Pediasure – Is It Really What Your Picky Eater Needs to Grow?
PediaSure is manufactured by the pharmaceutical giant Abbott, and although originally formulated for under- and malnourished children, is increasingly being marketed in Indonesia as a meal replacement/supplement which “is clinically proven to help kids grow” and can “balances your picky eater’s uneven diet”.
The idea of replacing a full meal with a sweetened drink is indeed appealing to parents of picky eaters.
However the short and long-term health risks of nutritional supplements, such as Pediasure, are becoming increasingly clear, urging the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to recommends that meal replacement supplement only be used for children who are severely malnourished and unable to receive adequate nutrients from their diets.
The main risk is that the use of liquid meal replacement products during early childhood can undermine the natural process through which children become gradually to accept a variety of foods.
It is common for children, in their second year of life, to become picky in their food choices. Most children at this age tend to be very selective and to refuse some foods. The vast majority of children naturally overcomes this phase, technically called food neophobia, by a gradual process of sensory exploration and familiarization that can extend until 5 or 6 years of age.
For some children, with preexisting eating problems or whose food neophobia is extreme to the point of affecting growth, clinical intervention is required. Effective interventions activate and support those same natural sensory and cognitive processes that are at work for most children who spontaneously recover from picky eating.
Nutritional experts have pointed out how liquid meal replacement compromises those sensory processes. In particular, the sensory characteristics of the supplements and the high caloric portion derived from sugar deprive the children of those sensory experiences that could help them to recover from their pickiness and gradually extend their food choices.
As a result, reliance on liquid meal replacements carry the risk of slowly leading children to more limited food choices and consequently to a poorer nutrition.
Promoting Healthy Growth or Feeding Obesity? The Need for Evidence-Based Oversight of Infant Nutritional Supplement Claims. Healthcare, 4(4), 84 – Lampl, M., Mummert, A., & Schoen, M. (2016).
Food Neophobia. Behavioral and Biological Influences – Edited by Steve Reilly