Ads for baby and toddler foods often go against the nutritional advice of health experts, a new study shows.
Researchers found that in 2015 companies spent $77 million in the United States on marketing infant formula, baby food, and food and beverages for toddlers.
The good news, the researchers said, is that the majority of those products were nutritious choices, such as pureed fruits and vegetables, whole grains and dairy products.
The bad news, they added, is that a large share of companies’ marketing dollars — almost 60 percent — went toward products that are not recommended for most young children.
That included sugar-sweetened “toddler milk,” snack foods low in nutrients, and high-calorie liquid supplements like PediaSure.
“It’s easy to make parents anxious about finicky eating and send them the message that their child might need these products,” said lead researcher Jennifer Harris, of the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.
There is a place for liquid supplements and toddler milk, Harris noted. But only a small number of youngsters can benefit from them, she said.
Angela Lemond, a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in pediatric nutrition, agreed, saying, “Most children do not need them.”
Lemond, who was not involved in the study, is also a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
She said that toddler milks — which are fortified with vitamins and minerals — can be useful for toddlers with medical conditions that keep them from getting enough solid food, for instance.