The PediaSure shake. "Nutrition support to help balance an uneven diet" or... a cleverly marketed product targeted at parents made vulnerable by anxiety about their child, that will probably make picky eating worse? So maybe I'm cynical ( in fact, not maybe, definitely I'm cynical) but this is just scary. This nutrition shake is all about meeting the needs of the parent rather than the child. I couldn't find any mention on the PediaSure site of the idea that, before supplementing your child's diet, you might want to get their weight and growth checked by a health professional. The 'side kick' range is even specifically marketed at children who are "growing fine".The research cited by PediaSure to support their claim that their product "helps kids grow" was based on children at risk of malnutrition. So why is it being sold to parents of healthy children?
My problem is this: PediaSure are encouraging parents to give their children nutrition shakes when there is zero evidence that the child needs them. This will alleviate parental anxieties about the child missing out on nutrients. It will also make picky eating worse.
My approach to picky eating uses (amongst others) three key things.
- A child's natural appetite (obviously with PediaSure, this will be dampened and children will know that they can leave food and fill up on the shake later)
- Serving children the same food as the rest of the family (Well, I can't see Mum & Dad tucking into a PediaSure shake)
- A wide variety of flavour experiences (chocolate, vanilla or strawberry...?)
Instead of learning to manage their anxiety, parents using PediaSure are giving into it at the cost of their child's relationship with food. I can understand why they'd make this choice - the sales pitch is compelling. Parents of picky eaters just want to do the right thing by their child and PediaSure make a superficially convincing case that picky children need to have their diet supplemented.
I would strongly advise any parent considering using this product to only do so if so advised by a qualified health professional. If your child's weight and growth has been checked and is normal, help her broaden her mealtime repertoire by learning more about how to manage picky eating. Every time you give your child one of these shakes, you are giving her the message that she cannot eat 'normal' food like everyone else - you are effectively rewarding her pickyness with a sweet flavoured drink and you are removing an opportunity for her to be exposed to proper food whilst experiencing natural hunger.