Duncan, a 7-year-old from Virginia, was underweight, undersized and beginning to show signs of stunted growth when he saw his pediatrician in January. But increasing his caloric intake was going to be a challenge. Duncan, born prematurely and with a long list of dietary restrictions including gluten, soy, many fruits and excessive protein, is what his mom Ashley calls a "food avoider."
"From being sick so often as a baby and having had many significant anaphylaxis episodes, he is afraid if he eats and 'gets full' he will throw up," Ashley explains. "And he doesn't want to throw up because he thinks that means an EpiPen or a trip to the emergency room."
When he was younger, Ashley and Duncan's father, Dave, were able to help him maintain a healthy weight with formula. As he grew older, formula grew less appealing, but the idea of a beverage-based nutrition plan had taken root.
"His pediatrician recommended we begin stretching his stomach with milk or a milk substitute that would be more filling to help his stomach learn to accommodate more volume," says Ashley. She went online and began searching for "organic kids drinks," "organic kids nutrition" and "organic allergy-friendly kids drinks."
The search results returned Sneakz Organic, and Ashley dug a little deeper into the product.
"No ascorbic acid, no carrageenan, organic, added veggies, none of our allergens, a good amount of carbohydrates to help fill his tummy, and lower protein than full-fat plain cow's milk," she says. "Winner! I also liked the fact that there are no synthetic vitamins added. Duncan and I have genetic mutations that don't allow us to properly break down certain synthetic vitamins."
But she needed to make sure the longtime food avoider would like the taste and texture, so Ashley contacted Sneakz headquarters to request a sample. Instead, she received a goodie bag containing samples of all three flavors—vanilla, strawberry and chocolate—as well as other Sneakz items.
"Until we started Sneakz and a medication that increases his appetite, his total daily caloric intake was averaging 300 to 400 calories on a good day," she says. " Adding in Sneakz has worked beautifully. He is definitely gaining weight now and eating almost the same volume of food as our nieces, who are around the same age. And the more he drinks, the more he eats."
Duncan, who is academically gifted ("He can explain jet propulsion," Ashley says), immediately picked up on the fact that foxes are sneaky and that Bandit the fox was hiding vegetables in the drink.
"Then he promptly stated that he was proud to be smart enough that he wasn't fooled, and that he was looking forward to flavored cauliflower," says Ashley.
"As a parent, I think the packaging is great. Being an allergy parent, I think it's even better. Much of his life the products we've had to purchase for him aren't 'cool' looking. At our Cub Scout Pinewood Derby, the other Cub Scouts wanted Duncan's 'special milk' at lunch because they thought Bandit was neat. So even though he couldn't have what everyone else was eating, his milk with a fox was a topic of discussion."
Ashley recently reports that Duncan, who will soon turn 8, has gained enough weight to move up a size in his pants and shirts.
"We are definitely Sneakz customers as long as the ingredients stay safe for us."