Chocolate and Vanilla flavored formula.  Have you heard?

Parents are shocked: 19g of sugar in every 6-ounce serving. That’s basically the amount of sugar in a 6-ounce serving of Coke.

The public’s outrage has prompted Mead Johnson, the makers of Enfagrow Premium chocolate toddler formula, to take their product off the market.

I can’t help but think that chocolate-flavored formula is a good thing.

There are “worse” products on the market, targeted at the same 1-3 year olds, but they don’t spark the same ire.

  • For instance, YoBaby Banana Drinkable yogurt has 22g of sugar per 6 ounces.

This form of liquid sugar gets a healthy pass, even though it’s also targeted at babies.  I guess it’s the combination of chocolate and formula that has everyone going.

By the way, Mead Johnson hasn’t pulled their vanilla-flavored formula from the shelves, and it has 18g of sugar per 6 ounces.

I’m lovin’ this chocolate-flavored formula because it is bringing the debate between nutrition and habits to the fore.  And this is where I live!

  • Is chocolate formula a good thing because, as the company claims, it has a superior nutrition profile compared to the other kinds of drinks toddlers commonly consume?  Will it help finicky toddlers get some of the vitamins and nutrients they might otherwise miss out on?


  • Does feeding sweets to toddlers simply encourage their interest in sugary foods, and decrease their interest in more nutritious foods, as the American Academy of Pediatrics claims?

The nutritional “gain” from souping something up (i.e. adding whole grains to cookies or pizza, vitamins to juice, to formula – or to Coke) never outweighs the damage to habit.  

And yet, we continue to serve chocolate milk in schools because people are convinced it’s the only way to get kids to drink milk.

  • Horizon Organic Low Fat Chocolate Milk contains 20g of sugar per 6 ounces.

Gain one nutritional point; lose 5.  If getting calcium into our kids makes their overall diets go to pot, is it really worth the cost?

Read Coke Beats Juice.

Chocolate-flavored formula is an extreme example of what is wrong with using nutrition as the basis for deciding what foods to feed kids.  As I’ve said many times before: we need to start considering habits instead.

The overemphasis of nutrition in society plays on the fear parents have that that their children will miss out on the nutrients they need.  That fear makes parents vulnerable to all these corporate cocktails (like chocolate-flavored formula) that are designed to make these vital nutrients palatable.


    • People eat and experience foods, not nutrients.
    • They develop a fondness for different flavors, not for nutrients.
    • They acquire a preference for particular textural sensations, not for nutrients.

Kids develop preferences for the tastes, textures, appearances, aromas and temperatures that they are regularly exposed to. The objection to chocolate formula highlights this truth.

Read Why Nobody Needs Nutrition Labels.

You don’t need to get nutrition exactly right in order to feed your children well.  You don’t need to get nutrition exactly right to teach your children healthy eating habits either. You simply need to feed your children real food — most of the time.

What’s real food? As Michael Pollan says, it is food your great-grandmother would recognize.

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~


Sources:;content – accessed 6/15/10 – accessed 6/15/10  – accessed 6/15/10 – accessed 6/15/10

Pollan, M., 2009. Food Rules: an Eater’s Manual. New York, NY: Penguin.