by Jocelyn Wang, MMSc candidate
December is a big month for awareness days and celebrations. One that you might not be aware of is Phenylketonuria (PKU) Awareness Day which is celebrated in December. There are over 16,000 people living with PKU in the United States who may not be able to eat the “traditional” festive foods you’d expect to find on the table at celebrations. While you’re preparing your holiday meals, we challenge you to think of how you would change things up if you were hosting a meal for someone with PKU. We’ve even provided links to some tasty dishes you can try at home!
Are your holiday recipes PKU-friendly?
It’s time to get your hands dirty!
People with PKU can’t break down an amino acid called phenylalanine (also known as phe). Phe is found in food, specifically protein. The buildup of phe can lead to brain damage and cause irreversible intellectual disability if left untreated. Although people with PKU need to limit their protein intake, there are still options for delicious meals that are not only made with special ingredients but also taste good. We’ve gathered some PKU-friendly recipes and encourage you to give them a try this holiday season! We’d love to hear how it goes!
- American Potato Salad
- Cranberry Scones
- Katies Vegetable Pot Pie
- Mini Portobello & Jackfruit Wellingtons
- PKU Protein Free Yorkshire Puddings
- Squash and blue cheese Wellington recipe
- Stuffed pepper
- Vegetarian Philadelphia “Cheesesteak”
- Vegetable Ragout with Garlic Sage Biscuits
Where can I find other foods that could fit within a PKU diet?
- PKU Perspectives provides low protein foods for PKU families with a wide range of choices from pizza to soups and sauces.
- National PKU Alliance lists products that might be suitable for the PKU diet at local grocery stores and a list specific to Trader Joes’ and Whole Foods selections.
- How much Phe is an online tool that assesses the approximate amount of Phenylalanine contained in certain foods
- So Delicious Products
- Taste Connections has low-protein products and recipes
- Nutricia metabolics – Products
- Nutricia metabolics – Formula Coverage
- Med Diet
- Lil’s Dietary Shop
As always, talk to your doctor about any information presented in this article, on the sites listed in this article, and with any questions you may have about your family’s care. Please talk to your doctor and dietician before making any changes to your diet. Remember your doctor and genetic counselor are there to help!
Learn More about Phenylketonuria (PKU)
What is PKU?
Phenylketonuria, or PKU, is a genetic condition people are born with. The main management for PKU is a low-protein diet. Additional pharmaceutical treatments have also been approved in recent years but may not work for everyone. Symptoms of PKU can be mild or severe including:
- Abnormally small head size (microcephaly)
- Delayed development
- Hyperactivity or other behavioral difficulties
- Heart problems
- A musty or “mousy” smell in urine or skin
How is PKU diagnosed?
PKU is usually found during newborn screening (NBS). This is a test done from a small prick of blood taken from a baby’s foot shortly after they are born. Every state in the United States of America screens for PKU. If PKU is discovered through this newborn screening, a baby can benefit from following early management such as low protein diet and special medical formula designed to limit the amount of phe a baby consumes. Usually, early intervention allows the baby to grow up living a normal life span without intellectual disability.
Where can I learn more about PKU Newborn screening?
Groups like Mayo Clinic and Medline Plus provide reliable information on their website. Baby’s First Test is another education resource center for families that provides comprehensive information about newborn screening and the conditions tested in each state.