Milk is the staple diet of an infant and it continues to be a major factor in the proper development of children throughout the growing years. It serves as an important source of nutrients such as protein, calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin, and also supplies a fair amount of vitamin A but is deficient in iron and vitamin C. Over the years however, studies on the food habits of children have repeatedly shown that milk and vegetable group are not being consumed in adequate amounts. Some compensation for the reduced consumption of milk has been made by the use of health drinks (known as milk food drinks) which are supposed to supplement the nutrients in milk so as to ensure that you get your daily quota of nutrition. Most drinks carry the implicit claim that their products are energy boosters or are fortified with smart nutrients that keep you mentally sharp and alert, and physically active. But do they actually do all the things they promise? The market is flooded with various milk food drinks for children from SmithKline Beecham’s Horlicks to Cadbury’s Bournvita, Nestle’s Milo and, Heinz’s Complan, each one promising much more than the other and leaving the consumer very confused.
Despite the tall claims made by each manufacturer, a closer look at the ingredients in these drinks, shows they are more or less similar for all. They all contain milk solids, malt extracts, a sugar source (liquid glucose, dextrin, etc), flavouring, and are fortified with vitamins and minerals. Almost all the drinks are fortified with the B- Complex vitamins – thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and B12. The common property of B- vitamins is that they are essential for the metabolism and proper utilisation of energy, carbohydrates, proteins, and fat. Vitamin B12 and folic acid are involved in the formation of red blood cells. The other nutrients in these drinks are iron, vitamin C, and vitamin A. Iron is involved in the formation of haemoglobin of the red blood cells and plays an important role in the transportation of oxygen; its deficiency results in anaemia. Vitamin A is needed for visual function and growth. There are some additives such as Complan, which also have vitamins D, E, K, iodine, sodium, potassium, calcium, & phosphorus in addition to the other nutrients. Horlicks Junior too has been especially formulated and fortified taking into account the requirements for younger the children.
Lets take a look at the different drinks available in the market today in terms of price and special features:-
|Complan||Mango||Refill pack||200gm||60||No need to add milk|
|Natural||Refill pack||200gm||55||No need to add milk|
|Refill pack||500gm||115||No need to add milk|
|Chocolate||Refill pack||200gm||65||No need to add milk|
|Bottle||200gm||72||No need to add milk|
|Refill pack||500gm||135||No need to add milk|
|Bottle||500gm||145||Complan biscuits free, No need to add milk|
|Milo||Refill pack||500gm||84||Pen free|
|Refill pack||1kg||160||Battleships game free|
Complan comes in various flavours and therefore can appeal to the children. They also have a coffee flavour to cater to older children and adults. Milo comes with attractive gifts for the children. Milo is the most cost effective though available in large packaging only. Bournvita, though only in one flavour, is cost effective as compared to Complan.
The crux of the question remains however – do your children require these additives? Most of these nutrients can be easily obtained from a balanced diet, but children are often fussy with their intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and pulses, and thus these nutrients can partly be supplied through these health drinks. Since milk has very little iron and vitamin C, the addition of these flavourings to milk makes up for the lack of these nutrients. However, do remember that these health drinks can not replace the acquisition of these vitamins and minerals through their natural sources, while additives can only supplement your child’s diet. Further, no additive should be started before one year of age. Basically, additives add to the taste of milk and so make it more palatable. Let your children have them for that reason alone, rather than for any specific nutritional value that they may provide. And never allow additives to become substitutes for a balanced diet because despite the claims associated with them, this is not something that they were designed to be.