Chocolate Toddler Formula – What’s Wrong With This Picture?

When I first saw a link to Food Politics’ blog about chocolate toddler formula I thought it was a joke. Yes, I’d heard that formula companies make formula for toddlers as well as infants, but chocolate-flavored?? Seriously?! Yes, seriously. Mead-Johnson’s new Enfagrow Premium Chocolate Toddler Formula with “natural and artificial flavors” is on the market for toddlers age 12 to 36 months. Apparently it’s not enough that we load our elementary school-aged kids full of sugar in the form of chocolate milk. What we really need to do is get them hooked on sugar while they’re young – really young – like 12 months old. I wonder what Jamie Oliver would have to say about this?

Enfamil describes the NEW Enfagrow™ PREMIUM™ Chocolate as follows:

A delicious new flavor for toddlers 12 months and older – with prebiotics for digestive health!

As your child grows from an infant to a toddler, he’s probably becoming pickier about what he eats. Now more than ever, ensuring that he gets complete nutrition can be a challenge.

That’s why we created new Enfagrow PREMIUM Chocolate with Triple Health Guard™. With more nutrition than milk, Omega-3 DHA, prebiotics, and a great tasting chocolate flavor he’ll love, you can help be sure he’s getting the nutrition he still needs even after he outgrows infant formula.

The chocolate formula sells for $19.99 (for 18 servings) at Safeway in Colorado, but is currently on sale for $16.99. (What a steal!) Yes, I went into the store to check it out for myself (and snap some pictures of the nutrition information). I was tempted to buy a can for the sake of research, but I just couldn’t justify giving Enfamil my money, not even in the name of investigative journalism. For the record, they also make a vanilla flavored formula in case your toddler isn’t into chocolate.

Marion Nestle lists the main ingredients in her post Chocolate toddler formula?

Here’s the list of ingredients for everything present at a level of 2% or more:

  • Whole milk
  • Nonfat milk
  • Sugar
  • Cocoa
  • Galactooligosaccharides (prebiotic fiber)
  • High oleic sunflower oil
  • Maltodextrin

Nestle also states that, “Mead-Johnson representatives explained that Enfagrow is not meant as an infant formula. It is meant as a dietary supplement for toddlers aged 12 to 36 months.” Yet, as she points out, it’s called “FORMULA” and it has a Nutrition Facts label, not a Supplement Facts label. Hmmm.

Green Mom in the Burbs had this to say: “Gross. I mean, this is just…gross. No, not the KFC Double Down, though that’s pretty disgusting too… I’m talking about this: Chocolate formula for toddlers. Gross. And I thought trying to get chocolate and strawberry flavored milk out of school cafeterias was important. This is just…wow. I’m not sure even Jamie Oliver can save us.”

Cate Nelson from Eco Childs Play calls Enfagrow Chocolate Toddler Formula the “Gag Me Product of the Week” and said, “There are serious problems with this product. First off, why do toddlers, even those who are no longer breastfed, need an infant formula? Is “baby” not getting proper nutrition? And if so, how in the world is a chocolate-flavored formula going to solve this problem?”

Kiera Butler who writes at Mother Jones explains a bit about toddler formula. “So what is toddler formula, anyway? Nutritionally, the unflavored version is pretty similar to whole milk, except with more calcium and phosphorous. There seems to be a consensus that after age one, kids don’t really need formula at all, as long as they have a healthy solid-foods diet and are getting plenty of calcium.”

Danielle, who blogs at Momotics said she was shocked by some of the comments she read on CafeMom about the chocolate toddler formula. One comment read, “What’s the big deal? Kids extended breastfeed.” Danielle responded, “AHHH! There is NO comparison between a chocolate formula for toddlers and a mothers breast milk. They aren’t even on the same page, or in the same book!”

She also wants to know “why are we going to encourage our children into unhealthy eating habits by providing them with a tasty chocolatey treat? In a country with obesity rates in our children growing, it seems like simple and unknowing choices like this as children could lead our kids into serious risky eating habits as adults.”

Danielle adds, “I think the biggest realization this all brought me to today is that Jamie Oliver is right, there is such a huge issue with food, eating, nutrition, and our parents today that we need to seriously take a look at in our country. There is a problem, and the comments that the parents on CafeMom brought to the table did nothing but prove that parents are grossly un- and undereducated on what we should and should not be giving our children.”

Annie from PhD in Parenting points out that because of breastfeeding, her babies got all sorts of great flavors through her breastmilk without having to actually eat artificial flavoring.

JennyLou is concerned about the potential health problems as well. “Our obesity rates continue to climb. More kids are now obese than ever before. Kids don’t know what vegetables are. Kids won’t eat vegetables. Kids are drinking juice, soda, etc. out of baby bottles and then sippy cups. And now, enter chocolate formula. What a recipe for disaster.”

Christina who blogs at A Mommy Story wonders about the possible caffeine levels in the cocoa used in the formula.

All in all, I have to say this product scares the heck out of me. I understand that some children need extra calories and may even live on a entirely liquid diet and there could potentially be a need for this (though I’m guessing there are healthier alternatives), but having a product like this available to the masses seems like a bad, bad idea. Our kids already have the deck stacked against them when it comes to nutrition in this country, why make it any worse?

Nestle ended her post saying, “Next: let’s genetically modify moms to produce chocolate breast milk!” And Abbie, who blogs at Farmer’s Daughter responded, “I’m snacking on some chocolate right now and nursing my son. Funny coincidence. That’s as close as he’s going to get to chocolate milk for a long time.” Rightfully so.

Edited on 6/9/10 to add: FOX News reports Controversial Chocolate-Flavored Baby Formula Ends Production

Cross-posted on BlogHer

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49 thoughts on “Chocolate Toddler Formula – What’s Wrong With This Picture?”

  1. This reads like a joke. It’s pretty sad that it isn’t. I know that it can be hard to get kids to eat, but there has GOT to be a better way than making everything chocolate-flavoured.

  2. That is so messed up. I’m against toddler formula anyway. A choice survey in Australia (they’re a consumer watch dog) determined that toddler formula and certain milks branded as kids milk where decidedly unhealthy. They tended to be higher in sugar for one thing. They also tend to make toddlers feel more full and less likely to eat a variety of healthy food.

    The vast majority of toddlers are fussy eaters, but hardly any of these fussy eaters need their diet supplemented. (Of course there are exceptions to every rule).

    But chocolate toddler formula? That’s taken it to a whole new level.

  3. Thanks for sharing the round up. I’m shocked at some of the responses especially comparing this formula to extended breastfeeding.
    Maybe it’s just me but if you have to mask the flavor of something wouldn’t you reconsider offering it to your child?

  4. I’m against the use of formula except in dire circumstances on the whole, and I’m completely against the use of formula for toddlers, but I’m disgusted and appalled by the idea of flavoured toddler formula on a whole other level. Children that young don’t need to be introduced to the additives and preservatives already present in infant formula (never mind the sugar), but worse still, they don’t need to be introduced to FURTHER refined sugar and artificial flavouring and get hooked on that.

    I feel like mothers who feed toddlers formula are lazy, no two ways around it. When you put effort into making sure there are healthy, balanced nutritional options available, there’s no need for a glorified milkshake for your one-year-old. Ugh.

  5. I am worried about how many uneducated moms like the one on Cafemom who equated this to extended breastfeeding are going to be duped into feeding their kids this.

    Sadly many parents really have no clue when it comes to nutrition and think ” Oh it’s formula” and think that it’s a healthier alternative to chocolate milk, and or a good supplement they can get into their picky toddler.

    This isn’t formula – it’s dessert marketed as something healthy!

    Can’t say I am shocked though , coming from such a ethical company 😉

  6. I found out about this a week or so ago when one of my friends posted a link on Facebook.

    I don’t think I can talk about this and continue to sound coherent. It’s just the same thought circling over and over in my head “BAD! BAD! BAD! OH NO!!!!”

    And yes, my very first thought after reading the article for the first time was “I want to see Jamie Oliver’s reaction to chocolate toddler formula.” It’s a disgrace. An utter disgrace.

  7. wow, that’s all I can say.. what is wrong with these food corporations, it’s sad, disgusting and disheartening, this kind of junk should be outlawed.

  8. That is really frustrating. Unfortunately, our country is so filled with nutritional misinformation that this just goes on the long list of things that we are told that are not true nor helpful. “He’s not big enough. He needs solids.” “He’s too big. He needs solids.” “He needs more calories. Add butter to everything he eats.” “Having trouble weaning your baby? Try chocolate milk.” It goes on and on. Between the information parents are getting from companies about their unhealthy products and even some health professionals there is no question why we have the issues we do.

  9. I tweeted about this when I first saw it a week and a half ago, and was in utter disbelief. I actually said that Jamie Oliver had his work cut out for him in a country where Chocolate Formula for toddlers even existed, let alone consumed and defended.

    I just don’t get it… not even a little bit.

  10. Tricking kids into nutrition is the worst thing you can do in my opinion. It’s worse than the Double Down because it’s for CHILDREN and marketed as healthy. Not only are you training kids’ taste buds early on, you are also falsely marketing to less-educated parents. I think “toddler formula” is a gross concept in general – Shouldn’t kids be getting real, healthy food at the dinner table at that point? I don’t have my own child yet but I was just babysitting a 13 month old who was interested in whatever I put in my own mouth…

    I’m only 23 but ‘back when I was a kid’ I didn’t have any chocolate choices. It was eat the vegetables on my plate or not eat. I drank breast milk and cow’s milk but I don’t think I even knew milk was available in chocolate flavor until grade school.

  11. This makes me SO angry.
    I don’t know who to be angrier with though – the company for manufacturing it – or the fact that there are parent’s willing to buy it!
    It helps me understand why I always feel like a freak for not wanting my children to have treats everywhere we go – it creates such an uphill battle for parents who just want to raise children with good habits.

  12. A friend has children who are terrible eaters, and have been since birth. She’s a fabulous mother and health concious, too. A product like this helps her underweight toddler get some desperately needed nutrition. What concerns me is that mothers who might not know better will give it to children who would otherwise consume healthier food options.

  13. Would someone please tell me what the difference between this and something like pediasure is? I don’t buy other, but this seems like it would be similar – both are supposed to be nutritional “supplements”

    Just an inquiry, no need to get up in arms about it.

  14. Since I’m breastfeeding, this isn’t an option for my son… does the flavor of breast milk really change that much depending on what I eat? I’d like to learn more about that.

  15. Man. I am never surprised anymore. Horrified? Yep. Disgusted? Absolutely! Ready to grab my bat and break some stuff? Oh, yeah.

    The thing is, we live in a nation – in a culture – that insists on a differentiation between “grown-up food” and “kids’ food.” People shove factory-farmed “chicken” fingers and orange mac and cheese into their kids five nights a week. Kids are drinking neon green energy drinks (ENERGY drinks! For kids!) and taking Lunchables to school. And, of course, there’s the long-time assault on breastfeeding in favor of formula because, really, shouldn’t you be giving your baby extra melamine?

    This is f*cked up. And it makes me furious and that’s about as articulate as I can be before finishing my morning coffee.

  16. There have been studies (years ago) which showed that when toddlers are presented with an array of nutritiuns foods and are allowed to choose, they will eat a pretty balanced diet over the course of a few days or a week. They may not eat everything presented at each meal. Yes, there are picky eaters, but is an exceptionally rare human who will willingly starve because their favortie foods are not available. Present the family meal, and if the kiddo does not choose to eat, present the next meal at the appropriate time. Don’t make mac and cheese at every meal or give them “formula” because they are picky.

  17. I’ve been keeping an eye on all of the press this chocolate formula has been getting, and wanted to share my two cents.

    My 2 1/2 year old son has something called delayed gastric emptying, which means he has trouble getting enough to eat because he always feels full. He just got a feeding tube placed on Thursday to help because he is severely underweight though otherwise developmentally on track. After breastfeeding for a year, we are relying heavily on a “nutritional supplement” manufactured by Nestle (as directed by our pediatric GI) that comes in Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry flavors (similar to Pediasure, but with more calories and fat). I think ours is actually labeled a “Medical Drink for Children,” but it can be bought at some stores and pharmacies without a prescription. I’ve always selected Vanilla, and thankfully, my son will drink it (though not enough of it). But if for some reason he DIDN’T drink the vanilla, I MIGHT, just MIGHT try chocolate out of sheer desperation. Obviously though, our situation is completely abnormal. My views on what I thought my child should eat and drink have completely changed, given his diagnosis and our extreme struggles to get him to gain weight, and I feel guilty on a daily/hourly basis about the things I do and don’t feed him. But I DON’T think I’d ever give a flavored drink to a child who was just plain picky with no medical issues, despite how frustrating picky toddlers can be.

    Anyway, my point is that I think there is a very tiny market for products like this…these flavored nutritional supplements, for children who are having trouble gaining weight, and I just happen to be a part of that target market. Given the prevalence of childhood obesity these days, that market is very tiny indeed. HOWEVER, I don’t think these products are being marketed to just that segment of the population. I think they are being marketed to the general public, and that just seems wrong! This product in particular, due to its packaging (and placement on the store shelves, I’m guessing!) comes across as just another baby formula, but now in a “cool” new flavor. The same goes for all of the other nutritional supplements, too. I’m not sure what the solution is (though obviously many of you would argue that they shouldn’t exist in the first place…a point I can certainly respect), but separating them from other formulas would be a good start….move them to the pharmacy, at the very least. I don’t think the solution to dealing with picky eaters is to give them chocolate or strawberry!

    And yes, I’m very curious…what WOULD Jamie Oliver have to say about this?

  18. Lindsey – i don’t know much about pediasure, but i think the difference is the way it’s marketed. pediasure seems to be marketed as a nutritional supplement, yet something with a name like “formula” with nutrition facts could easily dupe ppl into thinking it’s necessary for their child’s health. i think for the undereducated, they may think they “need” to buy toddler formula for their child instead of starting them on solid foods. just my take on it. i’d love to know what others think.

  19. Hmm. I hate the idea of chocolate formula for babies…for my coffee cup with homemade whip cream on top…maybe! 🙂 BUT, I think we have to be careful as mother’s about passing our judgments too quickly, as in Cara’s case. My son didn’t nurse at the breast for three months, and while many times I stood at the store fondling the formula, in tears, I never bought it. Thankfully for MY sake. But I would never put three months of pumping 9 times a day and in the middle of the night, and bottle feeding on any other mother in the world…I was a basket case.

    Lets ban the chocolate infant formula, but have some heart for Mama’s where breastfeeding isn’t working. I DO agree that we need to support breastfeeding WAY more than we do as a society. I get it. What I am still trying to get is why we all think people should make the same choices we do as parents…


  20. my son Lawnie, now 16, was one of those toddlers who was “not gaining enough,” and I was sent to a nutritionist and counseled on getting more nutitious calories into him. I can report that it was not difficult to do without chocolate formula. At the time, I was fortunately aware that the charts used by pediatricians underrepresent breastfed kids, and therefore the percentile into which my son fell was distorted downward. Even the nurse-prac watched him playing aroung her examining room in his diaper and observed that “He sure doesn’t look malnourished.” Lawnie is still long and lean at 5’11 1/2″ and 120 lb.s, but he has always been healthy–and as a little boy whose tastes had not been corrupted by travesties such as this chocolate formula he would ask to be allowed to eat a plum after dinner instead of cookies.

  21. What’s wrong with this? I’ve always said my breasts have a chocolate side and a strawberry side. Can’t Nestle do the same? /kidding!

    Seriously, this is just wrong. Don’t market it as formula if it’s supposed to be a supplement for a toddler. Don’t teach kids so young that they need flavored milk in order to enjoy it. Go for the healthy foods first with your kids. Most will take well to them.

  22. While I can understand the anger I wouldn’t judge too harshly until you have walked in the shoes of a mother who’s child refuses to eat. Not for a while or will accept junk but a child who gets to the point of of simply not eating or drinking – period. It’s hard to fathom being so desperate to get your kid to eat SOMETHING that you’d try any thing. When you have to force liquids in to keep them from getting too dehydrated. When you try to pack every drop with as many calories as possible.

    I think the typical parent would never buy this. It costs a lot compared to a gallon of milk and some chocolate syrup. That being said they had vanilla out for months – why is chocolate so much worse.I honestly do not see many parents of typical children buying this. Chocolate milk is cheaper.

    Not 2 hours before a friend linked this on Facebook with many people jumping in to comment about their disgust I’d just asked my daughter’s G.I about Vanilla EleCare to see if it would encourage feeding.

    If a child refuses to eat long enough or has enough trouble over a longer period of time – they start mentioning scary things like NG or G tube.

    So yes, for the average child – tough love – they’ll eat eventually but don’t judge ALL parents who consider this type of thing so coldly without first fathoming what you would do if your child was choosing to starve themselves…won’t nurse won’t eat not even cake or Oreos nothing…

  23. The most frightening thing about this stuff is that there are people out there who believe companies wouldn’t make it and stores wouldn’t sell a food stuff that isn’t healthy, which is not true at all.

  24. So we really have to let our mother’s instinct rule and work. Trust only the food companies that know exactly what they’re doing. Thanks for these facts. By the way, this personal defense for women like us might interest you. Thanks and more power!

  25. Well I am pro-formula as a choice for parents to use. I’m not sure how I feel on toddler formula, seems a bit pointless. This is way to much though, chocolate formula. Seriously? I am disappointed in this company for making this product.

  26. My son, who was breastfeed until he was 16 months old (got pregnant again and milk ran out) is the child who will eat nothing. Literally. Unless it’s candy or junk food which is something we don’t keep in the house. He would survive on potato chips and fish crackers if we let him, and I wish that was a joke.

    Every meal time is a challenge and is filled with heart ache for me because nothing he is offered is taken. He goes all day without eating anything at daycare because he doesn’t like what is being served.

    I do give my son this formula (actually the vanilla formula) because I need to know that he is getting something nutrious in his day. No one likes to be hungry, and if I can’t figure out what he *will* eat, isn’t it better to have something he will drink until he decides to eat food that needs to be chewed? He is 21 months old now.

  27. I don’t actually have a problem with chocolate milk in schools. It’s my personal go-to drink for after a hard run because calcium/D supplements do ugly things to my stomach and regular white milk is harder to get down. An my husband drank 8 ounces of chocolate milk every day in school as a kid and that was the only way he would drink milk.

    But toddler formula is, IMO, a waste of money and chocolate makes it that much worse.

  28. So I still don’t understand why it’s fine to feed toddlers formula (chocolate or otherwise) but so many people have a problem with breastfeeding toddlers…

  29. Not to get on a rant here, but what do you expect from Nestle? There business depends on people making the wrong food choices and this is one way to get kids hooked on chocolate at an early age.

  30. Am very against this. Other than not buying it, what can be done to let the company know it’s so not ok?

  31. Oh My God! I can’t believe this. If someone is looking to boost calories and nutrition in liquid form for toddlers how about a homemade green smoothie?! Get a Vitamix! What is happening to American families?

  32. I gave my boys milk with a spoonful of Ovaltine in it when they were toddlers, because it got them to finish the whole cup of milk. I don’t think any 12 month old BABY needs chocolate formula, and I don’t know any 36 month olds who still drink formula, although obviously there probably are some.

    I agree with your reply to Lindsay about Pediasure. The word “formula” insinuates that this chocolate drink could be the sole source of nutrition for your child. And like Christina, I would be concerned about the caffeine level if this was a child’s only formula.

  33. I’ve never understood the point of toddler formula, period. I mean, it’s basically marketing to encourage moms to be dependent that much longer on this expensive crap. By that age they can certainly drink regular milk, if that’s your bag, and eat a variety of table foods – so there should be *something* out there they’re bound to like. They’re already down the throats of moms with young babies, now they’re reaching a whole new audience.


  34. Geez, had to double check that I wasn’t on “The Onion” there for a minute.

    Can’t decide which is worse:
    That Nestle is making this crap or that parents think this is a better alternative to steaming up some veggies?

    Especially in these formative months, where our babies develop their palettes -> will we grow a generation that equates chocolate with nutrition?

    Long live broccoli!!!

  35. This goes back to PediaSure being ok for children who aren’t sick. WTF ever happened to telling your kids “I worked hard for the money to get this food, you need this food and you WILL eat it”?

  36. I’m completely on the opposite side of the argument on this one, but then again my year old twins do exceptionally well with the Enfagrow Toddler formula. Born as micropreemies at 25 weeks gestation, they are now below the 3rd percentile on the age adjusted growth chart. The non-adjusted ranking is just plain nauseating. Used as a nightcap, the twins consume more on the Enfagrow Toddler chocolate than with just plain formula.

    First, for all of those that may bitch and moan over the cost, it is right in line with all other formulas and a hell of a lot less expensive than Neocate at $40/20oz. So, if you’re trying to process why someone would give their child toddler formula when you could just give them table milk, you’re coming from the wrong perspective. Instead of having the understanding for those whom toddler formula is the sensible choice as their child progresses toward consuming table milk, you’re stuck in contempt for a product that seems a senseless waste. If a product isn’t for you or to your liking, you probably aren’t the intended consumer group.

    And by the way, who among us didn’t grow up on apple juice or chocolate milk? And what about hot cocoa after playing in the snow?

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