Pediatrician Shares Natural Alternative To Pediasure

This is a guest post by Sheila Kilbane, MD. She is a board-certified pediatrician who also trained with Andrew Weil, MD at the University of Arizona in integrative medicine. She shares a natural alternative to Pediasure in this post.

Pediatrician shares natural alternative to pediasure

Pediatrician Shares Natural Alternative To Pediasure

As an integrative pediatrician, I have built my current medical practice upon real food. I have seen the effects of synthetic processed foods on children and anything I can do to help spread the word about whole food nutrition makes me over the moon excited!

Important Note: Don’t confuse the electrolyte drink Pedialyte® with PediaSure®, a liquid meal replacement. They are VERY different things.

My first encounter with Pediasure

I was on a long road trip some three years out of pediatric residency and miscalculated how much food I needed to make it from Charlotte, North Carolina to Kelley’s Island, Ohio. When I ran out of “real food” I was famished and forced to purchase something at a West Virginia gas station. I bought a bottle of PediaSure®.

Odd, right?! It seemed like the only reasonable choice among a sea of chips, candy bars, and jerky. Despite being a pediatrician, up until that moment I had never laid hands on a bottle of PediaSure®, which is also why I had never read the label.

I opened the bottle and began drinking before I finished pumping my gas. What ensued looked like a scene from a Jim Carrey movie. I gagged and nearly spewed the liquid contents all over my car. Then I read the ingredient list.

For years I have told my patients, “If you can’t pronounce the product ingredients, put it back on the shelf.”

How many of these PediaSure® Ingredients can you pronounce?

Let’s start with the main ingredients.

  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Corn Maltodextrin (this highly processed substance similar to corn syrup solids raises blood sugar and insulin levels.)
  • High Oleic Safflower Oil
  • Milk Protein Concentrate
  • Canola Oillinked to(which has been “increased inflammation and oxidative stress“)
  • Soy Protein Isolate
  • Pea Protein Concentrate

Less than 0.5% of the Following: Short-Chain Fructooligosaccharides, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Cellulose Gel, Potassium Chloride, Magnesium Phosphate, Potassium Citrate, Calcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Tuna Oil, Potassium Phosphate, Cellulose Gum, Choline Chloride, Ascorbic Acid, Soy Lecithin, Monoglycerides, Salt, Potassium Hydroxide, m-Inositol, Carrageenan, Taurine, Ferrous Sulfate, dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, L-Carnitine, Zinc Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Niacinamide, Manganese Sulfate, Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Lutein, Cupric Sulfate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Folic Acid, Chromium Chloride, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenate, Sodium Molybdate, Phylloquinone, Vitamin D3, and Cyanocobalamin. CONTAINS MILK AND SOY INGREDIENTS.

Yes, many of those unpronounceable ingredients are actually vitamins, albeit mostly artificially produced AND in very small amounts. However, that’s a moot point when you consider the glaring issue right there at the beginning of the list: sugar and corn maltodextrin. the latter of which is basically

How one mouthful of Pediasure changed my clinical practice

Despite my gnawing hunger, I immediately threw the bottle away. There was no way I was putting that chemical-tasting, sugar-laden drink into my body. And to throw away a perfectly good can of ANYTHING goes fully against my nature; I normally don’t waste a thing. I can’t believe we give this to our kids!

From that day forward, anytime a family came to see me in the clinic, and the child was on PediaSure®, I did everything in my integrative pediatric power to get them off of it. First, we would move them onto smoothies made with real food.

Next, we would decrease the number of processed foods they were eating. And ultimately, we would get them predominantly eating fresh, whole foods with smoothies used as an adjunct to a healthy diet. Once these kids were off processed foods, their clarity, energy, and vibrancy astounded everyone who knew them.

Are you using Pediasure to boost nutrients in your child’s diet?

The kids I am talking about are generally healthy but eat a lot of processed, pro-inflammatory foods as well as PediaSure®. Children with medical issues like a G-tube, poor growth, autism, sensory integration challenges, and extremely picky eaters are in an entirely different category. Some of these children need intensive therapy and other support before they begin eating certain foods.

But if you are a parent who is giving your child PediaSure® to be sure she is getting adequate vitamins and minerals from her food, then this information about a natural alternative to Pediasure® (including the recipes below) is for you.

A Whole-Foods Diet Instead Of Supplements

fruits and veggies

Like my clinic patients, my goal for you is to move your child over to a wholesome, whole-food diet. We absorb nutrients much better when they come in natural forms like real fruits and vegetables and are not synthetically created.

This same thing goes for dietary supplements. Many supplements are the synthetic equivalent of natural vitamins and minerals. Adding synthetic foods to our body creates more work for the liver, the main organ responsible for detoxifying the body.

I didn’t realize how challenging it would be to get the caloric and nutrient equivalent of PediaSure into 8 ounces of liquid, without using synthetic ingredients or protein powders. But I did come pretty close when I concocted what I have dubbed Dr. Kilbane’s Liquid Vitality.

The Problem With Dairy Products

Before I get to my recipes, I need to tell you why they don’t contain dairy. Children who suffer from constipation, recurrent stomach aches, eczema, chronic runny nose, recurrent ear infections, and much more are often eating and drinking a great deal of dairy.

Too much dairy often inflames the gut and does not allow the body to absorb nutrients properly. So my Pediatrician Shares Natural Alternative To Pediasure recipe and does not add more dairy to their diets.

Look at these pictures of a patient before and after eliminating inflammatory foods from his diet! I want to explicitly state that he was never using Pediasure. We simply figured out what food group was inflaming his system and removed it.

kid with allergies

Liquid calories keep the tank filled, but foods that are closer to their natural form do more to not only sustain the body but also help it to heal. It is more difficult for the body to heal from processed foods alone because they are inherently inflammatory. This is why I recommend a natural alternative to Pediasure®.

How To Feed A Picky Eater

It is sometimes necessary for parents of picky eaters to reach for supplements and/or meal replacement drinks like PediaSure®. But when possible, we want kids to eat real fruits and veggies.

The most difficult part of creating nutrient-dense smoothies is finding a taste and texture that kids will drink. You see, the typical American child’s taste buds are constantly bathed in processed sugars. This affects their taste preferences.

However, once we begin giving their bodies more of the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients they need in order for their cells to work properly, their taste buds begin to shift and the palate expands.

That’s where my methodology comes in. I advise parents to gradually decrease their children’s liquid calories so they will be hungry and eat more real food. Spinach, sprouts, fruits, nuts, and seeds pack a great deal of “real food” nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients compared to Pediasure. And they taste a lot better, too!

And let me clarify, PediaSure® definitely contains many vitamins and nutrients, but again, many are synthesized in a lab. As with everything in nature, our bodies absorb and utilize real foods much better and more efficiently than synthetic products.

Pediatrician-Approved All-Natural Alternative To Pediasure Drinks

all natural pediasure alternative

I hear you saying, “Enough theory! What’s your Pediasure replacement recipe?” Here it is:

Dr. Kilbane’s Liquid Vitality

Makes 3 servings. In a blender, mix:

  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 cups liquid – rice milk, almond milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, or water
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds (soaked) – start with 1 tablespoon and if the kids do well with the texture, gradually increase this to 2 tablespoons
  • 1 cup mango, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple
  • 2 bananas, fresh or frozen
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 oz sprouts (alfalfa, broccoli, pea, etc. – these can be sprouted at home or from seeds) (or) 1 oz of microgreens – don’t add the sprouts or greens the first time you make this. Wait until the kids are used to the other ingredients and then start to add these wonderfully nutritious foods.

* If possible, use all organic ingredients.
* Mix the greens and the liquid first until smooth and then blend in the rest of the ingredients.
* The nutrients of the food in a smoothie degrade quickly once it is blended. So it is very important to drink the smoothie within a few minutes after it is made.

I know you’re saying “There’s no way my child is going to drink this!” And this is where my gradual process of shifting kids’ taste buds comes into play.

Smoothies Are The Gateway To Health

Alternative To Pediasure

If your child has never had a smoothie, begin with one of the simple, easy-to-digest “Starter Smoothies” listed below and gradually work up to Dr. Kilbane’s Liquid Vitality, the natural alternative to Pediasure.

Even Dr. Kilbanes’s Liquid Vitality can be evolved. There is a lot of natural sugar in two bananas, a cup of pineapple, and a cup of mango. The goal is to have you gradually decrease the fruits that are not only high in vitamins but also in natural sugars and increase the foods that are high in nutrients and have lower natural sugar content.

Examples Of High Nutrients Foods To Include:

  • Spinach and other dark leafy greens
  • Chia seeds
  • Nuts
  • Sprouts of all types
  • Microgreens
  • Healthy oils like coconut oil

Healthy Smoothie Recipes & Protein Shakes for Kids Coming Off Pediasure

The MOST important thing at the beginning is to make sure your child likes that first smoothie. We have one first shot at this so let’s make it count! Begin with a starter smoothie. If they like it, they will keep asking for more!

Starter Smoothie – Tropical Mango

smoothie recipes alternatives to pediasure

  • 2 cups coconut water
  • 1 1/2 cups mango (frozen)

You can also add 1/2 cup mango and 1/2 cup pineapple or papaya. Start adding a few spinach leaves to this recipe. Fresh baby spinach works best for me because it really won’t change the taste of the smoothie. Coconut water is also a great liquid base that makes the smoothies naturally sweeter. Recipe and full details HERE.

As your child gets used to this smoothie, enlist her in helping to prepare the Intermediate Smoothie.

Intermediate Smoothie –Blueberry Kale

blueberry kale smoothie natural alternative to pediasure

  • 2 cups of coconut water (You can also use any type of milk, water, or yogurt)
  • 1 1/2 cups of frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup kale

You can start adding the supplements like chia seeds, and also a good natural liquid multivitamin.  All types of berries are also great. Recipe and full details HERE.

When your child enjoys these smoothies, then try giving him Dr. Kilbane’s Liquid Vitality. These recipes are not set in stone. PLEASE play around with them to match your family’s preferences and seasonal pantry. If your child is generally healthy but is drinking PediaSure® just to “get some calories,” then you may be able to start adding these smoothies as a natural alternative to PediaSure.

A few notes on blending smoothies:

Vitamix works great to make it smooth for those children who are particular to tastes and textures. A good high-speed blender will make amazingly smooth, creamy, and kids-approved smoothies at all times. I highly recommend you invest in the best one available.

how to make a great smoothie

The Makings Of A Great Smoothie

Fresh Produce: Fresh definitely mixes up better than frozen and it’s best if you mix any greens with your liquid first and then add the rest of the ingredients. I usually mix the leafy greens fresh and use frozen fruits like berries. It works great!

Chia Seeds: Soak for 10 to 15 minutes in 3 to 4 tablespoons of water before adding to your smoothie. This makes them gelatinous and they will mix better. You can also add flax seeds, collagen, or nuts. My kids love smoothies with walnuts.

Coconut Oil: At room temperature is liquid and at cooler temperatures it is solid. So I usually blend everything first and then add the coconut oil.

Sweeteners: If your child still needs any of these recipes sweeter, consider maple syrup, honey, or black strap molasses (black strap molasses has a great deal of iron in it, but it does not have the greatest taste for young palates).

For more information, please also see How To Make Green Smoothies for kids Tutorial. 

More recommendations

Please remember that the liquid base of these smoothies should NEVER BE BASED ON COMMERCIAL JUICE PRODUCTS. Juices bought in the store, even if they are organic, are predominantly sugar. Freshly extracted juices are a whole different ball game and are extremely healthful.

Interested in reading more about picky eaters and what you can do to help? Please see 5 Tips For Raising Healthy Non-Picky Eaters. These tips really work for my family and my kids eat a great variety of foods.

A natural alternative to Pediasure is really the best to help kids grow. Try to get them to eat real food by following Dr. Kilbane’s advice. For more information visit her website at

This Pediatrician Shares Natural Alternative to Pediasure post contains affiliate links. The products linked are the products I use and recommend. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Bible Gateway will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Last update on 2022-11-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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