Is There a Natural Alternative to PediaSure®?

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If you're looking for a healthy alternative to PedisSure®, Liquid Vitality was developed by Dr. Sheila Kilbane who is an integrative pediatrician here in Charlotte, NC. It has no dairy, is packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other essential nutrients—in their whole-foods form, so your child gets the most benefit from it.
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Dr. Kilbane sitting on a black horse about to go riding.
Dr. Kilbane is over-the-moon excited to help children eat more real food.

When 100 Days of Real Food asked me to write a recipe for a healthy alternative to PediaSure®, I was very excited. I am an integrative pediatrician, and real food is what my practice is based upon. 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!

Note: Don’t confuse the electrolyte drink Pedialyte® with PediaSure®, a liquid meal replacement. PediaSure® is a dietary supplement created by Abbott Nutrition, which also produces Ensure and Similac.

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, 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.

How many of these PediaSure®  ingredients can you pronounce and would you cook with at home? (Not to mention sugar is the second ingredient!)

PediaSure® Ingredients

Water, Sugar, Corn Maltodextrin, High Oleic Safflower Oil, Milk Protein Concentrate, Canola Oil, 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.

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.

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 amount 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, the clarity, energy, and vibrancy astounded everyone who knew them.

Featured Comment

I am soooooo very grateful for doctors such as you, who are actually focusing on ‘perscribing’ traditional/natural food and drinks (as opposed to all the chemical and artificial items and supplements being produced in factories today).
– Laura

Are You Using PediaSure® as a Substitute for Real Food?

The kids I am talking about are generally healthy but eat a lot of processed, pro-inflammatory foods as well as PediaSure® . The children with medical issues like a G-tube or poor growth are in an entirely different category because these kids need high-density calories in a small volume of liquid. I wrote a post on G-tubes, PediaSure® , and pureed whole foods for these families.

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, this information (including the PediaSure® alternative recipes below) are for you.

A Whole-Foods Diet Instead of Supplements

Fresh blueberries in a green carton.

Like my clinic patients, my goal for you is to move your child over to a wholesome, whole-foods 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 the natural vitamins and minerals. Adding synthetic foods to our body creates more work for the liver, the main organ responsible for detoxifying the body.

So when 100 Days of Real Food asked me to come up with a natural substitute for PediaSure® , I was delighted. However, 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 second key part of this blog post is to help you understand the process I take children through to help shift their taste buds from the world of synthetic foods to the world of real foods.

A Word About the Pro-Inflammatory Effects of Dairy

Before I get to my recipes, I need to tell you why they don’t contain dairy. Dairy is a pro-inflammatory food. It often inflames the gut and does not allow the body to absorb nutrients properly.

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. Many of the PediaSure®  products contain dairy, and indeed sugar, which is the second ingredient, is another pro-inflammatory agent.

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.

Pictures of a patient before and after eliminating inflammatory foods from his diet!

Liquid calories keep the tank filled, but foods that are closer to their natural form do more to not only sustain the body, but they also help it to heal. It is more difficult for the body to heal on processed foods alone because they are inherently inflammatory.

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 our child’s diet to consist of eating 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 body 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 cow’s milk or PediaSure®. And they taste a lot better, too!

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

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

Two young boys enjoying their green smoothies in a cup.
These boys love Dr. Kilbane’s Liquid Vitality

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

A refreshing Banana Berry smoothie in a colorful cup with a metal straw.
Banana Berry Heaven

If your child has never had a smoothie, which is what Dr. Kilbane’s Liquid Vitality really is, I want you to begin with one of the simple, easy to digest Starter Smoothies listed below and gradually work up to the Dr. Kilbane’s Liquid Vitality.

Even Dr. Kilbane’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.

My 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 a lower natural sugar content, such as spinach and other dark leafy greens, chia seed, flax seed, hemp powder, sprouts of all type, microgreens, and healthy oils like coconut.

The MOST important thing at the beginning is to make sure your child likes that first smoothie. We have only one first shot at this so let’s make it count!

If they like it, they will keep asking for more!

Other PediaSure® Alternative Recipes

Starter Smoothie – Banana Berry Heaven

  • 3 spinach leaves (fresh blends up the best)
  • 1 banana (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup of frozen berries (strawberries or raspberries are a good start) or 1 peeled orange
  • 1 cup of water or 1 cup of milk other than cow’s milk (i.e. organic coconut, rice, hemp, or almond)

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

Intermediate Smoothie – Pina Colada

  • 2 cups spinach
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon chia seed (soaked)
  • 1 cup pineapple
  • 1 cup frozen mango
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

Intermediate Smoothie – Cilantro-Mango Detox Green Smoothie

(Recipe from Simple Green Smoothies – this is one of my favorites!)

Two young girls enjoying their cilantro-mango detox smoothie in mason jars.
Cilantro-mango detox smoothie tastes great!
  • 1 ½ cups spinach, fresh
  • ½ cup cilantro, fresh
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 ½ cups mango
  • 1 cup pineapple
  • 1 tablespoon chia seed (soaked) – this is my addition
  • ½ avocado

Once your child enjoys these smoothies, 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. Our vitality is closely linked to what we put in our bodies. Living foods create energetic, healthy bodies.

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 into their diet while decreasing their PediaSure®  intake.

Notes on Blending Smoothies

An orange, lemon, coconut oil, and a finished green smoothie in a mason jar ready to be enjoyed.
The makings of a healthy smoothie

A high powered blender works best to make it smooth for those children who are particular to tastes and textures. VERY IMPORTANT!

Spinach: 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.

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.

Coconut oil: At room temperature it 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).

The liquid base: Smoothies should never be based on commercial juice products. Juices bought in the store, even if they are organic, are predominantly naturally occurring sugar. Freshly extracted juices are a whole different ball game and can be extremely healthful.

I prefer water as the base over any of the other milks. However, here are some brands I find to be better than others until you can switch to water:

  • Organic almond milk (365 Whole Foods Brand)
  • Organic Rice milk (Trader Joe’s Brand)
  • Organic Coconut Milk – Unsweetened (SO Delicious Brand)
  • Hemp Milk Original (Pacific Brand)

Other great flavors to add: Ginger, fresh lemon or lime, vanilla, and cacao powder can be great flavor enhancers in many smoothies.

Nutritional comparison of PediaSure®  Vanilla and Dr. Kilbane’s Liquid Vitality

This is a very crude comparison of the nutrient content between Dr. Kilbane’s Liquid Vitality and PediaSure® . I used an online nutrient calculator

Nutritional facts for PediaSure and Dr. Kilbane's healthy alternative Liquid Vitality.

Albeit a rough estimate, I thought it was important to walk you all through this exercise to see what nutrients nature puts together versus what man synthesizes in a lab.

I do not advocate using protein powders for children, so I kept it out of this recipe and gave a nut butter option, which would add 3 to 4 grams of protein depending upon which type of nut butter is used. I don’t even like using the processed milks (almond, coconut, hemp, and rice), but as I transition many of my patients onto real foods and off of dairy, these milks give smoothies the creaminess the kids were previously getting with yogurt or cow’s milk.

Even though we do not have a true PediaSure®  equivalent here, I think this is a great start! When I am seeing patients in my clinic, I make up the nutrient difference using whole food supplements, Vitamin D (and sunlight), and a small handful of other supplements that help to fill in the gap that you see between the PediaSure®  and Dr. Kilbane’s Liquid Vitality.

So hop on over to my site where I have more information on nutrition, and health in general. You can also sign up for my newsletter and online course.

If you want to become a patient, you’ll find all the information you need there, too. To inquire about becoming a patient call 704-708-4404.

A special thanks to the following health coaches for their input:


  • The China Study by T Collin Campbell, Thomas M Campbell II, Howard Lyman, John Robbins
  • The Coconut Oil Miracle by Bruce Fife, CN, ND
  • Life Force – Superior Health and Longevity by Brian R Clement, Phd, NMD, LNC
  • Nsouli et al. The Role of Food Allergy in Serous Otitis Media. Annals of Allergy 1994;73(3):215-219.
  • Host A, Halken S. In: Pediatric Allergy: Principles and Practice. Mosby-Year Book, Inc; 2003:488-494.
  • Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. Adverse reactions to food. Available at: SH.
  • Pediatrics. 2003;111:1609-1616.

*Dr. Kilbane’s Liquid Vitality is not designed for kids who are on a feeding tube. It is designed for kids who are generally healthy but need to get some more real food into their systems. This post on G-tubes, PediaSure® , and pureed whole foods is a helpful reference. Dr. Kilbane’s Liquid Vitality should not be used in place of PediaSure®  unless you talk to your own healthcare provider, and it is not intended to be a meal replacement, simply an adjunct to a healthy diet.

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115 thoughts on “Is There a Natural Alternative to PediaSure®?”

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  1. I have been giving my 5 year old Pediasure almost every morning for years and thought I was doing the right thing. After reading this article, I’m now not comfortable with all the “chemicals” he is ingesting. The reason I started giving it to him is because since the age of about 1, he refused ALL fruits. He wouldn’t eat any in any form – no pureed fruit or apple sauce, no whole fruit of any kind, no fruit juice, not even a fruity vitamin. (We did infant vitamin drops as long as we could, but all other vitamins are fruity, so he refused all of them!) We tried every tactic to get him to start eating any kind of fruit – encouragement, modeling, bribery, punishment, etc. You name it, we tried it. Finally, a few years ago, I physically forced avocado into his mouth and made him swallow it. (Again – this was a last resort – I was desperate!) He broke out into hives and a few weeks later was diagnosed with a fruit allergy. Granted, the allergy is mild for most fruits, but it still exists. SO, since he NEVER gets the vitamin benefits from any sort of fruit, his diet is severely lacking. I give him pediasure to try to make up for the vitamins he is missing from his lack-of-fruit diet. I would LOVE to give him smoothies, but it looks like they are all fruit based. DO you have any suggestions on a smoothie I could try for him that either masks the taste of fruit or doesn’t taste like pureed vegetables? I have tried chocolate milkshakes with pureed bananas or cherries (he doesn’t seem to have any allergic reactions to these) but I don’t want to me giving him ice cream all the time. Any help you can suggest would be greatly appreciated!!!

  2. I wanted to cry when I saw this post! My daughter was born at 24 weeks! She ended up with a trach (grade 4 stenosis) and a gtube (couldn’t take in enough orally then developed severe oral aversions). She had airway reconstruction and we said goodbye to the trach but we are still 100% dependant on her gtube. My biggest frustration is that I pumped my milk for her to give her the best most natural beginning, then at one the doctors were adamnt that she start pediasure. I can’t get anyone on board to help me figure out a blendarized diet for her. It’s so frustrating! I know pediasure is crap! I just don’t know where to start because I’ve come to the realization that I am just going to have to do what I know in my heart is best for my daughter. I did find something called Real Food Blends for gtubes and it’s covered by insurances. I just don’t know if it’s what I should give ,y 2 year old. Thoughts?

  3. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

    Hello Maggie. Go on over to Dr. Kilbane’s website: and copy and past you comments directly to her. Guest posts are only answered by the author for a few days after they are published. Wishing you the very best. ~Amy

  4. Margaret OHagan

    Hi, I am a vegetarian and I have suffered from fibromyalgia for 22years. I have severe stomach cramps and IBS as well as sometimes being incontinent, because of this I hardly eat anything for fear of the food causing me pain. I have porridge in the morning with either pineapple, banana or strawberries on it. the rest of the day i eat satsuma, bananas, oat cakes. My problem is I have a very sweet tooth and crave sweet things, mainly dark chocolate during the night ,when I can’t sleep due to fibro pain, restless legs twitching all night and extremely painful in the morning. I have wen’t off vegetables because they taste bland. I very rarely feel hungry.I am 5ft tall and have a flabby, bloated belly, that looks like I’m about 5months pregnant. I have big wide flabby arms and I’m begining to get a double chin, with hanging jowels at the sides. I am about to start a course of herbalife to try to reduce my flab. I did this before and it worked with me using the wii fit for exercise at a pace that is’nt too painful. I know I need help and my medical professionals are no help at all. My BMI is 30 which is the highest it has ever been. Please can you give me any advice and help.I am terribly depressed about my whole situation. I am on a lot of medication. Venlefaxine 150mg twice daily,amitryptolone 10mg nightly.Gabapentin 300mg three times daily.omoprazole20mg every morning.Sollifenacin 5mg every morning Diazipam 5mg up to three times daily and tramadol 50mg up to three times daily. This little lot take the edge of my pains, yet without them I’d fall apart. I would be grateful for any help and advice possible. I live in rural Scotland so it’s quite difficult to get some foods eg: chia seeds (never heard of them) I hate spinich, kale, rocket and cellery. look forward to hearing from you ASAP. Thanks Maggie O’Hagan

  5. I love this post. Thank you for sharing! I am a pediatric Occupational Therapist and subscribe to a whole food/real food diet in my own home with my own kids. It is tough to get the families I work with, especially with feeding issues, to get rid of Pediasure and other “go-to” fake foods that had previously been recommended to them. My own family drinks Juice Plus+Complete smoothies everyday and we eat the Juice Plus+ capsules or soft chews to help fill in the gaps. Many families have had great success transitioning to using the Complete for tube feedings. Although great to mix with anything (greens, chia seeds – whatever!) the powder mixes easily with water for an easy transition for feedings. The soft chews are great for getting more fruits and vegetables in kiddos.

    Thanks for continuing to be a great resource! I recommend 100daysofrealfood to many of my OT families and Juice Plus customers as a great resource for transitioning to eating real food! :)

  6. I have a petite toddler (18 months, 18 lbs), so of course our pediatrician is constantly pushing for him to consume more calories. He’s still breastfed, but eats a fair variety of foods just not in great quantities. We do a lot of whole foods and from-scratch cooking. We eat mostly veggies, fruits, beans, eggs, and some meat, dairy & grains.

    The pediatrician keeps urging me to try some toddler formula or pediasure type stuff to boost kiddo’s calorie intake. I’d rather try one of these smoothies.

    Our problem: Kiddo will not drink anything from a cup that isn’t water. He might take a sip or two of juice or coconut milk. But a sip or two is it. 5 ounces of anything in a cup will sit in the fridge for days until I finally throw it out – even breastmilk. He will always choose water at meal times and will simply not drink if anything else is presented.

    When my milk supply dipped recently, I even got to the point of making a strawberry milk shake – with ice cream! – to try to get liquid calories into him. I gave it to him in my special straw cup that he always wants to drink out of. Once he took a sip, he wanted nothing to do with it.

    He also prefers foods he can feed himself, rather than anything on a spoon. So adding things to sauces or pureed foods hasn’t worked for us either.

    Anybody have any thoughts or experiences?

  7. Hi! We are so glad we find this. I have a 3 year old allergic to everything (nuts, seeds, soy, lentils, garbanzo beans, gluten, dairy, and eggs). So I am really trying to find ways to get him the nutrients he needs. I was wondering what ingredients the nutritional facts you posted pertained to. Was it based on water or some type of milk alternative. Did it include the nut butter? With his allergies, protein is hard so I love was wondering if making it with oat or hemp milk would raise the protein lever, or if that 3.3 grams was including that already. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Melany Richmond

    My daughter (17 months) is primarily on Pediasure and is post G-tube removal. She is eating orally, but I’m not sure if this or the related link for G-tube dependent feeding applies. I’d love to find an alternative that will work in a bottle. She is not yet drinking from a cup even though we are working with feeding therapists.

  9. 5 stars
    While I don’t use pediasure, I enjoyed a couple of points in this post. I have been making smoothies and hadn’t seen considered soaking the chia seeds. I have a kid with ADD and ODD and managing his diet is a big part of my life. We have done Feingold and while I believe an all natural diet helps, if he at something off diet I couldn’t always manage his behavior so we also do meds. I keep striving to move to more all natural, but most doctors are supportive but don’t seem to really believe it can help. Perhaps they just are saying that it is unrealistic to rely on diet alone to help him. I also get a bit of flack from school administrators thinking I am making my kid more different by changing his diet. His eyes are an indicator to me of how well we are doing, so glad to see a professional acknowledge that.

  10. I have tried coconut oil in smoothies, and no matter what, it solidifies and gives the smoothies a gross texture. And I LOVE coconut oil, I mean, I can eat it by the spoonful, and I use it for so many things, but so far, I haven’t been able to successfully use it for smoothies. :( Is there an alternative that would be as good? I was thinking maybe flax oil or sunflower oil…

  11. Dr. Kilbane, I would love to know your opinion on first foods. My son is almost four months old and I plan to discuss when and what we should start feeding him in addition to breast milk at his next appointment. I refuse to give him processed rice cereal and am interested in your thoughts on real food alternatives to give me a good base to start the conversation about his particular needs with his doctor.

  12. I am pretty sure my son with spastic quad cp would not be alive right now if not for our discovery of the blenderized diet. What shocked me most was the resistance from the medical community when we told them we were going to try real food first before yet another GI surgery. You can read about it here on our blog:

    Blenderizing food every other day for my son, by the way, is infinitely easier and more
    Mindless than cooking three meals a day for my family.

  13. is it the milk itself that is concerning/inflammatory? or is it when it’s pasteurized and let sit for who knows how long?

    We use only raw milk, purchasing it the day of milking and keeping it up to three weeks in the (separate, COLD) refrigerator. We aren’t lactose-intolerant.

  14. 5 stars
    Thanks for the recipes. I’m going to try and get my grandson, 17 months old, to drink them. Quick question, he doesn’t need to drink cow’s milk. We only buy organic. I will definitely be checking your website.

  15. What would you think about boosting it with a dropper full of a liquid multivitamin with iron? I briefly visited your site and it looks like you recommend some vitamin supplements but maybe not all…

  16. I usually freeze part of my smoothies in ice pop molds for the kids to have as dessert after dinner. I know you said to drink right away but would freezing leftovers maintain the nutritional value?
    Thanks so much for this helpful post!!

  17. I would love to feed any of these smoothies to my two-year-old, but he refuses to even taste any smoothies (I tried for months). Due to an allergy to all dairy for his first two years, he has always been a REALLY picky eater (we could never get him to even eat baby food, even applesauce) and sadly, he has not grown out of it like we had hoped. Our problem is that he simply won’t try foods, even when we know he is hungry. I actually come across this post, because he refuses to try Pediasure as well (which our doctor gave him)! He will only eat almond milk (we mix in coconut oil and greek yogurt to add fat and protein), natural peanut butter, bananas, Cheerios and sometimes chicken nuggets and bread. All other foods (even cookies, ice cream, candy any other junk foods – not that we want him to eat those, but just as example of how picky he is), he refuses to even try to eat them or puts them up to his mouth, says “delicious” and then puts it back on the table. Any ideas would be great as we haven’t gotten very far with our doctor!

    1. Natalie, you should seriously look into feeding/sensory therapy. My son is in the same boat and he is 5. After years of assuming it is a medical issue that needs to be treated and seeing a GI specialist, we are now looking into sensory therapy. My son is hyper- sensitive to smells, tastes, touch, sounds, etc. which severely hinders him from trying any new foods. His diet consists mainly of room temperature junk food, mainly peanut butter sandwiches, and chips. He gags at trying any new food, as well as smells from hot foods. He refuses dairy foods, he used to vomit them up when he was a toddler, we are assuming it was reflux and the dairy made it worse. We have just started this journey, so I wish I could say it has been successful, but I am confident that we are now on the right path to helping him. I wish you the best of luck, an know that you are not alone!

  18. You know, I’m fine with these recommendations, but I take exception to the “proof” in the photographs of the young boy.
    The first one is clearly an unprofessionally snapped photo that also looks like it was taken when the child was, relatively speaking, younger, (such as preschool) and could easily have been taken after a hard day, or an unusual day of not enough sleep, whereas the other one is CLEARLY a school photograph, and I am fairly certain these are touched up even when parents do not ask that they be touched up.
    This is frowned upon in mainstream advertising–we’re supposed to know better, but multitudes are fooled. I find it intolerable here, as well.

    1. The story behind the before and after photos:

      When I am in clinic making recommendations to families, I always ask parents to take photos of their children before they go on an anti-inflammatory diet. I do this because over the years, the changes can be so significant and if we do not have a before photo, the parents and I both kick ourselves.

      This particular mom actually did it. And one day, walked into clinic after the child had a dramatic improvement in his health off of the foods that were inflaming his system. She said, I would like you to use these photos for your talks and education. I want other families to benefit from this information. My son is doing so much better and we want others to know about this.

      This was well over two years ago. Then, as I was writing this post, I remembered those photos, emailed the mother and asked if she wanted me to include them in this post. She emailed back immediately yes – from her, from her husband, and their son. They all wanted to share their story.

      The only intention of these photos was to show that the food we eat can impact our health.

      In person, this child looks very different now than he did before the family made the nutritional changes.

      I very much appreciate the point you make that school photos may be touched up. I did not know that.

      Thank you for bringing up your concerns up about things I had not taken into consideration.

      Sheila Kilbane, MD

  19. Thank you so much for this article!! I work at a feeding clinic, mostly children with G tubes, and I truly believe pediasure hinders them with oral feeds and overall health. They lose interest in eating orally, are more liking to have issues with gagging, more mucus/congestion, just not feeling well and get sick more frequently. I have two families that I discussed with about the ingredients in pediasure and the high amount of sugar. One family switched to a blenderized diet (with prefessional supervision), the other wanted to try compleat pediatric. Both children are doing amazing! One of the children I plan to discharge soon. It is sad that some children with G tubes, pediasure is all they get (loads of sugar and processed ingredients that I cant even read!). I plan on posting this at our clinic and educating families. Thank you!

  20. I’m seriously jumping up and down while reading this post! Pediasure has been recommended to me for all three of my kids since they were fairly young and I have refused to give it to them due to the long list of yucky ingredients. Instead, i have increased their intake of healthy fats and protein. This has worked well with my 5 year old twins but my little guy (age 2.5) is very picky. Thanks so much for these recipes. I’m off to experiment with them now :)

    1. Sorry. I was so excited to send the post that i forgot to add that i increased their intake of healthy fats as well as worked on more creative ways to add veggies to their diets. They are still at the bottom of the growth curve but the pedi seems to agree now that they are just going to be on the small side like myself.

    2. This comment totally made my day! Thank you for sharing!

      If we can all celebrate and support one another with our small victories life is just a little sweeter!

      Sheila Kilbane, MD

      1. :) Wish me luck with the intermediate smoothie. As much as we’ve tried, My kids and I are not fans of avocados. BUT…recently we started a new food board where the kids proudly display lists of the new foods that they have been trying and maybe just maybe we’ll add avocado to it soon. (oh and as i type this my older kids are chomping away on raw spinach at the kitchen island!) Thanks again!

  21. I have a 2 year old that has become very picky. I struggle with providing him with healthy things he will eat. He has started not really eating a lot of anything. I love getting suggestions on healthy things he should be eating. He is VERY much in love with cows milk. He asks for it 10 times a day. Being a first time mom i thought cows milk was just what they transition to after breast milk or the bottle. But, according to this that is not the case. I need help!

    1. Aww, girl, don’t worry. It’s hard being a first time mom with different views coming at you from all directions. Not everyone has sensitivity to cow’s milk. My kids have one serving of milk a day, and they are fine. I only get organic. It is illegal to sell raw milk where I live (which is probably the best option, because pasteurizing the milk destroys the nutrients, but it’s not an option for us). While cow’s milk may not be the very best for everyone, if the child is not dairy sensitive, moderation is fine. The main point is to give your child the main source of nutrients through whole foods, not processed junk (including many baby foods, and premade child meals). Don’t worry! Just focus on whole, real foods and do your best!! :)

    1. Goat’s milk:

      The text books tell us that a very high percentage of people who are sensitive to cow’s milk protein will also be sensitive to goat’s milk protein.

      In my clinical observation, however I have not found this correlation to be quite so high. It seems that many people who do not tolerate cow’s milk seem to tolerate goat’s milk. One theory I have is that goat’s milk is often less processed than cow’s milk in this country.

      I have many more thoughts on this topic. Please feel free to call my office and set up a 15 minute phone discussion if you would like to talk about this in more depth.

      Thanks so much for reading the post!

      Sheila Kilbane, MD

  22. Wow! Where was this information 7 years ago when I struggled with a failure to thrive kid, with severe food aversions. We have been fighting our way to a real, whole food diet on our own. I am VERY anxious to hear your take on raw, organic, grass fed milk. That has been our recent change and it seems to be helping big time. Thank you for this informative article! And thank you for standing up against processed, fake food!

  23. This is great, but I’m curious – you do not recommend any dairy, but all pediatricians I’ve spoken to say that after 1 year (my son is 11 months) they can switch from breast milk to cow’s milk. What’s a better alternative? Personally we don’t drink cow’s milk, but I know almond milk (or any other non-dairy milk) doesn’t have the same properties as animal milk. I will still be nursing on demand, but I work full time so I’d like to replace his daytime BM bottles with something else, still making sure he’s getting enough nutrition.

    1. So my first recommendation:
      Watch a documentary called Fork over Knives. Then read a book called The China Study. This book is a fantastic look at the population of China, what they eat in different regions, and how does this relate to their health.

      After having combed thru the research in The China Study, I now recommend that we focus our nutrient intake for kids on what they are eating and not drinking. So predominantly whole foods, plant based meals.

      Calcium can be absorbed by the body thru green leafy veggies, broccoli, and almonds. I think they should drink mainly water. And if you need an occasional glass of almond or rice milk for cereal so be it. But when you look a the ingredients on those packaged milks, what allows them to sit on the shelf for months at a time?

      During most of my talks I spend about 15-20 minutes reviewing the research about dairy intake.

      I am doing a mini med school for moms in September and will touch on this topic somewhat –

      And this recorded conference call may be helpful as well:

      Sheila Kilbane, MD

      1. I’ve heard great things about Forks Over Knives, and my mom has read The China Study so she’s told me a lot about it. I’ll look into both more in-depth. Thank you for your input, I never thought about it that way but it makes perfect sense to focus on him getting all his nutrition from solids (and my breastmilk for as long as we choose). My gut told me water should be just fine but I felt nervous! This is great information, thanks again!!

    2. I’d say one year of nursing is not enough. No need to switch to anything. Just keep nursing along with solids. Breastmilk is best! It’s what we’re designed to eat.

      1. Melissa, if you read my entire comment I will still be nursing on demand when we are together – I just would prefer to cut out my pumping during work for a multitude of reasons. I’ll be nursing that kid til tells me to stop trust me!!

  24. It is my understanding that greens should be rotated to prevent build up of a certain acid that can cause kidney stones. (blanking on the name of the acid). What is your take on this?

  25. I never knew people have pediasure to typical children. Blech! I tried it as a very last resort and with full knowledge of the ingredients list for my failure-to-thrive daughter and she refused each flavor. It was back to salmon, olive oil, avocados, and peanut butter for us. Thank you for pointing out though that this article was intended for the parents of typical children. My first instinct was to get very defensive. Having a child who doesn’t eat solids is a painful experience and choosing to give them foods you’d never offer to their healthy twin is a gut-wrenching decision. It’s not as though we with “issues kids” WANT to screw them up further, but if pediasure worked, we’d have reluctantly gone that route. Thankfully, with much early intervention, my daughter is able to eat and enjoy solid foods. Sometimes calories are the first step, then healthy calories. Hopefully one day she’ll be on the growth charts and we won’t have these concerns. So to those with toddlers who have never eaten a bite of solid food, do what you have to do. We know you’re trying so hard. No one is judging. Get the calories in any way you can. It’s a lot of work feeding a child 16 times per day. Get help. It gets better.

    1. Thank you for this.

      Absolutely it gets better and absolutely do what you can at the time! If you need PediaSure for awhile, amen that we have it! And then if you can get them to expand their palate, well then begin to offer other options.

      It is all a process and I think a good team of therapists for children like this are worth their weight in gold!

      Here are the two that I work very closely with –

      And always listen to your intuition!

      Sheila Kilbane, MD

  26. Thank you so much for this post!!!! I have been looking for and waiting for a post of this kind!!! So truly excited that you are a pediatrician with a healthy whole foods perspective!!! None of this sugary chemically filled supplement junk! I wonder if there are any pediatricians in the upstate SC area with your same views? Thank you!!

    1. I trained with the Andrew Weil, MD program thru the University of Arizona. They have a website where you can search for other practitioners in your area –

      I am in Charlotte and do consults with families. That means they keep their regular pediatrician but if the child has an issues, they bring them to me until we get the issues resolve.

      If you are not too far from Charlotte this is always a possibility!

  27. Thank you so much for this fantastic post! This has been a very recent concern of mine! Given the ingredient list for Pediasure, I was surprised (and a little freaked out)that my pediatrician would recommend this for my 4 year old twin daughters. They are both on the low end of the percentile chart but neither are picky eaters and will eat the majority of the food I prepare (many of the yummy recipes coming from this site). I am ecstatic to see this post and so excited to try this alternative!

    1. I always remind people that we get no training in nutrition during medical school.

      That is beginning to change, but everything I understand about nutrition has been what I studied after medical school and residency.

      It sounds like you are doing a great job of getting whole foods into your kids diet! Keep up the great work!

      Sheila Kilbane, MD

  28. love the recipe…but my question is this ..what are the alternatives for the berries and pineapple. My oldest daughter is anaphalytically allergic to ALL berries and pineapple to the touch. I will not even bring these items in my house.

  29. Wish I had this recipe years ago. My oldest son stopped gaining weight when he weaned at 14 months. By the time he was 18 months his pediatrician was screaming for me to use pediasure. I wouldn’t allow it and found a new doctor for him. We found he was intolerant of red dye and some other highly processed “foods.” It took a long time to sort out all of his issues with a number of hospital visits for anal fissures and horrible constipation cycles. He’s now 9 years old and a happy, healthy young man! It would have been nice to have a way to wean him onto the healthy foods we now enjoy! I will be directing any of my fellow moms here to get this awesome resource!

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      I do a once a month free conference call “Ask the Doc Anything”, here is the link to sign up: This is great for people who are just dipping their toes into the world of natural medicine and real food:)

      There is a recording of a previous call we did where we talked all about stools and constipation.

      One of my goals as a pediatrician is to get kids off of laxatives like polyethylene gycol. We do not have a polyethylene glycol deficiencies and should not require this to have a daily stool.

      It is much simpler to figure out the underlying cause of the constipation. I often find that dairy is a huge factor when it comes to constipation and kids.

      1. Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out!
        We have seven goats and use their milk to make our cheeses and yogurts. Since we made that switch we haven’t had any more constipation issues. I’ve recommended goat’s milk to friends in the past. Is goat’s milk also an inflammatory?
        We were given a prescription for that type of laxative, but I knew it was also an ingredient in anti-freeze and wouldn’t use it. That was when we began the journey toward whole foods. It just didn’t seem intelligent to give that type of chemical to my child.

      2. Hi! I really enjoyed this post. My daughter has not had feeding issues, but she did start struggling with constipation right as we began potty training. My Dr. told me to get the propelyne glycol laxative, which I dutifully did and it worked … sort of … it forced her to go, but it didn’t solve the problem of her being resistant to use the toilet for bowel movements. So the underlying problem was still there. And so they said, “well, you have to keep using it for up to a year, to retrain them.” That didn’t sound right to me. And so we began the difficult process of getting her off the laxative and helping her to go on her own. It was tough. She still hates to take the time to go when she needs to now, but with positive changes in her diet (whole foods) and lots of talks about not waiting to go when she needs to, she no longer suffers tummy pain and chronic constipation. I will definitely NOT be starting the laxatives with my second child as I’m unconvinced by the ingredients used and the weaning process away from laxatives is so difficult.
        May I ask what your opinion is on probiotics? I’ve noticed that probiotic supplements have seemed to help with the tummy aches and constipation as well. Thoughts??

  30. Half an avocado (or even just a quarter if you think you can taste it) will make a smoothie creamier than any milk ever could. Plus you don’t get the nasty carrageenan most milk alternatives have.

  31. Hi there. I’m so very happy to see an alternative to pediasure. THANK YOU! Pediasure was recommended for my daughter by her pediatrician when her weight gain wasn’t super as an infant. Back then I read the ingredients and vowed I would never, ever use it. (as I read the ingredients in the store I gasped in (rather judgemental I now realise!) disbelief that this is a prescribed treatment and said “total muck!” out loud without realising!) However, fast forward 4 more years and my son has autistic behaviours (through various therapies and biomedical approaches he functions well enough not to have a formal diagnosis but it’s close) and also sensory processing disorder and language delay. Along with this, a very severe self limiting of diet to only 5 foods he can tolerate eating. Please believe me that this is a sensory issue and that none of the strategies used with mere ‘picky eaters’ have been effective in helping him put food in his mouth. Though we continue to model and offer healthy non-processed and whole food options, use food play and many other positive strategies to try and ‘normalise’ food for him and have a knowledgeable OT and dietician helping us, he simply does not trust anything but white, soft foods. So for 2 years I’ve used smoothies similar to your recipe to get nutrition into him. However he has recently started rejecting smoothies too. The dietician wants him on 2x pediasure a day and I am just so relieved now to see a alternative, real food recipe that closely matches it in nutrients, fat,protein etc. Honestly though, as much as this natural mama would love to be giving your alternative, it may be many weeks/months of working towards it before he can accept the smoothie without distress (with these autistic or sensory kids we are playing the long game, there are usually no quick, magic fixes) so in the meantime I will likely be giving a bottle of pediasure here and there because it’s that or no nutrition at all, it sucks but it’s where we are. Most people aren’t aware of the challenges that can present around food and eating for some of our special little people.
    So I would like to speak up for the mamas reading this article who are in situations where their children are unable (yet) to always eat more ideal foods (due to ASD,sensory issues, disability, or just being in survival mode due to stress / illness/ all of the above.) You are not alone! And thanks to Dr Kilbane for this fabulous smoothie recipe (and especially for also providing the nutritional info listing to reassure any dieticians and doctors who are apparently sponsored by pediasure!!)) I hope to use your smoothies one day soon!

    1. Thank you so much for this great comment.

      I see many kids in my practice with sensory issues, particular eaters, spectrum type issues, and the list goes on…We work thru these feeding issues as best we can.

      Some of these kids on the spectrum and with feeding issues may have some retained primitive reflexes. Anyone trained in how to move thru these can be very helpful. If you have a chance, look at Adele Schiessle’s website which is on the link below.

      Of course we look at possible gluten and diary issues, then we move on to other nutrients to be sure they are getting the raw materials they need in order to synthesize the neurotransmitters and hormones they need.

      As you know it is a very comprehensive, biomedical approach with these kids and it takes time to figure out what works best for them.

      I have an amazing team of therapists who I work with for these kids and their families, including a pediatric OT and a movement therapist (

      I also have an upcoming 4 week on line course called mini med school for moms:

      Kudos for you for all you have done with your son!

      1. Thank you so much for replying, I just started reading the links you included and I am very interested to learn more (and wishing I lived nearer NC!I’m in canada so I’m thrilled that you offer online courses too. BIS is something I wasn’t aware of – I really appreciate the information. Lottie

  32. I love my green smoothies and my teen daughters love smoothies too but I’ve been having hard time convincing my younger two kids (aged 5 and 7) to drink smoothies. This post has come at a perfect time and is just the push I need to try again with them :)

  33. I would have loved this recipe months ago! My 25-weeker was prescribed Pediasure at around a year old and he started throwing up almost every single night. He did have reflux, but the puking was new and so so frustrating for a low percentile kid. We eventually stopped Pediasure and give WCM with added WCM milk powder and no more puking! I will totally add this recipe to our smoothie list!

  34. My daughter had an NG tube for about 8 months because of congenital heart defects. She was on pedicure because her dietitian said blended diets clog NG tubes. She is treated at Cincinnati Children’s. She is off the NG now and is thriving, but I never liked giving her p ediasure.

    1. Dr. Kilbane-
      I did have a question, not just sharing my personnel story with Pediasure.
      Do you have any experience with blenderized whole food diets and NG tubes?

      1. I had one little patient whose mother gave her pureed foods thru her tube and she did great for awhile. But that was before I started seeing them.

        They ended up having to go back to a formula because they couldn’t keep her weight up. Her issue was volume. The volume of pureed foods they needed to give her in order to get adequate calories was too much for her system and she would begin to vomit.

        However, I wonder if we had known about Liquid Hope back then if she would have been able to tolerate that…

    2. Anita,
      I work at Cincinnati Children’s. I’m a physical therapist. I was wondering the same thing! I may see if I can contact some of my kids (at work) dietitians/nutritionists to ask. I cringe every time I think about my kiddos getting Pediasure.

      1. My daughter had a 16 French NG, if I remember right, and I have to dilute pediasure with water and prune juice or it would take about 30-35 minutes to gravity feed her 3 ounces. I am beyond thankful for Cincinnati Children’s and that I was able to wean her off the tube after about 4 months post open heart surgery. Before she got the tube I breastfeed and having to give her formula at all let along through a tube was very emotional for me. But for her the tube played a major role in saving her life..

  35. A great post! My son did not gain weight from 10 months to 13 months, although he was growing like a week! A friend of mines doctor had put her son on Pedialyte. One to two a day! My sons doctor almost had a heart attack when I mentioned the pedialyte. He had a resounding, No! Its just sugar and chemicals in a can. Instead we focused on getting him the nutrients he needs through smoothies and whole foods. He won’t eat dairy of any kind so it has been interesting! Thanks for all the great information!