keenly aware how the extra energy and protein they require can be compromised by lack of appetite and other symptoms of their illness.

"Being sick places a huge extra burden on the body and greater demands for nutrients but sick children are often too ill, too tired or lacking in motivation to eat well when they are in hospital," says Ruth Charles, dietitian with the Irish Nutrition and Dietetics Institute.

According to Charles, hospital dieticians often have to fortify the foods children like best to give them the additional protein and carbohydrates they need to rebuild their strength and recover.


“If they like milk, we can add a supplement to milk. Likewise, we can add supplements to soups or other foods. These are odourless, tasteless, powered supplements which make a small amount of food more nourishing,” she explains.

One thing most children like is dessert and dietitians often suggest giving children natural yogurt with pureed fruit, sugar-free milk puddings or good quality vanilla flavoured ice cream.

Hillary Robinson, senior dietician in Our Lady's Hospital for Children in Crumlin, says that a new fortified ice cream developed by Irish company Paganini is going down a treat with her patients.

“I’m delighted to have found a fresh-tasting alternative to offer my patients that doesn’t look or taste like a supplement,” says Robinson.

The soothing quality of ice cream, its obvious associations with pleasure and the fact that it is handed out by the dinner ladies rather than a health professional means that many of the children eat it without question.

“The patients on the haematology oncology ward often suffer with mucositis [ulcerated mouths] which makes eating a chore. To be able to offer ice cream which can cool their mouths and give them some relief with the added bonus of high-protein content gives me a viable alternative to existing oral nutritional supplements,” says Robinson.

Barry Murphy, managing director of Paganini which produces the Fitfuel Nourish protein ice cream, says he was aware of the problems of malnourished patients when he worked as a physiotherapist in the United States. When he moved back to work in the family business in Wexford, the idea of developing a fortified food as a new product was an obvious fit.

“When I worked as a physiotherapist on clinical teams I was aware of how many patients come into hospital malnourished. Then they are inactive, have poor appetite and it’s hard to fight illness without good nutrition.”

Murphy developed two products – Fitfuel Nourish which has 10g of protein and Fitfuel Perform which has 20g.

Both products come in single-serving tubs (130 ml).


“When I was developing the product I met dietitians across the country and they told me how they prefer food first and, therefore, food with extra nutrients is preferable to food supplements,” says Murphy.

Paganini won the Bord Bia Innovation Award for its two new products last year.

“Fitfuel Nourish has been specifically developed for those who require additional protein to increase muscle strength following surgery, illness or a period of diminished appetite,” says Murphy.

It is available in nursing homes, speciality shops and delivered to homes via online orders (

Murphy is also keen to point out how more amateur athletes are aware of the 20-minute window to take protein after exercise.

“It’s easy to get foods with carbohydrate content after exercise but it’s not as easy to get protein-enriched foods, and to optimise the benefits of exercise you need to have protein to rebuild and strengthen muscle mass within an hour.”