Nov 4, 2019

Mother's Horlicks Review

I vividly remember this incident. The first time my pregnancy was confirmed, I went to meet a gynecologist for a checkup. The prescription had a list of supplements (Folic acid, Calcium and iron) and a protein supplement drink. She insisted that I take this drink twice a day without fail. I didn't like the taste of it and after a month, I stopped taking it. It wasn't Mother's Horlicks but another brand.

Many of these brands have become a mandatory item in most gynecologist's prescription list, right from the first pregnancy checkup visit. Even if gynecologists don't prescribe them, most new to-be moms purchase these mother specific health drinks(?) as part of their grocery shopping.

Nutrition needs are different during pregnancy and motherhood. The common advice we get from elders is to eat twice the portion size, thereby focusing merely on the quantity of food to be consumed. Or we get loads of recommendations to buy such health drinks(?) targeted at new mothers.

Let's focus on the most popular mother specific health drink - Mother's Horlicks

The phrase "No added sugar" is highlighted prominently on the front side of the pack. It also talks about the vital nutrients for a healthy pregnancy and lactation.

Let's take a look at the Ingredients list:
Milk Solids (59%)
Corn Solids (hydrolyzed)
Cereal extract (3%)
Nature Identical Flavouring Substances
DHA powder
Edible vegetable oil (palm kernel oil)
Natural flavour
Natural colour (INS 100(i))

Contains Permitted natural colour and added flavours (natural and nature-identical flavouring substances)

  1. First and foremost, when the pack states no added sugar, it implies "no sucrose". Do take note of the second ingredient - Corn Solids. HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), Crystalline fructose, Corn syrup, corn solids are all extracted from corn using various processes. They are highly concentrated sweeteners, containing other forms of sugar. Sucrose might be absent in Mother's Horlicks, but the brand doesn't share details on the quantity of glucose, fructose or dextrose present in it.
  2. The ingredient "Nature Identical Flavouring Substances" sounds vague. Why aren't the specific names shared?
  3. All health drinks(?) brands available in the market emphasize the added vitamins and minerals. The long list of such micronutrients is printed, along with their benefits. What about the quantity actually present? Let's compare the quantity of these synthetic vitamins and minerals alongside natural sources

Plant-based natural sources are rich in many of these vitamins and minerals. I have just shared a couple of them against each nutrient in this table. To get the detailed list, go to this link, click on each of the nutrients and read up on the respective article to get the list of sources and their corresponding values. 

It is imperative that we educate ourselves on what foods to eat, how to plan a balanced meal, taking into account the additional nutritional needs during pregnancy. A varied Indian diet with a good mix of cereals, pulses, vegetables, fruits, greens, seeds and nuts, condiments and spices etc will help us meet our daily needs of various micro-nutrients. I believe firmly in the strategy - "less variety in a meal, more variety in a month". Do check out my article on this topic if you haven't taken a look.

Let's invest the time to plan out our meals using fresh, local and seasonal ingredients. If you are a to-be mom, I'd highly recommend you take the time to understand the additional nutritional needs and plan out your meals accordingly. Please don't outsource this work to profit-focused food corporations. And also please don't ask for readymade diet plans from dietitians and random strangers on social media. You and the little one growing inside you deserve the time and effort!

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