Aug 22, 2017

Why your child doesn't need the high growth promising packaged drinks (Part I)

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During conversations with friends, a topic that we inevitably discuss is child nutrition and role of health drinks. I also got messages from a couple of friends in social media to suggest healthy packaged drinks available in the market.

Healthy packaged” drink is an oxymoron. When we were kids (growing up in 80s and early 90s), our mornings began with a glass of milk mixed with either Horlicks, Boost or Bournvita. And Complan for those who can afford it, since it was positioned as a premium drink. Now that we have all grown up, we try to follow the same routine for our children.

I remember drinking such drinks on a daily basis 1-2 times a day for many years. It didn’t have any positive effect on my growth parameters. When I entered my teens and adulthood, I was underweight, anemic and ended up with PCOD. So I have absolutely NO TRUST in these so-called “health” drinks.

A few questions to ponder:

1) What’s the motivation to run behind such drinks?
Are our kids fussy eaters? Or these packaged drink brands want us to believe that our kids are fussy eaters?
What’s our expectation on our kids’ growth parameters? Height and weight right on the 95th percentile line?
Are our kids falling sick frequently? Is their immunity very low?

2) What’s the purpose of such drinks? Let’s ask ourselves why we want to give our kids a milk-based drink first thing in the morning.
Making milk palatable?
A quick drink to feed our little kids before they go to school?
Easy to drink in the morning rush hours (no chewing required)?

3) Why do we believe that these packaged drinks are healthy?
Is it because of the tall claims they throw as part of their ad campaign?
Have we taken the time to understand their ingredients?

Let’s discuss each question in a little more detail:

1) Fussy eaters
How easy it is to give a label “fussy eater” to a child these days! What makes them get associated with such a label? They don’t eat regular home-cooked meals. Why is that happening? Have we tried enough before resorting to quick fixes? How much of junk food our children consume on a daily basis? Are these interfering with their appetite/taste-buds/digestion/food preferences?

As an adult, do we eat well EVERY single meal? Don’t we have loss of appetite at times?

2) Missing growth targets
We all are numbers-driven, extremely analytical and logical, thanks to our education and work responsibilities. So we expect our children to “hit” the standard growth targets or milestones. If each child is unique and different, how can we expect their growth to align within a SINGLE growth chart? Instead of height and weight, can we use other sensible measures like “happiness”, “immunity”, “activity levels”, “curiosity” etc? Yes, these measures are not easy to quantify but as a parent, can’t we qualitatively measure them?

3) Low immunity
Children by their very nature have very low immunity when they are toddlers/pre-schoolers. They fall sick often at the age of 2-4 years. What do we do during this period? We just have to let the immunity take its course and not interfere by giving antibiotics left, right and center. Antibiotics are only needed IF the child has a bacterial infection but most of our children end up having antibiotics even for viral infections. When the child has a cold/cough, the first thing to stop is cow’s milk, at least for those 3-4 days. We have to let the body expel out the excess mucus that’s already accumulated. Milk increases mucus and the cold/cough continue to persist for weeks.

4) An easy way to drink milk
As I had written earlier, cow’s milk is the MOST OVERRATED food for children. There are numerous other plant-based sources from which a child can get enough protein and calcium. Here’s my article on sources of calcium from plant-based sources. Do check it out if you haven’t done so already. The commercial, packaged milk is adulterated with antibiotics, growth hormones, oxytocin etc. If you can source milk directly from an organic dairy farm, it should be fine on normal days (not on days when the child is sick) and can be given as plain milk as it is or with little cane sugar.

5) Morning routine
My daughter usually starts the day with a fruit or on days when she wakes up hungry, she eats breakfast immediately. On some days, she doesn’t eat anything and so I pack her breakfast which she eats during her mid-morning snack break. Each day’s appetite is different. So this routine of drinking milk mixed with health drink on a DAILY basis interferes with the child's appetite. He/she wouldn’t feel hungry to eat a wholesome breakfast after a glass of milk mixed with health drink.

6) Drinking rather than chewing to save time in the rush hours
With early school timings, it is hard to get the children ready and feed them breakfast before the school bus arrives. A quick, healthy drink can definitely save time. But there are far more superior healthy choices available rather than packaged health drinks.
- Porridges made with ragi flour, millet flour or multi-grain flour mixes.
- Fresh homemade fruit juices
- Smoothies (throw in a banana, few cashews, flaxseeds, melon seeds, yoghurt and a couple of dates. Blend and serve. Depending on the season, use strawberries, mango or apple)
- Home made badam milk

The motivation to write this post started when a mom recommended that I write a post on Pediasure. There’s also this newly launched Horlicks Growth+ that triggered my curiosity. Let’s talk about the ingredients and nutrition facts of these two brands in my next post.

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