Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Is PediaSure Bad For You?



Short answer

PediaSure can be beneficial for children needing to fill nutritional gaps, particularly those with a poor appetite or special nutritional needs. However, its high sugar content, potential reliance, and processed ingredients may pose health risks such as obesity, dental problems, and a preference for sweet foods. The cost and risk of children becoming dependent on PediaSure are other concerns. PediaSure should be considered carefully within a child's balanced diet and used under the guidance of a healthcare professional.



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Long answer

Nutritional Value of PediaSure: Pros and Cons

When it comes to evaluating the nutritional value of PediaSure, a popular nutritional supplement drink aimed at children, there are several key factors to consider. Parents and caregivers often turn to PediaSure to support the dietary needs of children who might be picky eaters or who require additional nutrition for various reasons. Let’s dissect the pros and cons of this product from a nutritional standpoint.


  • Macronutrient Balance: A standard serving of PediaSure provides a balanced mix of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, which are essential for a child’s growth and development. This balance helps to ensure that a child receives the necessary energy and building blocks for tissues.
  • Essential Vitamins and Minerals: PediaSure is fortified with an array of vitamins and minerals. These include Vitamin A for eye health, Vitamin D for bone health, and iron which is crucial in preventing anemia and supporting overall growth.
  • Specialized Formulas: There are various versions of PediaSure available, including formulations that cater to specific dietary needs, such as gluten-free, lactose intolerance, and sensitivity concerns. This allows a tailored approach to meeting nutritional gaps.


  • Sugar Content: A major point of contention is the high sugar content found in PediaSure. Increased sugar intake can be associated with a higher risk of obesity, dental cavities, and possibly even a preference for sweet flavors, potentially reinforcing picky eating habits.
  • Processed Ingredients: While PediaSure does contain essential nutrients, it is also a highly processed product. The presence of ingredients such as soy oil, corn maltodextrin, and artificial flavorings raises concerns about the long-term health impacts of these additives.
  • Cost and Dependency: The financial aspect of regularly purchasing PediaSure can be significant for families. There's the potential issue of children becoming dependent on these supplements for their nutritional needs rather than learning to consume a balanced diet through whole foods.

It is crucial to analyze the overall dietary pattern of a child before introducing a supplement like PediaSure. Consulting with a pediatric dietitian can offer a personalized assessment to determine if and how PediaSure would fit into an individual child’s nutritional plan. Any potential benefits must be weighed against the downsides, including the risk of promoting less-than-optimal eating behaviors and reliance on processed foods.

For those considering PediaSure, it is also beneficial to look at the nutrient labels and compare different flavors and formulations, as there may be variations that could impact a child’s health differently. Additionally, some studies and professional guidelines can shed light on the appropriate use of nutritional shakes for children, including:

  • A Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition study that explores the effects of oral nutritional supplements in children with failure to thrive.
  • Guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics that discuss nutritional interventions for children with specific health concerns.

Overall, the decision to use PediaSure should be made with consideration of the full dietary needs and health objectives for a child, the product’s nutritional profile, and the guidance of healthcare professionals.

Sugar Content in PediaSure and Its Implications for Health

Sugar has become a pervasive ingredient in the modern diet, often under scrutiny for its health effects. When it comes to PediaSure, a common nutritional shake designed for children, understanding the role sugar plays in this product is essential for parents seeking to make informed decisions about their child's nutrition.

Firstly, let's look at the numbers. A typical serving of PediaSure contains 18 grams of sugar per 8-fluid ounce bottle. This accounts for a significant portion of the recommended daily intake of sugar, especially for children. The American Heart Association suggests that children aged 2 to 18 should limit their sugar intake to less than 25 grams per day. Therefore, a single serving of PediaSure delivers over 70% of a child's recommended daily sugar limit.

Now, let's dissect the implications:

  • Dental Health: High sugar content in diet is a known risk factor for dental caries (tooth decay). Frequent exposure to sugary drinks can lead to an environment that promotes the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth.
  • Weight Gain: Liquid calories, particularly from sugars, are not as satisfying as solids. This can contribute to excess calorie consumption and, over time, lead to unhealthy weight gain and potential obesity.
  • Blood Sugar Spikes: A jolt of sugar causes a rapid increase in blood glucose levels, which leads to insulin release. This spike and subsequent drop can affect energy levels and mood, particularly concerning for children's developing bodies.
  • Chronic Diseases: Long-term, consistent intake of added sugars has been associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease – even in children.
  • Nutrient Displacement: High sugar drinks can displace other nutrient-dense foods in a child's diet, resulting in an overall less balanced nutritional intake.

While sugar can improve taste and palatability, particularly for picky eaters – which is where products like PediaSure often aim to appeal – the negatives of high sugar intake cannot be ignored. It is important to consider these implications, especially when such products are consumed regularly.

Research has turned a stern eye towards added sugars in children’s diets. A study published in The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics highlighted the need for reduced sugar intake for better health outcomes in children. This aligns with the global push from health organizations recommending lower added sugar consumption to mitigate the risks of developing metabolic issues.

In conclusion, PediaSure's sugar content is high in the context of a child's daily nutritional needs. While it may offer convenience and solve short-term picky eating problems, the long-run implications of its sugar content could contribute to wider health issues. It's critical that parents consider these impacts and balance their child's diet appropriately with the guidance of a healthcare professional. Attention to the overall context of a child's diet and sugar intake is essential for their health and well-being.

Potential Allergens and Sensitivities in PediaSure Ingredients

Navigating the world of nutritional supplements for children can be particularly tricky, especially when allergens and sensitivities come into play. PediaSure, a popular nutritional shake designed for kids, may offer a source of calories and nutrients, but it's crucial for caregivers to be aware of its potential allergens. Let's delve into some of the common culprits that might cause reactions in sensitive individuals.

Milk Ingredients: One of the primary components of PediaSure is dairy. Milk protein can be a significant allergen, especially in young children. Products often contain nonfat milk, whey protein concentrate, and/or caseinates, which are potential allergens. Symptoms of a dairy allergy can include hives, stomach upsets, vomiting, and in severe cases, anaphylaxis.

Soy Ingredients: Soy is another common ingredient in PediaSure shakes, which could include soy protein isolate or soy oil. Similar to dairy, soy can trigger allergic reactions, which may manifest as itching, flushing, swelling, or gastrointestinal upset.

Corn Ingredients: Many PediaSure varieties contain ingredients derived from corn, such as corn maltodextrin, which is a carbohydrate source. While less common than dairy or soy allergies, corn can still cause sensitivities or allergies in some children.

Artificial sweeteners: Certain PediaSure products might include artificial sweeteners like sucralose, which, although generally considered safe, some individuals may find they have sensitivities that cause gastrointestinal discomfort such as bloating or diarrhea.

Understanding the potential allergens in PediaSure is essential for those with known sensitivities or allergies. It is always recommended to read labels carefully and consult with a healthcare provider before introducing any new supplement into a child’s diet. For those with confirmed allergies or intolerances, seeking alternative products devoid of these ingredients or opting for hypoallergenic formulas may be necessary for ensuring both safety and proper nutrition.

Furthermore, the Food Allergy Research & Education organization provides statistics indicating that milk, soy, and corn are among the various food allergens that impact children in the United States. An awareness of these statistics highlights the importance of vigilance when selecting dietary products for children with allergies.

Beyond allergies, some individuals may also have non-allergic food sensitivities that could lead to discomfort. For instance, lactose intolerance is a common condition which could lead to symptoms such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea when consuming products containing lactose, a sugar found in milk.

Ultimately, while PediaSure might be a beneficial supplement for some children, its suitability for your child may depend on their individual sensitivities and allergies. A thorough assessment of ingredients and a consultation with healthcare professionals are prudent steps to ensure that dietary choices serve the best interests of a child’s health.

Comparison of PediaSure to Whole Foods in Children's Diets

When it comes to nourishing our children, the debate between relying on supplemental nutrition shakes like PediaSure and opting for whole foods is one that persists amongst both parents and health professionals. To really dissect this topic, we need to look at various aspects such as nutritional content, bioavailability of nutrients, and long-term health implications.

Nutritional Content: PediaSure is marketed as a nutritionally complete shake designed to help children who are struggling to meet their nutritional needs through food alone. A single 8-ounce serving typically provides a mix of essential vitamins and minerals, protein, fats, and carbohydrates. On the nutritional label, these shakes may appear to cover a spectrum of dietary requirements. In contrast, whole foods offer a myriad of nutrients, including those not always found in a label, such as phytonutrients, antioxidants, and various enzymes critical for overall health.

Bioavailability: Whole foods often contain nutrients in a form that the body can more easily recognize and utilize - a concept known as bioavailability. For example, the iron found in spinach or meat is naturally accompanied by cofactors and enzymes that aid in its absorption and utilization. Conversely, the vitamins and minerals in PediaSure are added during the manufacturing process and may not be in their most bioavailable form.

Impact on Eating Habits: Routinely supplementing with PediaSure could potentially influence a child's long-term eating habits. Whole foods require chewing and involve a sensory experience that shakes do not provide. This experience is vital in establishing healthy eating patterns and preferences in children. Overreliance on meal replacements may hinder the development of a taste for a variety of foods, thus impacting their diet diversity in the long run.

Sugar Content: Many nutritional shakes, including PediaSure, contain added sugars for taste, which can contribute to an increased risk of tooth decay, obesity, and metabolic disorders if consumed excessively. Whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins supply sugars in their natural, complex forms, often accompanied by fiber and other nutrients that help regulate blood sugar levels.

Artificial Additives: One of the critiques of meal replacements is the inclusion of artificial flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives. Such additives are virtually absent in a whole food diet. The long-term effects of these additives on children's health are still a subject of ongoing research, and some parents and professionals caution against their regular consumption.

Dietary Flexibility: When incorporating whole foods into a child's diet, there's a vast array of options to accommodate different allergies, intolerances, or dietary preferences. PediaSure, while it does come in different flavors and some specialized formulas, does not offer the same level of flexibility.

Environmental Impact: From a sustainability perspective, whole foods have a lower environmental footprint compared to the production, packaging, and distribution of supplemental shakes. The process of creating a single bottle of PediaSure is resource-intensive and contributes to plastic waste, whereas whole foods rely on more natural cycles of growth and seasonality.

While PediaSure may serve as a convenient and beneficial tool for specific nutritional deficits, it is essential to consider these factors in the context of a child's overall diet and lifestyle. Dieticians and pediatricians often emphasize the importance of whole foods to instill a foundation for a healthy and varied diet from an early age. However, PediaSure can play a role in short-term dietary management when used judiciously and under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Appropriate Use of PediaSure for Pediatric Nutrition Needs

PediaSure, a brand of nutritional supplements, is formulated to support the unique dietary needs of children who are at risk of malnutrition or are experiencing growth and development issues. The product is enriched with vitamins, minerals, and protein, aiming to provide a comprehensive nutritional profile for supporting a child's growth. It is critical to understand the conditions that warrant the use of such supplements and to be mindful of the appropriate ways to integrate PediaSure into a child's diet.

When PediaSure May Be Recommended:

  • For children with failure to thrive (FTT), characterized by an inadequate rate of weight and height gain.
  • During recovery from illness or surgery when nutrient needs are increased.
  • For children with chronic medical conditions that lead to malnutrition, such as certain gastrointestinal diseases.
  • In cases of undernutrition due to dietary restrictions or poor appetite.

Guidelines for the Appropriate Use:

  • Consultation with a healthcare professional is essential prior to initiating the use of PediaSure to ensure it's suitable for the child's specific health needs.
  • PediaSure should be utilized as a supplement, not a replacement, to a balanced diet unless specifically advised by a healthcare provider.
  • Avoid over-reliance on PediaSure for nutrient intake which can discourage the consumption of whole foods necessary for a diverse diet.
  • Recognize that PediaSure is not designed for infants under 1 year old, as their nutritional needs are best met by breast milk or infant formula.

Monitoring and Adjustment:

  • Regular assessment by a healthcare professional is necessary to monitor growth parameters and nutritional status, adjusting use as needed.
  • Parents and caregivers should be educated on the signs of both under and over-nutrition while using PediaSure.
  • Periodic reevaluation to determine if continued use of PediaSure is necessary as dietary needs and health conditions change with growth.

It is important to note that PediaSure contains caloric, carbohydrate, and protein contents that are higher than typical children's beverages or milk, which is purposeful for its role in nutrition support. However, studies such as those published in Clinical Pediatrics have pointed out that in the absence of a medical condition, reliance on such products may contribute to the risk of over-nutrition and obesity in children (Fleisch et al., 2008). Therefore, judicious use under medical advice is paramount.

Condition Appropriate Use of PediaSure
Failure to Thrive As part of a comprehensive nutrition strategy, not a sole source of nutrients.
Post-Surgery Recovery To supplement increased nutrition needs as directed by a healthcare professional.
Chronic Medical Conditions Use to address specific nutrient deficits related to the condition, monitored by healthcare providers.
Undernutrition from Dietary Restrictions To bridge nutrient gaps under medical supervision, ensuring that any food allergies or intolerances are considered.

Ultimately, the goal is to provide a child with a balanced, varied diet that promotes optimal growth and health. Supplements like PediaSure can play a role in achieving this outcome when used appropriately and as part of a broader nutritional plan.

Frequently asked questions

While PediaSure is aimed at children who need extra nutritional support, it can be used occasionally for children without underlying health conditions, especially during periods when their dietary intake may be less than optimal. However, it should not replace a varied and balanced diet of whole foods.

Yes, reliance on PediaSure over the long term may impact a child's eating habits, potentially reducing their willingness to try new foods and develop a taste for a variety of textures and flavors offered by whole foods. It's important to use supplemental drinks as part of a strategy to transition to a balanced diet.

PediaSure, like many nutritional supplements, comes with environmental impacts due to its production, packaging, and distribution processes. Whole foods typically have a lower environmental footprint, as they rely more on natural growth and seasonality with less resource-intensive packaging.

PediaSure is designed to address specific nutritional gaps and should not necessarily be consumed every day unless recommended by a healthcare professional for children with certain health conditions or dietary needs. Overuse can lead to an imbalance in diet and potential reliance on meal replacements.

Ask a question about PediaSure and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • increased blood sugar levels
  • gastrointestinal discomfort
  • allergic reactions

Possible long-term side effects

  • nutrient displacement
  • dental health issues
  • weight gain
  • increased risk of chronic diseases
  • impact on eating habits

Ingredients to be aware of

  • high sugar content
  • soy oil
  • corn maltodextrin
  • artificial flavorings
  • dairy
  • soy
  • corn
  • artificial sweeteners


  • balanced macronutrients
  • essential vitamins and minerals
  • specialized formulas

Healthier alternatives

  • whole foods
  • diet rich in phytonutrients
  • bioavailable nutrient sources

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Orgain Kids Protein Shake

  • 8g dairy protein
  • 22 vitamins & minerals
  • Includes fruits & vegetables
  • Gluten and soy free
  • Non-GMO formula
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Joey Conners
Published on: 02-15-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Joey Conners
Published on: 02-15-2024

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