The introduction of chocolate flavored Enfagrow Toddler formula has many parents and nutritionists up in arms. Is chocolate formula a gateway beverage that can lead to a harder sugar addiction and obesity?
Introduced by Glenview-based Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. in February as a beverage for toddlers who are making a transition from infant formula or breast milk, Enfagrow Premium's toddler chocolate and vanilla formulas are milk-based but contain more sugar than milk -- 19 grams of sugar per 7-ounce serving.
The company said product is no sweeter than other things toddlers may drink, such as chocolate milk or orange juice, and contains added nutrients that milk lacks, such as Omega-3 DHA and prebiotics.
"The toddlers years can be particularly challenging since food preferences may be erratic and unpredictable," said Mead Johnson spokesman Chris Perille. "Products such as Enfagrow Premium can play a role in helping children achieve a more balanced, healthy daily diet."
Perille said the idea is to get a toddler to consume milk, even flavored milk, because it will lead to a healthier lifestyle.
Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, disagreed.
"Milk is not an essential food," said Nestle, who purchased a 29-ounce package of Enfagrow recently for $18.99 (22 servings) and says she disagrees with the way the product is being marketed.
When children are toddlers, she said, they are developing a taste for foods. Products such as Enfagrow, she said, will lead those children to crave sugary beverages.