Q: What are toddler drinks, and are they good for kids?
A. Some store shelves are stocked with an interesting new option: beverages labeled specifically for toddlers. These “toddler drinks” are marketed for children age 12 to 36 months who are transitioning from breast or formula feeding to solid foods.
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Are you a parent wondering if these transitional beverages offer any nutritional benefit to your child beyond what whole milk and a balanced diet can offer? I would say no — echoing many pediatric experts quoted in recent research.
After age 1, most children can meet all of their nutrient needs with a balanced mix of the following:
- Whole milk
- Healthy fats
If you’re concerned that your child isn’t eating with enough variety, you can use a standard multivitamin to cover most of what the toddler drinks aim to accomplish.
These commercial toddler drinks do contain essential fatty acids that are not always found in other vitamins. While this is a benefit, I still would argue that most children can get these nutrients from a balanced diet.
On the other hand, if a parent feels inclined to give their child toddler drinks, I wouldn’t advise against it. They certainly will not harm the child, and the drinks are an easy option to guarantee toddlers are meeting all their nutrient needs. Some parents may like to provide this for peace of mind that their picky child is getting full nutrition. It’s a personal choice, although you might consider that it may not be worth the extra cost.
It is important to note that if your child is underweight, you may consider a supplemental drink. However, standard toddler drinks do not provide any more calories than whole milk! Speak to your pediatrician or registered dietitian for recommendations on an appropriate oral supplement to promote growth.
— Pediatric dietitian Jennifer Hyland, RD, CSP, LD