Are Toddler Formulas Just a Marketing Ploy?
Posted by Diane, MPH, RD, LD - Director of Nutrition Services on Nov 19th 2020
Being a new parent can undoubtedly be a very confusing experience - especially when it comes to feeding your little one! It’s no secret that providing them with the very best nutrition, especially at such a young age, ultimately sets the foundation for a healthier life. If your child is nearing their toddler stage (1-3 years old), you’ve likely heard of and/or considered purchasing toddler formula.
There are many differing opinions on toddler formulas and whether they are necessary in a young child’s diet. Some folks do not support the use of toddler formulas, arguing that they contain too much sugar and that a child’s nutritional needs can be met without the use of toddler formulas. Some have even gone as far as suggesting that toddler formulas are a marketing ploy by formula companies to get parents to buy their product.
With so many articles and opinions circulating out there, your head is probably spinning! I’d like to offer some food for thought as you continue to do your own research.
One argument against toddler formulas is their sugar - or carbohydrate - content. Sugars support a growing child’s energy needs (you can learn more about them in our Dietitcian's article "What Exactly Are Sugars?"). Toddler formulas include carbohydrates as part of a balanced nutritional profile which also includes protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients help ensure your child is receiving what they need to help support proper growth and development.
When it comes to carbohydrates, only a few types are approved for use in toddler formulas:
- Corn syrup - A food syrup made from the starch of corn. Remember, a lot of corn contains Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)!
- Glucose syrup - Also known as confectioner's glucose, this carbohydrate typically comes from potatoes and wheat. Glucose is the body’s main source of energy.
- Sucrose -Typically made of cane or beet sugar, sucrose is the primary ingredient found in table sugars and is not recommended for young children as it promotes obesity and dental cavities.
- Lactose – Used by Nature’s One, lactose is the primary carbohydrate in mother’s milk and cow’s milk. For children with lactose intolerance, a different carbohydrate source is needed to meet carbohydrate needs.
- Brown rice syrup – A sweetener derived from brown rice. Brown rice syrup is used by Nature’s One as an alternative to lactose in some formulas because it provides sustained energy, doesn’t cause insulin spikes, and we believe it to be far healthier than other sugars like corn syrup. Nature’s One chooses an organic brown rice syrup for our products, and we even developed our own filtration system to remove any naturally occurring arsenic occasionally found in brown rice.
Many people think of sugars as “bad” and “off limits”, however, when properly sourced, sugars such as brown rice syrup and lactose can be good and provide necessary nutrients for your child’s growth and development!
A child’s nutritional needs
Is it likely that children get all the required nutrients, like carbohydrates, from their food alone? Unfortunately, recent research has shown that many toddlers are not receiving enough Vitamin D, Vitamin E, calcium, and iron even when parents make conscientious efforts to provide healthy meals and snacks.1,2 Even including cow’s milk in your toddler’s diet won’t solve the problem, as it lacks several important nutrients, especially iron. Toddler formulas help provide these important nutrients, just like a multivitamin helps adults get the nutrients they need to be healthy and strong!
In closing, toddler formulas are a great option for parents who want to ensure their kiddos are getting all the nutrition they need. After all, these little humans are busy exploring and investigating the world around them and need all the nutrition and energy-support they can get! While all toddler formulas do contain one of the approved sugars listed above, be sure that you're doing your own research on the ingredient label before purchasing. You can learn more about our ingredients on our website!
If you're still feeling confused about toddler formulas or have more questions about what might be right for you child, please send me an email. I'd love to chat with you!
1. Akkermans MD, et al. “A micronutrient-fortified young-child formula improves the iron and vitamin D status of healthy young European children: a randomized, double-blind controlled trial,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. January 4, 2017.
2. Bailey, A, et al. “Examining nutrient adequacy, iron deficiency, and anemia in US children 1-3 years of age using data from NHANES 2001-2016,” Current Developments in Nutrition. June, 2020.