The Best Organic Toddler Formula for Picky ParentsMar 08, 2021
I've been there with both of my kids...it can feel scary to transition your child from a nutrient-dense, high-quality infant formula to table food with a side of milk.
Both my kids were picky, and I was constantly worried that they wouldn't get the nutrients they needed-- their priority was throwing food on the floor, not putting it in their mouths!
It's truly no wonder that many parents use toddler formula to continue providing adequate nutrition past age 1.
The key? Finding a high-quality toddler formula that packs great nutrition without the yucky extras found in many on the shelf. Read on for which toddler formula I use with my 21-month-old!
What's the Deal with Toddler Formula?
Like infant formula, toddler formula is a milk-based or plant-based beverage that provides important vitamins and minerals and macronutrients (like carbohydrates, protein and fat) that are crucial for healthy child development.
Toddler formulas typically contain different levels of nutrients compared to infant formulas, and unlike infant formulas, they are not regulated by the FDA.
While there's debate about whether toddlers should continue with formula after age 1 (particularly if your little one eats a balanced diet), some families choose to use toddler formula because of concerns about adequate nutrition or because the typical recommendation, cow's milk, is not desired.
Conventional Toddler Formulas Aren't Great
Conventional toddler formulas from big-name brands are a popular option because they're the most visible.
Similac and Enfamil both make toddler formulas that claim to offer exciting benefits like prebiotics and immune support. Parents often fall for this marketing, believing that these sort of conventional toddler formulas offer a large benefit over milk or a milk-alternative.
What many parents don't realize is that these conventional toddler formulas contain ingredients that I personally wouldn't feel comfortable with my toddler ingesting, particularly in a product that's optional to begin with! Some of these iffy ingredients include:
- Added sugars
- Gums and other thickeners
- Refined and processed vegetable oils (made with conventional crops, which means a risk of pesticide residues)
- "Artificial colors" and "artificial flavors"
- Corn syrup
- Additives like carrageenan which can cause inflammation in the gut
My take? Stay away from Similac and Enfamil toddler formulas or ANY toddler milk product that uses corn syrup or corn syrup solids in the ingredients list.
Why I Hold Toddler Formulas to a Higher Standard
It's tricky at times to discuss ingredients that I consider acceptable in an infant formula but that I can't recommend in a toddler formula. Because aren't some of those ingredients listed above in both infant and toddler formulas? Yes, of course!
The difference is that infants are limited in how they can access nutrients. Breastmilk or formula is the only option for infant nutrition before 6 months. As such, certain ingredients may be included to make infant formula tolerable, especially in the case of milk protein allergy or lactose sensitivity. The overarching priority for infants is get-the-baby-fed. Ingredient quality often takes a back burner because of the necessity to get the baby the nutrients somehow.
Toddlers, on the other hand, can get appropriate nutrients from a wide variety of foods and drinks. And when you have the choice of providing nutrients from higher-quality ingredients, it makes sense to avoid unnecessary ingredients like the ones listed above.
What I Look For in a Toddler Formula or Milk Alternative
In addition to avoiding corn syrup and some of these other fillers, I typically look for the following in a high-quality toddler formula:
- Organic ingredients
- Whole food ingredients (you should be able to read and understand what's in your toddler formula)
- Non-GMO ingredients (as conventional crops can have pesticide residues)
- Appropriate nutrients for growing kids, like iron, calcium, and fiber
- Appropriate macronutrient levels; ideally at least 8g of fat per serving, between 150-200 calories, and at least 5g of protein.
Why We Use Else Nutrition Toddler Formula
While there are a few "niche" toddler formulas on the market that meet these guidelines, they're almost entirely milk-based.
While this works for some families, our little one is sensitive to cow milk protein (even still at 21 months) and these milk-based options were not going to for us!
After trying several different milk alternatives we finally settled on Else toddler formula, an excellent plant-based option that meets all my criteria. And my toddler likes the taste!
Else has been a great fit for us as whole foods make up over 90% of the recipe-- almonds for protein and healthy fats, buckwheat for protein and fiber, and tapioca starch for carbohydrates. Not only is Else GMO-free and organic, it's also dairy-free, soy-free, and gluten-free. After a long journey of trying to control my toddler's eczema (which flares with dairy), Else meets his needs and does not aggravate his sensitive skin. We could not have been more thrilled! You can learn more about Else, their ingredient list and nutrient profile here.
Else Is For You If...
Whether your baby is approaching age 1 or you're just looking for a clean-label alternative to conventional toddler formulas, Else might be a good fit! I recommend Else to parents who:
- Want a dairy-free "milk" option that offers the same macronutrient levels as cow milk
- Have a toddler with a milk sensitivity
- Want to sneak in extra nutrition in their toddler's diet (I add Else to smoothies for my 4-year-old as well!)
- Desire a toddler formula that is organic and non-GMO
- Are plant-based themselves, and are looking for a plant-based option for their kids
- Want a toddler formula that is high-quality, offering appropriate nutrition without "extras"
If this sounds like you, Else could be a great fit! Want to try it for yourself? Shop Else here!