Pediatrician-approved formula is clinically proven to boost growth and weight gain. Packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals to deliver complete nutrition. Mixes smoothly with no lumps or grittiness. Comes in multiple kid-approved flavors. Non-GMO, gluten-free, kosher, halal, and suitable for kids who are lactose intolerant. Decent price.
We’d love to see less sugar in this formula.
Doctor-developed formulation contains zero sugar, gluten, dyes, nuts, canola oil, soy oil, artificial colors, or synthetic flavors. Contains high-quality organic ingredients. Chock full of probiotics, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals to promote optimal growth and vitality. Great as a healthy snack or a meal replacement.
Children over the age of three require two scoops, cutting the number of servings in half. Some flavors are a bit hit or miss.
Developed by pediatricians and clinically proven to improve healthy growth. High protein and low-sugar formula boosts growth without increasing BMI. Fortified with vitamins and minerals. Free of soy, gluten, corn syrup, human growth hormones, artificial flavors, and colors. Parents of “slow growers” rave about its efficacy.
Expensive. New resealable packaging can be somewhat messy to use.
Ready-to-drink packaging is convenient for on-the-go meals or snacks. Each shake contains eight grams of grass-fed protein, 10 fruits and veggies, and 21 essential vitamins and minerals for complete and balanced nutrition. Non-GMO, soy-free, gluten-free, and kosher. Not as sweet as some, but most kids enjoy the flavors.
Expensive. We’d prefer a lower sugar content. Consistency could be thicker.
Dietician-approved formula strengthens muscles, boosts energy, supports cognitive function, and aids healthy digestion. Covers all the bases with protein, carbohydrates, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins B1, B2, B6, and B12. Contains no high fructose corn syrup, added sugar, aspartame, or stimulants. Delicious flavor with a creamy texture.
Not suitable for children under the age of seven. A bit pricey.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
When you’re a parent, compiling a lengthy list of worries is part of the job description. Proper nutrition likely tops the list if your child is below the growth curve. And unlike many other fears, this one is rational. Nutritional shakes can help children meet needs for vitamins, minerals, and other essentials that aren’t being filled by their diet.
Some children lose significant weight during an extended illness. Some have physical or developmental challenges that make eating difficult. Others are just picky. Regardless of the reason, your child’s growing body needs calories. Experts say that low calorie intake is to blame in most cases where children drop weight or fail to gain at an appropriate rate.
Nutritional shakes for children come in mouth-watering flavors to entice even the most finicky palate. But the shake that’s best for your child depends upon their food preferences and any gaps in their individual diet. Keep reading to learn more, and take a look at our top picks, too.
If your child is significantly underweight or has a diagnosed feeding problem, consult with your pediatrician before selecting a nutritional shake. But if your child is picky or just needs to play catch-up for a bit, choose a shake that supplements where the diet is lacking.
Some children shun vegetables and may benefit from shakes that add vitamins and minerals. We’ve included a healthy list of foods rich in these ingredients, so if these aren’t on your child’s menu, look for shakes that fill the gaps. Other kids love carbs and need a solid source of protein to support growth. If your child has digestive problems, fiber-rich shakes may help.
Vitamins: Vitamins keep your child’s body healthy and protect against illness and disease. With the exception of vitamin D, none are produced in the body, so they must come from plant- or animal-based food or other sources. The dose your child needs depends upon age, size, and body weight.
Vitamin A supports healthy vision, a strong immune system, and well-functioning internal organs. It comes from sources like eggs, beef, fish, sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, and fortified milk.
Vitamin B is a group of vitamins that generally support the body’s metabolic processes. The B vitamins come from a wide variety of different meats, dairy products, green vegetables, fruits, and legumes.
Vitamin C is helpful for warding off illnesses and disease, as well as fueling the growth and repair of body tissue, collagen, bone, and teeth. Good sources of vitamin C include strawberries, citrus fruits, spinach, bell peppers, and broccoli.
Vitamin K is vital for blood clotting, bone health, and tissue repair. It’s found in spinach, broccoli, kale, eggs and milk.
Vitamin D builds strong bones and teeth and helps protect against many related conditions. Children usually get vitamin D from fish or fortified milk.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects cells from damage and bolsters the immune system. It comes from nuts, whole grains, vegetable oils, and leafy greens.
Minerals: Minerals come from the earth. They’re ingested through water, from plants that absorb minerals through the soil, or from animals that have eaten those plants.
Calcium is perhaps the best-known mineral. It’s renowned for building durable teeth and bones, but it also promotes strong muscles, proper blood clotting, and heart health. Calcium comes from dairy products, leafy greens, and salmon.
Magnesium helps the body regulate everything from blood sugar and blood pressure levels to well-functioning muscles and nerves. Whole grains, legumes, spinach, and broccoli provide your body with magnesium.
Potassium also helps regulate muscles, nerves, and body fluids. Good sources include meat, legumes, brains, milk, fruit, and vegetables.
Trace minerals come from grains, legumes, nuts, greens, and fish. They mostly support enzyme function.
Proteins: Proteins are macronutrients that must be consumed every day. Every cell of your body contains protein — nails and hair are primarily made of the stuff. Protein builds muscles, bones, blood, cartilage, and other essentials. It makes you feel full and can curb snacking on empty calories. Entrees including chicken breast, fish, lean beef, and eggs are rich in protein. Dairy items like milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt have a high calcium content, as do almonds, peanuts, and pumpkin seeds.
Fiber: Fiber is essential to keep your body’s digestive system in good working order. Fiber makes you feel full longer and helps to stabilize blood sugar. Handheld fruits like apples, bananas, and pears, and vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and sweet potatoes are rich in fiber, as are many legumes. Grains like oats and quinoa are also great sources of fiber.
Probiotics: These help to replenish the good bacteria in the gut. Children who suffer from all sorts of digestive challenges, from constipation to diarrhea, may benefit from probiotics. If your child doesn’t like yogurt, kefir, or sauerkraut, consider looking for a nutrition shake with probiotics.
Nutrition can suffer when life gets busy, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Many nutritional shakes come in premeasured packets that can be mixed quickly and easily. Others come in individual, ready-to-drink cans or bottles perfectly sized for kids. Typically, the less work the shake takes to prepare, the higher the cost per unit. But one shake in your child’s stomach is worth more than an unopened mix on the shelf. When choosing, be realistic about your time constraints as well as your budget.
Unfamiliar flavor is one key reason children reject certain foods. Flavor preferences can slowly change with repeated exposure, but nutritional supplements aren’t the best place to start. Choose shakes with flavors your child is sure to embrace. Shakes flavored with chocolate, vanilla, berry, or peanut butter are the most common crowd pleasers.
When it comes to food, unusual textures can be a real deal breaker for kids. Nutritional shakes are no different. If you’re buying a powdered shake, check to make sure the mix dissolves and absorbs into the liquid smoothly. Lumpy or grainy shakes may be rejected just as quickly as the foods your child dislikes. There’s less risk with prepackaged, ready-to-drink shakes, but only you know if the trade-off is worth it.
Most parents are acutely aware of their children’s dietary restrictions. But don’t let your guard down when it comes to reading labels just because a nutritional shake is marketed as “healthy.”
Additives: Some manufacturers achieve a pleasing flavor using excess sugar and salt. Check carefully to make sure you’re OK with your shake’s sugar and sodium content. Synthetic colors, flavors, and corn syrup can trigger behavioral symptoms in some children. Look for shakes colored naturally if your child is sensitive to dyes or other artificial components.
Allergies: Many shakes bolster their nutritional content with dairy products and tree nuts. If your child has food allergies, be especially vigilant when reading labels.
Autoimmune disorders: Children with celiac disease and related syndromes should look for nutritional shakes certified as gluten-free.
Kosher: Nutritional shakes that are certified kosher or halal should be clearly marked.
Organic: It’s increasingly easy to find shakes made only with organic, non-GMO, soy, and hormone-free ingredients.
Inexpensive: You can find nutrition shakes for kids starting at less than $1 per 8-ounce serving. Shakes in this price range may be formulated for younger children and provide a wide range of vitamins and minerals, as well as moderate protein.
Mid-range: The next tier of nutrition shakes costs between $1 and $1.75 per 8-ounce serving. You’ll likely find some low-sugar options in this tier, as well as shakes that include higher-level ingredients like omega-3 fatty acids and omit additives, dyes, and synthetics.
Expensive: The most expensive shakes cost $1.75 or more per 8-ounce serving. Suitable for both older children and teens, these shakes should be free from artificial ingredients and may have slightly higher levels of protein.
Blend well. Mixing powdered shakes in a blender ensures a more even consistency.
Chill out. Chilling nutrition shakes or serving them over ice makes them seem more like milkshakes and minimizes any objectionable flavors.
Try milk substitutes. You may be able to mix shakes with water or almond milk if your child dislikes cow’s milk or suffers from lactose intolerance.
Pack it. Prepackaged shakes are easier to pack in daycare bags, lunch boxes, and sports bags than mix-it-yourself options.
Q. How do I know if my child needs nutritional shakes?
A. If you’re concerned, talk to your child’s pediatrician. But remember that weight gain and growth rates should remain relatively proportional over time. Doctors get concerned when children lose weight or fail to put on weight consistently. Dropped weight at one checkup may be alarming, but it could have a reasonable explanation. If the trend continues, testing for food allergies, celiac disease, thyroid problems, or other digestive concerns may be in order.
Q. When should my daughter have her shake?
A. Giving your child her shake at mealtime won’t help establish good eating habits, and it doesn’t give her opportunities to build her chewing muscles for later use. A shake midmorning or midafternoon can nourish the body and curb hunger without ruining mealtime. Unless there’s a medical concern, keep offering your child healthy, non-shake options at mealtime. You should never force-feed a child, but understand that it can take multiple exposures for a child to develop a liking for a food item. Letting her sniff or lick objectionable food items may help.
Q. What about high-protein shakes?
A. Protein shakes aren’t recommended for children, even teens, because they can lead to health problems down the road. Kids who consume one or two daily servings of lean proteins like chicken, beef, or pork, as well as two servings of dairy products, should be fine. Children 4 to 9 years old need about 19 grams of protein per day. From ages 9 through 13, it’s 34 grams each day. Teenage boys do need more than girls: 52 grams and 46 grams, respectively. But in Western society, these totals should usually be achievable through diet.
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