if your toddler needs to gain weight, should you give her pediasure? or premium chocolate ice cream? as it turns out, the ice cream will do the same job the pediasure does (once you add in a vitamin supplement), and it's nutritionally superior and more healthful. plus, it's far less expensive! here's how i came to that conclusion:
as part of our goal of getting eva to gain some weight, i've been told to give her pediasure. pediasure is a child formula made by ross pediatrics, the company that makes similac infant formula. i know from extensive research in the past that infant formula is made out of the cheapest possible sources of the macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, protein). the idea of giving that junk to my nursling makes me ill (as does the idea of supporting a formula company in any way if i don't have to). before making any decisions, however, i wanted to verify that i wasn't doing her any nutritional harm by withholding the pediasure. (gag.)
my theory was that i could make her some chocolate ice cream that was sweetened with maple syrup, and that would provide all those necessary macronutrients. to cover the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), i'd continue giving her the schiff's children's chewable vitamins she loves so much. i've never seen her refuse either ice cream or vitamins, so this seemed like a hassle-free way to get these calories and the like into her little body (i have no confidence that she'd actually drink the pediasure, since she rejects milk after one sip and rarely drinks kefir yogurt or smoothies).
i went to nutritiondata.com to look up the nutrition facts on the ingredients of my ice cream (cream, whole milk, maple syrup, egg yolks, and cocoa) and totaled it all up. for fun, i compared this to the nutrition facts of haagen-dazs chocolate ice cream and found them to be similar (unsurprising, given they have the same five ingredients other than my substitution of maple syrup for sugar). next i compared this to pediasure. it was difficult to figure out what the serving size of pediasure should be. since it's a "medical food", it doesn't have the usual suggested serving size, and i assume one is to ask one's physician how much to offer. (1000 mL apparently would replace all food for the day.) i think 8 oz would be a reasonable assumption, but i doubt i'd ever get eva to drink that much, so i estimated 5 fl oz (well, 4.84, actually, because the calculations worked out that way). for the ice cream, i used 1/3 c since that's only a little more than what i've been giving her (or, 2.67 fl oz). that's nearly twice as much pediasure as ice cream by volume, but is similar in calories, etc, so i think it's a comparable serving. below are the results. (i apologize for the blank space preceding the table, i blame blogger :)
|Pediasure||Eva's Ice Cream||Haagen-Dazs|
|Chocolate flavor||made by mama||Chocolate Ice Cream|
|(4.84 fl oz)||(2.67 fl oz)||(2.67 fl oz)|
|Calories from Fat||64||108||108|
|Total Fat (g)||7||12||12|
|Saturated Fat (g)||1||7||7|
|Dietary Fiber (g)||0||1||0|
(the astute observer will notice that a few of the numbers on eva's ice cream are off due to error propagation since the original data were rounded off, but it's close enough.) as i said above, the two kinds of ice cream come out basically the same. and in the grand sense, really, all three come out sufficiently similar: there's more saturated fat (and thus more fat calories) as well as more cholesterol in the ice cream than the pediasure. the carbohydrates and protein come out about the same (except notice that there are more sugars in the pediasure than the ice cream! and i plan to reduce the maple syrup next time, but i didn't want to undersweeten it the first time lest she reject it.) so, with regard to macronutrients, i'm satisfied.
eva's chewable vitamin contains as much or more than the (admittedly small) serving of pediasure when it comes to: vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K, folic acid, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc. and the maple syrup adds sufficient manganese. the pediasure also has (which is missing from the ice cream): choline, biotin, pantothenic acid, inositol, phosphorus, iodide, copper, chromium, molybdenum, and selenium, none of which i'm particularly concerned about, because i'm sure eva will be covered by the other whole foods she does eat. (i could be wrong, but i prefer to look at nutrition in terms of whole foods rather than at the nutrient level.) so, micronutrients, check!
let's look at the cost: according to amazon.com, i can get chocolate pediasure for $1.49 for the serving size above vs $0.70 for the serving size of haagen-dazs chocolate ice cream. the premium haagen-dazs ice cream is cheaper! and i guarantee i can make my own ice cream for about half that (or probably less). i realize i'm comparing a smaller serving (by volume) of ice cream, but it delivers the same or more macronutrients, so basically the difference in serving size comes down to the water content in the pediasure. even when factoring in the $0.08 per day for the vitamin supplement, and you still come out with an almost 50% savings buying premium ice cream and vitamins vs. buying pediasure (and a far greater savings if you make your own).
and just what, pray tell, are you buying when you buy pediasure? (ooh, i saved the best for last!) let's compare the ingredient lists, shall we?
eva's ice cream: cream, whole milk, maple syrup, egg yolk, and cocoa
haagen-dazs: cream, skim milk, sugar, egg, and cocoa
pediasure: water, sugar, corn maltodextrin (thickening agent), milk protein concentrate, high oleic safflower oil, soy oil, cocoa powder, soy protein isolate, medium chain triglycerides (a fatty acid). this is followed by "less than 0.5%" of the various vitamins and minerals as well as artificial flavors, dyes, gums, gels, stabilizers, and emulsifiers.
so, where the ice cream gets fat from cream, the pediasure gets it from safflower and soy oil. the ice cream gets carbs from milk (lactose) and maple syrup, in pediasure it's from sugar. the ice cream finds it's protien in eggs and milk, the pediasure in milk protein concentrate and soy protein isolate (which i try to limit in eva's diet for several reasons). i don't know about you, but why would i want to pay double for that pile of food-industry byproducts when i could feed her real food, which also happens to be tastier? (or to paraphrase michael pollan, i'd rather eat food made of food.) they make pediasure (like all infant formulas) out of the absolute cheapest ingredients available (never mind the quality of the various macronutrients, not when that would cut into profits) so it costs them just pennies on the dollar to make this processed stuff. then they charge you nearly double the cost of premium ice cream (remember: made from food), which is just as "nutritionally complete" once you add a multivitamin -- why not just eat the ice cream?! (heck, it's even got less sugar...)
(i'd like to say "i don't know how they get away with that crap" but sadly i do know. if you want to know, check out "milk, money, and madness" by baumsag and michaels. here's just one little fact: 1 to 2 million infants around the world still die each year due to formula feeding, according to WHO and UNICEF. i'm glad formula is available for the cases where it is needed, but the predatory marketing practices used by these companies are unconscionable.)
anyway, lest the ross people ever get ahold of this, i'm not saying ice cream is better than pediasure for all toddlers trying to gain weight. (i'm not a nutritionist or a medical professional, and you obviously should consult your child's physician as needed before making any changes.) but what i am saying that i've weighed the facts (which are presented here accurately to the best of my knowledge) and for my child and our situation, the ice cream wins hands (and spoons) down.
or, as eva would say, "more shoc-it ice keem, pease, mama?"
i welcome comments for any reason, but particularly if you find errors or have questions regarding my analysis.