When I recently read the ingredients of a particular children’s protein shake, I realized I had to share a healthy PediaSure® alternative. A milkshake that’s marketed to parents as a healthy drink but is filled with sugar, oxidized oils, and synthetic vitamins is certainly not what I would give to my own kids. As a liquid meal replacement, there are much better options.
*Note-this article is for my general community of moms trying to choose healthy options for their families. Parents dealing with children who need feeding tubes and physician prescribed meal plans are not the intended audience.
Why so much sugar in PediaSure®?
When I read the back of the bottle, I was shocked to find not one, but THREE sources of added sugar.
What’s even crazier, the recommended servings from PediaSure® is TWO! That means they recommend 24 grams of sugar on a daily basis coming from liquid calories. I understand that this is often used for kids who need to gain weight, so it makes sense if you look at it from a calorie perspective. However, the issue is the sugar spike is not ideal long term for kids, or adults taking Ensure as well in case you were wondering. There are much better PediaSure® alternative with less added sugars.
A protein shake filled with sugar that’s supposed to be “healthy?” Read more about the questionable ingredients in PediaSure®.
Ingredients in PediaSure®
But before we get to a natural alternative to PediaSure®, there are a few other ingredients you need to be aware of, and how they can affect your child.
- Carrageenan- this is technically a natural substance, a seaweed of sorts. However, it’s now recognized as a cause for diarrhea, constipation, food allergies, and inflammation. For children who may already have tummy issues, this is not to be included in their diet.
- Corn Malodextrin- this is the second ingredient, and it too can wreak havoc in the gut. It’s linked to food allergies-not what we should be exposing our kids to. Also, it will contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms) as it’s derived from highly processed corn. (Read this article from Dr. Axe all about malodextrin.)
- Vegetable Oils- both Canola and Corn oil are highly processed and cause inflammation in the body. They are oxidized during production, which makes them what I call “damaged oils.” These oxidized oils are now being linked to neurological issues so try to edit them from your household wherever possible.
- Natural and Artificial Flavor- when someone doesn’t really disclose what’s in a product, it’s cause for concern. There could be MSG (monosodium glutamate) or other preservatives.
- Tuna Oil- I’m all for fish oil, but I can’t say I’ve ever seen “tuna oil” on an ingredient list. It’s just weird.
- Soy Lecithin- Common side effects may include: diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain or fullness.
If kids are filling up with liquid calories, they will have no interest in real food that will actually nourish them. And if PediaSure® is causing their diarrhea and gut microbiome imbalance (too many bad bacteria versus good bacteria,) it’s going to make it hard for a parent to get off of these shakes thinking their child needs more calories.
Is Pediasure Dairy Free?
No, it’s not. There is a claim that it’s safe for children who are lactose intolerant. When the Pediasure ingredient list contains Milk Protein Concentrate and Nonfat Milk, it doesn’t make me feel comfortable recommending it. Both of these ingredients will comes from highly processed dairy. If you read my post about healthy dairy shopping, you’ll learn that dairy often causes inflammation. The last thing we want to do to a child dealing with fussy eating habits, or picky eater syndrome, is to make them feel sick so they don’t eat. Inflammation can cause nausea, diarrhea, and even mood swings. (I know I would love to skip any and all mood swings from my three kids.)
Healthy PediaSure® Protein Alternative
Smoothies have come a long way. We can grab options in the grocery store that are a better option than PediaSure®. However, the very best thing is to make smoothies at home so you know exactly what is included, with no room for junk.
I think it’s easiest to start with a very simple smoothie that is white, instead of jumping right into green smoothies kids love.
As a protein source, I believe collagen is a great starting point. It’s one ingredient, versus the many protein powders with up to 20 different ingredients.
I am still very happy with Vital Proteins Collagen product line. There are single serve options to take when traveling, or large containers to keep at home.
Healthy PediaSure® Alternative Recipe
Now this is a recipe my daughter actually created, so you know it’s kid friendly. She uses a single serving blender to do it all herself, although we often double up the recipe and make it in our high speed blender.
- Add all ingredients to your favorite blender in the order listed. (the frozen food on top helps push things down evenly when blending.)
- Taste test first, add a sweetener like honey if needed. Serve immediately
Feel free to add in a handful of baby spinach, frozen strawberries, or even sneak in a bit of frozen cauliflower rice. But start with a simple smoothie to get them switched over. If your child has already had Pediasure, you can start by mixing half a smoothie with half Pediasure to start weening them off all the sugar.
I hope this story gave you a better picture of what’s actually in PediaSure®. Click here if you want more kid friendly smoothie recipes. I trust you can find a PediaSure® alternative, and it will be trial and error to find one your kids like. Stick with it, it will be worth it in the long run.