Fact sheetDiet specifications

Published on 1 Nov 2012

Protein diet - minimal (metabolic)

This document is part of the ACI Diet Specifications for Paediatric Inpatients. It is not to be used for patient education.


To provide a minimal protein intake while maintaining adequate intake of energy, for patients who are unable to metabolise normal or low protein intake.


Extremely low protein. Diet includes no animal protein, no dairy, no soy/legumes or nuts. Special commercial low protein products (bread, pasta, biscuits, cereal) must be used in place of regular breads and cereals. All fruits are allowed and a limited range of vegetables. To maintain adequate energy intake, high energy supplements are used such as sugars, glucose polymers and fats.

Nutritional supplements of amino acids and/or vitamins and minerals are required for nutrient adequacy but need to be prescribed depending on the metabolic disorder and dietary intake.

Each individual patients' meal plan needs to be planned by a dietitian in consideration of the specific metabolic disorder and patients’ requirements. The requirements may change during the admission depending on clinical need and biochemical monitoring.


Patients with inborn errors of protein metabolism suffering from metabolic decompensation or elevated biochemistry, such as Phenylketonuria (PKU), Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD), urea cycle disorders, organic acidaemias.

Metabolic disorders are rare but increasingly diagnosed and managed throughout the lifecycle. Treatment protocols are different for different conditions. An individual’s treatment protocol will also change with age and with biochemical monitoring.

Nutritional adequacy

Nutritionally inadequate – must be used in conjunction with a prescribed dietary supplement. Energy needs must be met for adequate metabolic control. This diet, without supplementation, will be inadequate in many nutrients including vitamin B12, iron and calcium. The diet must be planned for each individual patient by a dietitian and regular follow-up provided.


Must only be used when ordered by a physician and under supervision of a dietitian. Short term use only. Prolonged use may precipitate metabolic crisis. Nutritionally inadequate.

Must be used in conjunction with prescribed dietary supplement(s) to provide appropriate amounts of amino acids and/or energy. Specific daily amounts of supplements will be required and intake must be monitored.

This diet may be used as a base for the addition of restricted amounts of protein containing food, as soon as clinically possible during an admission, on the basis of biochemical monitoring. Some metabolic conditions have specific treatment to be followed during illness, which may differ from the diet the patient usually follows. Medical status of patient must be assessed before deciding on the degree of dietary restriction.

Tolerance of protein will depend on patients’ age, gender, weight, height, growth rate and medical condition, and may change during the course of a hospital admission depending on clinical state and biochemical monitoring.

Assessment and follow up by a dietitian is essential. Growth, weight, and nutrient intake must be monitored as these can be compromised on such a restrictive diet. Regular biochemical monitoring is essential to prevent metabolic crisis and nutritional inadequacy.

Specific menu planning guidelines

Allowed Not allowed
Hot main dishes

<2g protein per serve

Vegetable casseroles with allowed vegetables/combined with low protein rice/low protein pasta

If <1000kJ/serve, add 10mL oil/10g margarine/20mL cream/20mL sour cream

Added oil, margarine, cream/sour cream (portion controlled servings)

Any containing meat, chicken, fish, egg, milk, cheese, yoghurt, soy, nuts, legumes, soy, vegetarian products (e.g. TVP)
Sauces, gravies

<1g protein/serve

Cream in limited amounts, sweet and sour sauce, tomato based sauces

Tomato sauce in portion controlled servings

Commercial mayonnaise

Meat/chicken/fish based gravy or stock, milk or cheese sauce, yoghurt, Vegemite™, soy sauce
Starchy vegetables/pasta/rice

<1g protein/serve

Low protein pasta/low protein rice

Low protein rice/low protein pasta dishes with <1g protein/serve

If <500kJ/serve, add 10mL oil/1 portion controlled/15mL salad dressing

Potato, couscous

Any dishes prepared with the addition of meat, milk or cheese


<1g protein/serve

All others, including carrot, tomato, capsicum, onion, zucchini, eggplant, cabbage, beetroot, lettuce, cucumber

Serve with 2 x portion controlled butter/ margarine

Cauliflower, broccoli, pumpkin, potato, sweet potato, peas, corn, mushrooms, spinach, avocado, green beans, legumes

Any prepared with the addition of meat, milk or cheese


<1g protein per serve

Tomato or vegetable soup containing vegetable stock or cream/sour cream

Serve with 20mL cream/20mL sour cream/ 20mL Glucose polymer syrup (see recipe below)

Any containing meat, chicken, fish, egg, milk, cheese, yoghurt, soy, nuts, legumes, potato, peas, corn, or other not allowed vegetables, soy sauce

Meat/chicken/fish stock


<1g protein/serve (2 slices bread + filling)

Low protein bread only with margarine/butter and low protein fillings (e.g. cucumber, tomato, salad vegetables, commercial mayonnaise, jam, honey)

Use 2 x serve spread

All others
Salads, dressings

<1g protein/serve (can include appropriate Band 3 salad)

Salad vegetables (e.g. carrot, cucumber, capsicum, tomato, eggplant, lettuce, etc)

Serve with high fat dressings such as French dressing of oil and vinegar/lemon


Any containing meat, chicken, fish, egg, milk, cheese, yoghurt, soy, nuts, legumes, potato, peas, corn, other not allowed vegetables, soy sauce
Breads, cereals

<0.3 g protein/serve

Low protein bread and low protein breakfast cereals only

Serve with low protein milk substitute

All others including standard breads, cereals, breakfast cereals

Margarine, butter, jam, honey

2 serves per meal

Peanut butter, Vegemite™, fish pastes, hazelnut spread
Hot breakfast choicesFried/grilled plain or herbed tomatoAll others, including eggs, bacon, sausages, hash browns, mushrooms

Other fruit – fresh, canned in syrup, or cooked

Serve with 20mL glucose polymer syrup/ 20mL cream in portion controlled servings to fortify energy

Banana, passionfruit, dried fruit
Yoghurt None All

<1 g protein/serve

Jelly produced with vegetable gum and glucose polymer

Low protein creamy rice made on low protein rice and milk substitute

Low protein custard made on milk substitute and low protein custard powder

Cream in limited amounts

If <700kJ/serve, serve with 20mL cream or 20mL glucose polymer

All others including dairy desserts, jelly containing gelatine

Milk and cheese

<0.4g protein and >400kJ/100mL milk

Rice beverage not containing chickpeas with added glucose polymer or fat

Commercial low protein milk alternatives and prescribed nutritional supplements

Coffee whitener (see recipe below) Cream beverage (see recipe below)




Fruit juice, soft drinks/cordials containing sugar

Energy content of drinks to be fortified to 4.2kJ/mL with protein free energy supplement (e.g. glucose polymer or fat)

Drinks containing aspartame (additive numbers 951 and 962) or other artificial sweeteners

Any beverages containing milk or soy protein


<0.2g protein/serve

Low protein crackers and biscuits only

Serve crackers with butter/margarine

All others, such as standard commercial sweet and savoury biscuits and crackers
MiscellaneousSugar, cream (portion controlled servings)Artificial sweeteners

Coffee whitener recipe: 10g coffee whitener + 10g glucose polymer made up to 100mL water
Cream beverage recipe: 20mL cream + 10g glucose polymer made up to 100mL with water
9kJ/mL Glucose polymer syrup recipe: 56g glucose polymer added to 60mL water (makes 100mL)


  1. Agency for Clinical Innovation. Nutrition standards for paediatric inpatients in NSW hospitals. Sydney 2011.
  2. Agency for Clinical Innovation. Nutrition standards for adult inpatients in NSW hospitals. Sydney 2011.
  3. Dietitians Association of Australia. 2009. Nutrition Manual 8th ed. Canberra: DAA.
  4. American Dietetic Association. Paediatric Nutrition Care Manual. Chicago: ADA.
  5. Food Standards Australia New Zealand. 2010. NUTTAB 2006 Online version. Foods that contain protein.
  6. American Dietetic Association 2009. Paediatric Nutrition Care Manual. Chicago: ADA. (accessed 26 April 2010).
  7. Shaw V and Lawson M. 2007. Clinical Paediatric Dietetics. 3rd Edition. Blackwell Publishing.
  8. Acosta PB. 2010 Nutrition Management of Patients with Inherited Metabolic Disorders Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
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