Specialty Toddler Drinks: Healthy or Unnecessary?

Every parent wants to feed their child what is best for their growth and development, but with so many products on the market, it can get confusing. A recent study says specialty drinks designed for toddlers can be especially confusing for new parents.

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CLEVELAND – Every parent wants to feed their child what is best for their growth and development, but with so many products on the market, it can get confusing.

In fact, a recent study said specialty drinks aimed at children ages nine months to three years are especially confusing for new parents.

The study looked at ‘transition formulas’ – which are marketed to parents of infants ages 9-24 months and ‘toddler milks’ which are geared towards toddlers between 1-3 years old.

Researchers found that most of these drinks are made up of powdered milk, corn syrups or similar sweeteners and vegetable oil.

Richard So, M.D., a pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic Children’s, did not take part in the study, but agreed that in many cases, these toddler drinks are full of ingredients that do not benefit a growing child.

“Often times those added sugars can lead to obesity, where we have a child who has a preference for sweetened drinks, which is often added to the toddler drinks,” he said.

Dr. So said the labelling on these products can make parents think that their child needs these drinks to grow and develop, but he said this isn’t the case.

He said a baby under the age of one should be drinking exclusively breast milk or infant formula, and a toddler should be drinking water and cow’s milk for optimal nutrition.

Dr. So said getting a child on the right track towards a lifetime of healthy eating starts with parents making the right decisions very early on.

“Having a healthy diet through life has to do with having the right choices early on,” he said. “Ideally we want children to have 20 ounces of dairy per day. You also want them to eat four different colors of fruits and vegetables per day. A good way to do this is to remember to eat the colors of the rainbow.” 

Dr. So admitted it can be a challenge when toddlers become picky about their food. If parents find themselves struggling to get toddlers to eat different foods, he recommends making it fun by trying new approaches such as calling broccoli little ‘trees’ or meatballs ‘boulders’ which can make mealtime more appealing for children.

Complete results of the study can be found in Preventive Medicine.