Toddler Nutrition and Formulas Designed for Toddlers

 By Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD 

Lauren specializes in plant-based living and vegan and vegetarian diets for all ages. She specializes in writing about parenting and a wide variety of health, environmental, and nutrition topics. 

Table of contents

Transitioning from Infancy to Formulas Designed for Toddlers

In the first year of life, the nutritional choices for a child are relatively straightforward and easy to follow. Breast milk is the preferred feeding in the first year of life, and infant formula is the next best option. The requirements for infant formula nutrient content are well defined by the FDA and the significant regulatory hurdles are well established. Fast forward to the second year of life. The nutrient content regulatory guidelines for formulas designed for toddlers (12-36 months old) are not clearly established. However, the manufacturer must produce the formula in a facility that strictly follows current FDA good manufacturing principles (CGMPs) and procedures and must accurately define the finished product with appropriate labeling and ensure that the nutrients declared on the label are met during the shelf life. Most toddler formulas are powders that are easily mixed with water to provide a nutrient rich formula. There are many nutritional choices for toddler formulas, but most include proteins or ingredients from cow’s milk or soy. Families wanting to avoid cow’s milk or soy have little choice in today’s market.

U.S. Consumers are Purchasing Non-Dairy Alternatives for their Families and Toddlers

Dairy consumption has been declining in America over the years as consumer preferences have changed away from cow’s milk derived foods.[4] For instance, in 1975 the average person consumed 247 pounds of milk in a year. In 2018, the average person consumed 149 pounds of milk in a year, a decrease of 60%.

Consumer behavior is trending towards full -fat dairy products, organic cow’s milk and non-dairy “milks” that are not nutrient dense such as “almond milk” and “coconut milk”. Nutritional deficits have been observed in infants fed home-made, unbalanced non-dairy “milk” formula, which lacks dietary essential nutrients required for a child. Alternatives to cow’s milk formula for children has been a developing trend along with increased consumer awareness of cow’s milk protein allergy and intolerance. Consumers have increased their interest in plant-based nutritional alternatives for children.

Else Nutrition recognized the changing trends for nutritious alternatives to standard milk and soy protein formulas. This recognition led to the development of a balanced, nutritious plant-based, dairy-free and soy-free alternative for toddlers 12-36 months of age.

Toddler Formula Alternative with Protein from Almonds and Buckwheat

Else Nutrition has developed a novel and patented alternative to standard toddler formulas. Else Nutrition's Formula Alternative delivers protein from a proprietary blend of almonds and buckwheat using a clean, chemical-free process for families looking for nutritious options for their children. Else Nutrition’s toddler product is a nutrient-rich toddler formula that is a 100% plant-based alternative to dairy or soy-based formulas. Other ingredients in the toddler formula are tapioca and vitamins/minerals. Collectively, the 3 core ingredients make up ~92% of the composition of the novel formulation. The nutrient-rich formula is also free of any dairy ingredients (protein or lactose), soy ingredients (protein, soy lecithin or soy oil), free of any antibiotics, hormone-free, gluten-free, and does not contain genetically modified ingredients. The product is provided in a powder form and readily mixes with water to make a nutritious drink for toddlers.

 

A Closer Look at the 3 Key Organic Ingredients in ELSE Toddler Nutrition 

Organic Buckwheat

Buckwheat or common buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum Moench) is a plant cultivated for its grain-like seeds. Buckwheat is considered a pseudocereal because it is typically used in a manner similar to cereals. However, buckwheat contains a unique nutritional profile due to its abundance of essential amino acids. The protein content of buckwheat is approximately 10.6 g/100 g dry weight with high levels of essential amino acids such as leucine (6.9 g/100 g) and lysine (5.84g/100 g). Buckwheat, despite its reference to “wheat” is not a grass and is not taxonomically related to wheat. Buckwheat is more commonly related to sorrel, knotweed and rhubarb. Buckwheat does not contain gluten proteins and may be used by patients with celiac disease.

Buckwheat flour contains ~13.25 g of protein per 100 g and is a good source of potassium 460 mg/100 g and iron 2.4 mg/100 g. The buckwheat flour used in the formula contains ~74% carbohydrate. The composition of the carbohydrate is ~25% amylose and 75% amylopectin. The buckwheat flour in ELSE is treated with alpha -amylase to digest some of the complex carbohydrate into smaller pieces such as maltose and dextrins to facilitate digestion in young children. Total sugar after amylase treatment is only 10% of the total carbohydrate. The alpha amylase used in the manufacture of the toddler formula breaks down the carbohydrate into smaller pieces. Buckwheat flour contains only a small amount of fat 3.4g/100 g.
Buckwheat, in addition to its well -balanced amino acid profile is a good source of dietary fiber, polyphenols, antioxidants and trace minerals zinc, copper and manganese. Buckwheat has been shown to be a prebiotic for the intestinal tract.

Organic Almond Butter

California almonds (Prunus dulcis) are used in the ELSE formula after ground into a paste or butter. The ground almond contains ~28% protein, 13% carbohydrate (starch) and 50% fat. Almond butter is typically a ground meal of blanched raw almonds that have been treated with water to soften the seed coat which is then removed. Removal of the seed coat reduces phytic acid content to facilitate absorption of iron and zinc. Almond butter is a rich source of oil (>50% of the almond by weight) with the majority (32%) of the fatty acids as the monounsaturated fatty acid, oleic acid (18:1n9). Other fatty acids in almond butter include 13% linoleic acid (18:2n6) and 10% saturated fatty acids, such as palmitic acid (16:0).

Almond butter is also gluten-free.

Almonds are one of the oldest cultivated nut trees in the world and are valued for their favorable lipid profile, high content of the antioxidant vitamin E and polyphenols. Long term consumption of polyphenols may confer protection against development of cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and neurodegenerative disease as suggested by epidemiological studies. Almond protein is highly digestible and due to its fiber content, has been shown to function as a prebiotic that can alter the microbiota of the intestinal tract to a favorable profile.

Organic Tapioca

Tapioca is commonly used in many foods for its carbohydrate content and ability to deliver the appropriate viscosity or thickness in a formula. The tapioca used in the Else Toddler Nutrition mixes readily with water to provide the appropriate consistency for the formula.

Could a Child be Allergic to Buckwheat and Almonds?

Theoretically, any food protein may be considered a potential allergen. Cow’s milk allergy is the most commonly experienced food allergy, especially for infants and children. In addition to cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and seafood are the most common foods to cause allergies. Almond, which is a tree nut, contains protein which has been reported to be a potential allergen in sensitized individuals. Like many other foods, allergy to buckwheat, while relatively rare, has been reported as a Type I, IgE-mediated immediate-type reaction.. The prevalence or incidence of allergic manifestations to buckwheat is difficult to estimate due to the lack of epidemiological studies on the topic. The full ingredient listing is available on the Else toddler formula alteratie. If an allergy to buckwheat or almond or other ingredients is suspected, do not use Else toddler formula alternative.

Are toddler formulas recommended by experts?

If the diet of the toddler is well-rounded and meets typical nutrient requirements anticipated from conventional foods (meats, eggs, dairy, plant proteins, fruits, nuts and vegetables), and anthropometric growth is normal, then additional nutrition in the form of a toddler formula is not a necessity. However, nutrient -rich toddler formulas or up-age formulas may be recommended by experts when there is a recognized need for additional nutrients that may be lacking in the diet of the toddler. Nutrients that have been demonstrated to be lacking in the diet of the toddler vary by geographic location and is associated with nutrition practices within countries.


WCM sold in the United States, has relatively high protein and saturated fat content than is needed for most toddlers. WCM has very little of the dietary essential fatty acid, linoleic acid relative to CODEX standards, expert recommendations and toddler formulas in the market. There is no DHA or AA in cow’s milk. Whole cow’s milk is lacking in many vitamins (E, K, C and riboflavin and is also deficient in the essential trace mineral, iron.

Else toddler formula alternative meets or exceeds the minimum recommendations of the CODEX International Food Standards for follow -up formula originally adopted in 1987 and as amended in subsequent years.  In addition, ELSE toddler formula is within the range of nutrients identified for the European Market for young children within the age group of 1-3 years. ELSE toddler formula has a similar nutrient profile compared to many of the US powdered toddler formulas in the market manufactured by major brands. (Table)

Toddler Formula Nutrient Profile

Protein: The US toddler formulas have conventional protein sources such as cow’s milk (nonfat or reduced fat (skim) cow’s milk) or a blend of nonfat cow’s milk and whey protein concentrate. Soy protein isolate that is used in the US formulas is supplemented with the amino acid L-methionine to support the amino acid profile of the soy protein. The protein in Else toddler formula alternative is provided by the almond and buckwheat ingredients and provides an amino acid profile that does not need to be fortified with amino acids.

Carbohydrate: In regards to the carbohydrate sources, most formulas use extracts derived from corn (corn syrup solids or corn maltodextrin) and lactose (cow’s milk derived) Some formulas add a prebiotic fiber, galactooligosaccharides (GOS) or fructooligosaccharides (FOS) to support gut health. The carbohydrate in Else toddler formula alternative is provided by tapioca and buckwheat flour. ELSE toddler formula provides a natural source of fibers from the almond paste and buckwheat flour to support gut health.

Fat: The oil blends of the formulas are diverse, however all of the formulas use soy, high oleic (HO)-safflower/sunflower oil to provide oleic acid (18:1n9) and support essential fatty acid intakes of linoleic acid (18:2n6) and linolenic acid (18:3n3) and coconut oil (for a source of saturated fat). HO-sunflower or HO-safflower oil is used in many of the formulas to provide oleic acid (18:1n9). Palm olein oil is added to some toddler formulas to provide palmitic acid (16:0). ELSE toddler formula is unique in this product comparison as the fat is derived primarily from the almond paste and only a small amount from the buckwheat flour. Importantly, the essential fatty acid, linoleic acid (18:2n6) is not compromised in the Else formulation as it compares favorably to the other formulas. 

Vitamins and Minerals: The toddler formulas are similar to each other in terms of vitamin and mineral content. The differences between formulas are relatively insignificant from a nutritional perspective.

Summary

There are serveral good toddler formulas to support the nutrient intake of toddlers 1-3 years of age. The toddler formulas are superior to whole cow’s milk in providing essential vitamins and minerals (particularly iron) without delivering an excessive amount of protein or saturated fat. Toddler formulas are fortified with vitamins and minerals to support the needs of toddlers. For families looking for a healthy nutritional option without cow’s milk ingredients or soy ingredients, Else plant-based toddler formula is an excellent choice.


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.




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