It’s completely normal to want to ensure that your child gets the proper nutrition, much as you (should) be making sure you yourself eat an adequate, balanced diet. However, as I was talking about a few days ago, it’s possible to take it a bit too far.
Last week, on Marion Nestle’s blog, Food Politics, I read that Meade-Johnson, a company that prides itself on “patterning infant formula after breast milk” had recently unveiled new chocolate and vanilla formulas pumped up with not just the standard nutrients, but also antioxidants and omega-3s. The company maintains that the product, Enfagrow, is intended to be used as a dietary supplement for toddlers, despite being labeled as “toddler formula.” Let the eye-rolling commence.
I feel like antioxidants and omega-3s in toddler formula are eyebrown-raising enough, but the flavors are what really have been drawing the criticism—and for good reason! First off, I have never heard of chocolate or vanilla breast milk, though it wouldn’t surprise me to see some kind of new-mom, flavor-boosting pellet on the market in the future.
I also tend to agree with arguments that it’s not exactly wise to get kids hooked on sweet flavors so early on. Setting them up for a lifetime for cravings, especially in a world where cheap, sweet calories can be had for cheap (much cheaper than naturally-sweet foods like whole fruits), is not going to do them any favors later in life, even if they grow quickly enough to please the pediatrician in the short-term.
To be fair, I’m not a mother, so I can’t speak from a place of desperately wanting to get some nutrition into a child, but I still can’t ever see myself ever using or advising use of a flavored formula. Many toddlers are picky eaters who outgrow this completely normal behavior. In cases where picky eating may be affecting growth, there are plenty of other strategies doctors and dietitians can map out with parents before turning to (unflavored) supplements.
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