by Nicole S.
Nicole Silber, RD, CSP, CLC & mom is a registered dietitian, board certified specialist in P ediatric nutrition, and certified lactation counselor, Nicole has worked with hundreds of children and families with chronic medical conditions, food allergies, and picky eatin g. Prior to her current roles she was a clinical nutritionist at the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital at New York - Presbyterian/Columbia.
What You Need to Know When Choosing Baby Formula & Toddler Formula
Parents, myself included, want to provide nourishing, high-quality nutrition for their children, starting at birth and continuing through toddlerhood and beyond. When choosing a formula, if breast milk is not an option, parents want to feel confident that they are offering their growing children the nutrients they need to develop, both physically and cognitively. And, on that same sentiment, many make choices to avoid certain ingredients for health, intolerance or other non-health reasons. With so many formulas available, it can be tricky to know which to choose.
As a Pediatric Nutritionist, I help many parents navigate their formula choice. Here is what I consider when choosing a formula:
1. Choose the Protein Source of Baby Formula: Animal-Based, Hypoallergenic or Plant-Based
To narrow down what protein source is best for your little one, first consider if there are any restrictions, and if the restrictions are based on an allergy, intolerance, or broader health, ethical, environmental, or sustainability reasons. This will narrow down if you choose to go with an animal-based, plant-based or hypoallergenic formula.
As for allergies, it is the protein in foods that triggers the immune system to react. Milk protein is the most commonly used protein in formula, but about 2.5% of children under 3 have a documented cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA), plus there are many additional children who do not have a documented allergy, but are intolerant. This intolerance can display through GI upset, constipation, or various behavioral or skin manifestations.
A soy-based alternative is not always the solution since many children cannot tolerate soy as well. The next options are a soy-free, plant-based formula, or a highly specialized, hypoallergenic and processed formula, in which proteins have been broken down, and as a result, are more expensive and less palatable.
As for the non-allergy reasons to avoid cow’s milk protein, many families opt to be more plant-based because of ethical, environmental, or sustainability reasons. Others, choose plant-based lifestyles because of the health benefits - the reduction in heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers partially due to its lower saturated fat and higher anti-inflammatory contents. And going plant-based offers the potential, though inconclusive, benefits of lowering the exposure to dairy derived from animals that have been treated with antibiotics or hormones. So, for these families, plant-based formulas would be the right choice.
2. Check the Nutrition Label of Formula
After choosing the source of protein, whether it be animal or plant-based, review the ingredient list. Look for any ingredients you may choose to be avoiding for other intolerances, allergies, health, or environmental reasons like gluten, corn, soy, or added sweeteners like cane sugar or brown rice syrup.
Next, look at the nutrition panel. Infant formulas are required to meet rigorous nutritional standards to ensure they provide all of the essential nutrients needed for growth, so the nutritional panel is very similar when comparing different infant formulas. There are more notable differences between different toddler formulas in their nutritional breakdowns and percent daily values (DV).
A big difference among toddler formulas is the sugar content. Toddler and children’s formulas all add sweeteners in various forms and amounts to make it palatable for children. But, look at the amount of and source of sugar because it is often high in added sugar. Look for options with the lower amount of added sugar, and the lowest percentage daily value (DV) of sugar.
As an added bonus, look for formulas that include beneficial nutrients that are not required to be included in formulas, such as omega 3’s and fiber. Omega 3’s are key for brain development, that help promote concentration and memory. Fiber is great for developing gut microbiome, pooping, and eventually heart health.
3. Look at Formula Quality
Many families opting for plant-based formulas are looking for non-GMO (genetically modified) ingredients with clean processing techniques. Another element to note is whether the ingredients are in whole form, or heavily processed, and broken down. And, of course, how processed a product is will affect the overall look, consistency smell and taste quality of the formula, which matters! I am a big believer that parents should be able to drink what their children or babies drink.
Why Choose Else Formula Alternative?
Else formula alternative is designed with ingredients, nutrients and vitamins to help support growth and development. It is free of GMOs, soy, corn and gluten, and low in sugar. The formula made up of 3 main ingredients: almond butter, buckwheat and tapioca. I love an ingredient list that I can pronounce. The almond butter and buckwheat together make up complete proteins and contribute to Else’s heart-healthy unsaturated fat content.
Else toddler formula (plant-based nutrition drink) is lightly sweetened. It has 2 grams of sugar per 240 ml of prepared formula 1.5g of is added sugar – less than standard formulas. To give you a better idea of what that means - one packet of sugar, one that you’d see at coffee stations, has about 4 grams of sugar. And, I bet you don’t want your little one drinking a sugar packet (or more!) with each cup of formula. Plus, it includes important elements like Omega 3’s and fiber to the toddler formulas.
In addition, the ingredients being high-quality, Else listened to the parents who are asking for cleaner processing. Which is why they created a formula alternative that uses ingredients in their most whole forms, without the use of any chemicals and harsh solvents.
What I know is that ultimately, different formulas work for different children. And there are many considerations that can go into deciding which formula is best for your child. For parents seeking a plant-based, high quality, nutritious formula alternative, Else hits the checkboxes.
The content and advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis, treatment, advice for specific medical conditions. Always consult a pediatrician to understand the individual needs of your child.