Can Children Drink Ensure?

Ensure is a nutritional supplement drink made for adults and sold in drug stores, grocery stores, and used in clinical settings, such as hospitals. Ensure is not the most appropriate nutritional drink for children as other products are better designed for pediatric nutrition needs.

Child looking at a tall glass of Ensure on table. (Image: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Nutrition Supplement Drinks

Ensure nutritional drinks are made by Abbott Nutrition, specifically for adults and the elderly. The same company makes a similar nutrition shake, Pediasure, which is the product most appropriate for children between the ages of 1 and 10. Ensure and Pediasure are comparable in calories, fat, protein and serving size, but the amount of vitamins and minerals are different. Some of the significantly varied amounts are vitamin A, niacin, vitamin B-12, biotin, magnesium, zinc, selenium, copper and chromium. More is not always better, for example, vitamin A at consistently high levels can be toxic and Ensure has much more than Pediasure. Ensure is also not appropriate for people who have galactosemia, a genetic disorder affecting the digestion of the sugar galactose.

Pediasure

It is important to consider whether your child needs a supplement, as well as which product is best. Pediasure is suitable for extremely picky eaters as well as children who are in need of extra nutrients for growth and development. It has 240 calories, includes the healthy omega-3 fatty acids and prebiotics to encourage growth of healthy bacteria in the intestines. There is also a product called Pediasure Sidekicks that has 150 calories and more vitamins and minerals than Pediasure, but lacks omega-3 fatty acids. This supplement is designed to replace empty calories from other foods or help with a smaller amount of nutrient repletion than with Pediasure, like a healthy snack on the go.

Common Uses for Pediasure

Nutrition supplements are not meant to replace the intake of nutritious foods or in addition to a diet of non-nutritious foods, which could both lead to a less healthy eating pattern than simply consuming a balanced diet. Including supplemental nutrition shake like Pediasure in the diet is to increase overall nutrition quality or to guarantee sufficient calorie intake. Pediasure can be given as a snack for a child needing extra calories or even as a drink with meals. An added benefit is for a sick child who cannot tolerate regular food.

Alternate Solutions

If you are hesitant to include a supplement in your child's diet, there are other options to increase nutrient quality or calories. To increase calories, include an extra healthy snack in the day or combine higher-calorie foods rich in vitamins and minerals, like avocado or Greek yogurt, with meals and snacks. If a nutritional drink is considered only for the vitamins and minerals, discuss including a multivitamin with your child's physician and encouraging a variety of foods in your child's diet. Providing supplements or altering your child's nutrition regimen should be conducted with physician or dietitian supervision to ensure the most appropriate and safest method.

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