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FAQ: should kids have nutritional supplement drinks?

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy  February 27, 2013 11:32 AM

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Here's a question more and more parents seem to be asking themselves: should I buy a nutritional supplement drink for my child?

I am seeing it often in my practice: concerned because a child isn't eating as well as they think he should, parents are buying nutritional supplement drinks like Pediasure or Boost.

I wish they would ask me instead of themselves. Chances are, I'd tell them not to do it. 

I totally get why they do it. It's one of our most primal needs as parents to be sure that our children are getting enough nutrition. And the ads for these products are really effective: they market themselves as the solution for the picky eater problem.

The problem is, they can make the picky eater problem worse.

Think about it. What would you rather have: a plate of chicken, whole grain pasta and broccoli, or a chocolate milkshake? Because that's what these things taste like: milkshakes. They are thick and really sweet. And if not eating dinner meant you'd get one of those yummy drinks, well, there's an incentive to refuse dinner if ever there was one. The drinks are very filling, too (and full of calories)--so once you've had one, you really don't feel like eating. 

Now, I definitely have patients who need these drinks to improve or maintain their weight, often because of medical problems. But those patients are relatively rare.

So, please--before you throw that pack of chocolate nutritional supplement drinks into your grocery cart, give your doctor a call. Talk about why you are thinking of doing it--and talk together about whether it's the best idea.

There may be other, healthier ideas.
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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