Editor’s Note: As parents we always strive to give the best to our children. But sometimes do we fail to do so? When it comes to malted drinks, do we really read the labels? Share your thoughts with us here. Here are some very important pointers from our member Ansuya.

Read the Labels

I’ve noticed the popularity of so-called energy-boosting or fortifying health drinks for children, such as Milo, Horlicks, and Bournvita. 

Please read the nutritional labels on these drinks very, very carefully. Depending on what country you’re in, they might be full of all kinds of nasty additives and chemicals, including way more sugar than a child needs in a drink.

Plain Milk

Ideally, kids should be drinking plain milk. Unless they are malnourished or otherwise deficient (after illness, for example), they don’t really need anything added to that milk. If a child won’t drink milk at all, then maybe the chocolatey or malty drinks may be necessary. But here in the US, liquid calories (from soft drinks especially) are a major cause of obesity.

Food, and a daily multivitamin, if necessary, should adequately meet a child’s nutritional needs (in addition to milk and water). Heavy milky drinks can fill up a child and prevent her from eating the food she needs.

These malted drinks were originally served sweet, flavored, and cold (like a milkshake) here in the US, and were originally an adult’s bedtime drink in the UK. Beware the diabolical marketing in some countries which has turned it into a must-have for growing children. 

Fruit Juice

Fruit juice is basically sugar water (don’t be fooled, even if it contains Vitamin C).

It can be an occasional treat, but again, should not be a daily drink that takes up valuable real estate in our children’s stomachs. Empty calories from sugary drinks replace more nutritious calories (and fibre, vitamins and minerals) one should get from eating real fruit or real food. 

When reading a nutritional label, remember that the ingredients are listed in the order of quantity; so, if sugar is the first ingredient, it has more sugar in it than any other single ingredient. Also, there might be several forms of sugar with different names (glucose,high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, rice syrup, maltodextrin, etc.).

Beware of Gimmicks

I don’t want to get too preachy; obviously mothers are very conscientious about feeding their kids a healthy diet. What concerns me is how advertisers, marketers, and traditions influence us and play on our anxieties. 

It is hard to be so diligent as to thoroughly research every substance we ask our kids to ingest. Sometimes, we rely on what others are telling us. But we need to remember that the food industry is a multi-billion dollar one, and often, the advertising is aimed directly at kids. It is up to us to look beyond the glitzy ads and panic-inducing, celebrity-endorsed marketing campaigns. Reading labels doesn’t take too long, as long as you know what you are doing. 

Sometimes I think these things are deliberately made so obscure, just so it’s harder for us to figure things out, as in the case of the food industry being so resistant to labeling products with genetically-modified ingredients as such. I’ve become a bit of a conspiracy-theorist in this regard!

On a more personal note, I don’t like milk, at all. Luckily, no one ever forced me to drink it. But I understand that it is important for kids. Even luckier, my daughter loves milk. She will occasionally have chocolate milk as a treat, but happily drinks 4 half-cups of plain milk a day (and would drink more, if I let her). 

What really made me sad was watching a relative force her young daughter to drink the malty drink (may have been Horlicks) every day before school, together with a full breakfast. The poor girl had to choke this thick concoction down even though it was clear she was too full and didn’t want it. It just made me realize how much at our mercy our children are, and what an awesome responsibility we have to make sure that the things we think are good for them, and put pressure on them to drink or eat, are actually good for them.