Solution for Picky Eaters: PediaSure, Why Not?

I just learned of the existence of PediaSure. Apparently it’s been around for at least ten years, but I just discovered it, seeing one of its commercials for the first time. I’m chagrined, but shouldn’t be surprised, to learn that such a thing exists.

There may be some justifiable use of this product, though it’s hard for me to imagine any. For a child who is physically or mentally ill or has genuine, physical sensory problems, I’ll suspend judgment for now.

If it’s for the typical picky child, though, PediaSure is a “solution” that offers false security while aggravating the problem of pickiness in a child. It’s a child’s solution to the problem, not a wiser parent’s solution.

PediaSure will resolve the root problems of pickiness about as well as giving in to a terrorist’s demands or giving a child the candy bar he’s throwing a fit for in the store. It’s rather like providing money for the addict to get a fix instead of doing the tough love thing. PediaSure takes advantage of a parent’s fear and lack of understanding. It’s no solution at all. It perpetuates the cycle. It’s an enabler.

The commercial is infuriating. In the grocery store, a little girl is shown challenging her mom to a battle. As Mom puts real food in the cart, the child tells her, “I don’t like broccoli,” and “I don’t like chicken.” She doesn’t even think she likes waffles. She’s a hard case.

For the first few scenes, I’m pleasantly surprised by the mom. She doesn’t argue with the kid; she keeps her reactions to a minimum. She doesn’t give in. She buys all the items anyway. So far, so good. She could win this thing.

As for the child, that little cutie is an outstanding actress; she has that genuine expression of a picky kid: “And what are you gonna do about it, Mom? Am I gonna win here, or are you? Can I get you to worry and cater to me? Do I get to be the Fussy Princess, or will it fall flat?”

It’s a richly layered acting performance: a kid pretending to be a kid who’s pretending to be terribly picky, just to manipulate her mom. She manages to convey it all. But the child and the mom look so much alike, maybe the little darling and her mom are just being themselves. It’s so lifelike that I suspect this may not be a dramatization, but just another trip to the store with a real mom and daughter.

Then we find out why Mom isn’t worried about her picky eater. She has an ace in her pocket. She has taken it all very seriously and knows what to do. PediaSure is on her shopping list. Her child has the condition of pickiness, for which PediaSure is the cure. She considers her problem solved.

But Mom loses the game at that point. She has given in to her child’s silliness out of fear of the unmanageable little sweetheart, who smiles in triumph.

At home, the mom gives the glass of PediaSure to the girl, watching in deep satisfaction, as if she had finally gotten food for her starving child, who is still strong enough to down it before falling into an irreversible coma: “At last, I found something that will keep her body and soul together.” The girl looks pleased at winning the battle and having a nice, sugary drink. Such joy all around.

“Help fill the holes in your picky eater’s diet with PediaSure,” the manufacturer assures us. It’s all so simple. The mom rests secure that the child is getting the nutrients needed to thrive.

Her little angel is not learning to eat real food, and a decided preference for sweets will be reinforced with every glug of one of those “kid approved” PediaSure flavors. But at least she’ll survive for now.

This commercial illustrates what’s really happening with the average “picky eater.”  The typical picky kid has learned how to defend herself against parental pressure and urging at the table. I don’t blame the child. As obnoxious as she is, her response is normal. The mom’s reaction are the crux of the matter. Her intentions are good, but she needs real help. I’m sure she has her reasons. She clearly doesn’t know any better. She’s listened to lots of advice. But she needs understanding. Change her tactics and everything can change.

Kids are picky eaters because it works for them somehow. They get attention, they feel special, they find an identity as a “picky eater” that serves them. They like making Mom cater to them. They like being able to control Mom and get her to react, and being able to refuse. It all probably began when the girl was a toddler; she experimented with testing her limits and resisting food, and her mom fell right into it. Mom’s reactions created the current situation.

It’s no wonder the little girl won’t be hungry for any actual food when Mom serves that chicken and broccoli at dinner time. She’s filled up on PediaSure. But even if she hadn’t, she’s the type of kid that really cares about winning a battle of wills with Mom. She seems ready to go to extremes to have the last word. Some kids are like that. If Mom hadn’t ever started pushing her daughter to eat and hadn’t allowed herself to be drawn in to fighting with her over food, the girl would get no satisfaction out of being picky. She and Mom would find something to fight about, certainly, but not about food.

As for the makers of PediaSure, they may be perfectly aware of what they’re doing and are cynically laughing at us all the way to the bank. Or maybe they sincerely believe they are providing an excellent product that really meets the consumer’s needs. Either way, don’t fall for it.


  1. ybu
    December 30, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    Vow !!!!! Thanks a ton for all the posts. Really helped me to get more knowledge about PS as i was planning to start for my son. He is 15 mos old and refuses to eat solid food. After reading the articles, am definitely not gonna fall for it…………

  2. November 23, 2011 at 7:20 am

    2 quick notes…
    I had a friend years ago whose son had had severe reflux as a baby that went undiagnosed for a while. As a result he refused to eat because eating had been so painful for him. He was 2 and couldn’t be reasoned with for that reason, so he used pediasure daily to keep him from losing more weight. He was very small and thin for his age. So there;s the only use of pediasure I have ever been exposed to. I can’t imagine using it to strengthen a picky eaters resolve…
    Second is a funny story- My daughter, now 11 but 3 at the time announced with great confidence that God wanted her to have a candy bar while we were in the checkout lane at Walmart. I replied that God had not told me that and she wasn’t getting a candy bar. At that point she threw herself down on the floor and proceeded to let the entire store know her dissatisfaction with my reply. I stepped over her, much to the shock of the others around me and continued with my checkout. When she realized that her theatrics weren’t going to get her anywhere she gave up and stood up to leave with me.
    I tell this not to “toot” my own horn but to encourage other Moms and Dads, you can win this battle!

    • Anna Migeon
      December 5, 2011 at 8:21 am

      Thanks for your comments, Ann! Pediasure as a product enrages me. I understand needing to help a child who won’t eat, but I can’t imagine that Pediasure is a good solution. It has sugar in it, so we are promoting a taste for sweets while giving him something BAD for him while getting some nutrition of some kind in him. It’s such short-term thinking. If you watch Pediasure’s commercials, they are promoting it for picky eaters. The recent commercial I saw I do not find on youtube, but it was the same sort of thing as the one I’ve posted here. It’s infuriating. It’s all part of a really dysfunctional way of viewing feeding and teaching kids about food.

      I love your story about your daughter and her tantrum! Because you went ahead and did the hard thing that time, instead of thinking only of the moment and how to stop her tantrum, you probably stopped the problem once and for all. Parents giving kids what they want when they behave abominably only teaches the children to keep doing that behavior! It reminds me that I saw recently a baby under a year in a stroller with his mom in the grocery store, and he was eating a big candy bar! I couldn’t believe it. My first thought was to call Child Protective Services. I do wonder if we will ever come to having laws about feeding children abusively. There are some stirs in that direction, with morbidly obese children. Sugar is just such a huge evil, and processed foods in general. I wanted to say something to the mom, but figured that would be out of line. I did nothing. Do you think I should have? I wish I had now, very kindly and gently told the mom, “Honey, that’s so terrible for your baby. He’ll get a taste for that, and it will ruin his teeth, make him fat, give him diabetes, and turn him into a sugar addict. He’ll grow up sick and die young if he continues eating junk like that. His growing body needs real food: fruit, vegetables, good meat. He’s just a baby; he’s counting on YOU to give him what he really needs. It’s so important. Of course he likes it, but it’s harmful and horrible for him.” I wonder if we moms should start talking to the younger, apparently ignorant or overwhelmed moms like that. We might get beat up. I might give it a try, though.

      • December 5, 2011 at 11:18 am

        Anna, I agree that there are way better options than Pediasure in the case of my friend her son truly wouldn’t eat anything solid. If I had known then what I know now I would have recommended homemade smoothies with coconut oil and such but, alas, I didn’t know. I have lost touch with her over the years and have no idea how her son is doing now, he would be almost 13 now.
        Funny that you should use the word enraged about pediasure. I didn’t really think about it but I feel the same not only about PS but about a lot of the junk that is marketed in the name of getting our children to eat. Why not just feed them food? LOL
        As for saying something, I am not sure. I would probably shrink from saying something just because so many people won’t hear what you say because they don’t want to. An apple needs to be peeled and cut up, esp for a younger child, and then transported. We live in a such a busy fast paced world, and many people won’t take the time to be prepared or tell their child that waiting 30 minutes won’t be the end of the world. When you are shopping in the spare moments of a busy day it is much easier to unwrap a candy bar or, worse in my opinion because it marketed as healthy, a granola bar and shut them up.
        My rule is we don’t buy something to eat at the store or on the way home except in the most extreme circumstances. And they know it is likely to be some sort of fruit and cheese if we do, thus they hardly ask.
        I don’t like the idea of legislation about food, and recently heard about a child being taken by DYFS because of obesity. Perhaps education during pregnancy? Or, gasp, in highschool?
        Merry Christmas!

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