Formula Series 9 – Shopping

Shopping and Label Reading!  Put all that knowledge into practice

formula isle - compressedformula isle

The choices in the infant formula aisle at the grocery store can be incredibly overwhelming.   If a parent actually develops the courage to turn a bottle of formula over and look at the nutrition label, the panel looks completely different than they’re used to, and is very difficult to interpret.  Finally, the humorously ironic truth is that the people buying infant formula are always stressed, over-busy, and sleep-deprived… because they have an infant at home!

My hope is that you have read all the other articles in this series and are now armed with the information to look at that intimidating list of ingredients with confidence!  In this article, I will break down 4 example formula labels from mainstream formulas for healthy term babies.  I’ll translate the first label completely, and then point out the ingredients of interest for the other 3 labels.  Remember, ingredients are listed in order of bulk – the first ingredient is the largest ingredient.

 

Example #1:

Similac® Advance®: Below the list of ingredients, I’ll walk you through each one and tell you what I do and don’t like.

Nonfat Milk, Lactose, Whey Protein Concentrate, High Oleic Safflower Oil, Soy Oil, Coconut Oil, Galactooligosaccharides. Less than 2% of the Following: C. Cohnii Oil, M. Alpina Oil, Beta-Carotene, Lutein, Lycopene, Potassium Citrate, Calcium Carbonate, Ascorbic Acid, Soy Lecithin, Potassium Chloride, Magnesium Chloride, Ferrous Sulfate, Choline Bitartrate, Choline Chloride, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Salt, Taurine, m-Inositol, Zinc Sulfate, Mixed Tocopherols, d-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, L-Carnitine, Vitamin A Palmitate, Cupric Sulfate, Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Manganese Sulfate, Phylloquinone, Biotin, Sodium Selenate, Vitamin D3, Cyanocobalamin, Calcium Phosphate, Potassium Phosphate, Potassium Hydroxide, and Nucleotides (Adenosine 5’-Monophosphate, Cytidine 5’-Monophosphate, Disodium Guanosine 5’-Monophosphate, Disodium Uridine 5’-Monophosphate).

Macronutrients

  • Protein: “Nonfat Milk” and “Whey Protein”.  This is obviously a cow’s milk protein source.  They have adjusted the casein:whey ratio to look more like breast milk by adding additional whey  protein (excellent!).  Note, these proteins are NOT hydrolyzed, which I prefer.
  • Carbohydrates: “Lactose”.  This is similar to breast milk!  Also, no corn syrup or sugar here… great!
  • Fat:  “High Oleic Safflower Oil, Soy Oil, Coconut Oil”.  You need a few different types of fat to be sure all of the essential fatty acids are covered. This is pretty standard.
  • Specialty ingredients: “Galactooligosaccharides”.  These are prebiotics, similar to the kind found in breast milk.  This is a great additional ingredient.

Micronutrients (Less than 2% of the following):

These ingredients are mostly vitamins and minerals and this part of the label reads like the ingredients on a multivitamin.  Below are the ingredients in order, and their translation.

  • C. Cohnii Oil, M. Alpina Oil – These are added as sources of the fatty acids DHA and ARA
  • Beta-Carotene – Vitamin A
  • Lutein – BONUS NUTRIENT! This is not required in formula because it is not considered a vitamin.  However, Lutein is in breast milk and may help baby’s eyes and brain development
  • Lycopene – BONUS NUTRIENT! This is also not required in formula because it is not considered a vitamin.  Lycopene is rich in tomatoes and certain red vegetables
  • Potassium Citrate – Potassium
  • Calcium Carbonate – Calcium
  • Ascorbic Acid – Vitamin C
  • Soy Lecithin – An emulsifier: this is a non-nutrient ingredient added to make the texture of formula appropriate for baby
  • Mono- and Di-glycerides – These are manufactured fats that are also added to make the texture and thickness of formula appropriate for baby
  • Potassium Chloride – Potassium.  Also helps keep the correct pH
  • Magnesium Chloride – Magnesium
  • Ferrous Sulfate – Iron
  • Choline Bitartrate – the vitamin Choline
  • Choline Chloride – more choline
  • Ascorbyl Palmitate – more vitamin C, bound to a fatty acid
  • Salt: Added for taste, and as a source of chloride
  • Taurine – This molecule (not technically a vitamin or mineral) is used in countless biological processes and added to almost all formulas
  • m-Inositol – This molecule (not technically a vitamin or mineral) is used in countless biological processes and added to almost all formulas
  • Zinc Sulfate – Zinc
  • Mixed Tocopherols – Vitamin E
  • d-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate – Specific type of vitamin A
  • Niacinamide – Niacin
  • Calcium Pantothenate – Pantothenic Acid/ Vitamin B5
  • L-Carnitine – This molecule (not technically a vitamin or mineral) is used in countless biological processes and added to almost all formulas
  • Vitamin A Palmitate – another form of Vitamin A
  • Cupric Sulfate – Copper
  • Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride – Thiamine/ Vitamin B1
  • Riboflavin – Vitamin B2
  • Pyridoxine Hydrochloride – Vitamin B6
  • Folic Acid – Folate
  • Manganese Sulfate – Manganese
  • Phylloquinone – Vitamin K
  • Biotin – An easy one! (Biotin)
  • Sodium Selenate – Selenium
  • Vitamin D3 – Another easy one! (Vitamin D)
  • Cyanocobalamin –Vitamin B12
  • Calcium Phosphate – more Calcium, this is the kind found in your bones
  • Potassium Phosphate – more Potassium
  • Potassium Hydroxide – more Potassium, also an electrolyte)
  • Nucleotides – These are non-nutrient additions that are also found in human milk.  They are not added to every formula but I do recommend choosing a formula that has them.

 

Example #2

Enfamil® Gentlease: I will only point out the micronutrients of interest in this formula.

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 Macronutrients

  • Protein: “Partially Hydrolyzed Nonfat milk and whey protein concentrate solid”.  This is a cow’s milk protein source and is a combination of cow’s milk protein with additional whey added.  This will adjust the casein:whey ratio to look more like breast milk … excellent!   This protein is also partially hydrolyzed.  Two thumbs up!!
  • Carbohydrates: 100% Corn Syrup Solids.  There is no lactose in this formula, which is why it is called “Gentle”.  But remember, very few infants actually have a lactose intolerance.  With Corn Syrup as the first ingredient in this formula, this baby will be eating an enormous amount of corn syrup, which I am not comfortable with. I recommend looking for lactose as the primary source of carbohydrate, unless your doctor recommends otherwise.
  • Fat:  “Vegetable Oils (Palm Olein, Soy, Coconut, and High-Oleic Safflower or High-Oleic Sunflower)”.  You need a few different types of fat to be sure all of the essential fatty acids are covered. This is pretty standard.
  • Specialty ingredients: “Galactooligosaccharides”.  These are prebiotics, similar to the kind found in breast milk.  This is a great additional ingredient.

Micronutrients of interest (Under 2% of the following):

  • Nucleotides – These are non-nutrient additions that are also found in human milk.  They are not added to every formula but I do recommend choosing a formula that has them.

 

Example #3

Similac® Senstive EarlyShield: I will only point out the micronutrients of interest in this formula.

Corn Syrup, Sugar, Milk Protein Isolate, High Oleic Safflower Oil, Soy Oil, Coconut Oil, Galactooligosaccharides. Less than 2% of the Following: C. Cohnii Oil, M. Alpina Oil, Beta-Carotene, Lutein, Lycopene, Calcium Phosphate, Potassium Citrate, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Citrate, Magnesium Phosphate, Ascorbic Acid, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Ferrous Sulfate, Magnesium Chloride, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Choline Bitartrate, Taurine, m-Inositol, dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Zinc Sulfate, Mixed Tocopherols, L-Carnitine, Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Cupric Sulfate, Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Manganese Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Phylloquinone, Biotin, Sodium Selenate, Vitamin D3, Cyanocobalamin, Potassium Hydroxide, and Nucleotides (Adenosine 5’-Monophosphate, Cytidine 5’-Monophosphate, Disodium Guanosine 5’-Monophosphate, Disodium Uridine 5’-Monophosphate).

Macronutrients

  • Protein: “Milk Protein Isolate” This is obviously a cow’s milk protein source.  There is no additional whey protein, so this will have much more casein protein than breast milk Note, these proteins are NOT hydrolyzed, which I prefer.
  • Carbohydrates: There is no lactose in this formula, which is why it is called “sensitive”.  But remember, very few infants actually have lactose intolerance.  Instead, the sources of carbohydrate in this formula are: “Corn Syrup, Sugar”.  As the first 2 ingredients this is a huge part of baby’s diet.  I recommend looking for lactose as the primary source of carbohydrate, unless your doctor recommends otherwise.
  • Fat:  “High Oleic Safflower Oil, Soy Oil, Coconut Oil”.  You need a few different types of fat to be sure all of the essential fatty acids are covered. This is pretty standard.
  • Specialty ingredients: “Galactooligosaccharides”.  These are prebiotics, similar to the kind found in breast milk.  This is a great additional ingredient.

Micronutrients of interest (Under 2% of the following):

  • Lutein – BONUS NUTRIENT! This is not required in formula because it is not considered a vitamin.  However, Lutein is in breast milk and may help baby’s eyes and brain development
  • Lycopene – BONUS NUTRIENT! This is also not required in formula because it is not considered a vitamin.  Lycopene is rich in tomatoes and certain red vegetables
  • Nucleotides – These are non-nutrient additions that are also found in human milk.  They are not added to every formula but I do recommend choosing a formula that has them.

 

Example #4

Gerber® Good Start Gentle I will only point out the micronutrients of interest in this formula.

Whey Protein Concentrate (from Cow’s Milk, Enzymatically Hydrolyzed, Reduced in Minerals), Vegetable Oils (Palm Olein, Soy, Coconut, and High-Oleic Safflower or High-Oleic Sunflower), Corn Maltodextrin, Lactose, Galacto-Oligosaccharides*, and less than 2% of: Potassium Citrate, Potassium Phosphate, Calcium Chloride, Calcium Phosphate, Sodium Citrate, Magnesium Chloride, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenate, M. alpina Oil**, C. cohnii Oil***, Sodium Ascorbate, Inositol, Choline Bitartrate, Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin, Vitamin A Acetate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Phylloquinone, Biotin, Vitamin D3, Vitamin B12, Taurine, Nucleotides (Cytidine 5′-Monophosphate, Disodium Uridine 5′-Monophosphate, Adenosine 5′-Monophosphate, Disodium Guanosine 5′-Monophosphate), Ascorbyl Palmitate, Mixed Tocopherols, L-Carnitine, Soy Lecithin.

Macronutrients

  • Protein: “Whey Protein Isolate” This is a cow’s milk protein source and is 100% whey.  Whey empties the stomach faster than casein and so this emptying time more resembles breast milk.  This protein is hydrolyzed… excellent!
  • Carbohydrates: Corn Maltodextrin, Lactose, The carbohydrates come primarily from corn maltodextrin and some from lactose.  I honestly do not know why they have added Corn Maltodextrin here.  It may be for texture, or for cost.  It is good to see some lactose, but I would prefer lactose to be listed before a corn source of carbohydrate (if there must be corn).
  • Fat:  “Vegetable Oils (Palm Olein, Soy, Coconut, and High-Oleic Safflower or High-Oleic Sunflower)”.  You need a few different types of fat to be sure all of the essential fatty acids are covered. This is pretty standard.
  • Specialty ingredients: “Galactooligosaccharides”.  These are prebiotics, similar to the kind found in breast milk.  This is a great additional ingredient.

Micronutrients of interest (Under 2% of the following):

  • Nucleotides – These are non-nutrient additions that are also found in human milk.  They are not added to every formula but I do recommend choosing a formula that has them.

Take-Home Bullets:

Here’s a brief summary of the biggest things to look for:

  • Protein: I recommend a cow’s milk source (not soy).  Think about the casein:whey ratio.  Either additional whey or 100% whey will more closely resemble breast milk protein.  I also highly recommend a “partially hydrolyzed” formula.
  • Carbohydrates: Look for “Lactose”, which is the primary carb in breast milk.  If you see any sort of corn syrup ingredients, rice starch, or sugar, they are contributing to the carbs.  They may also be there as a specialty ingredient (like rice starch which thickens the formula).  In general, I do not like these other sources of carbs unless you find a thickened formula truly improves your baby’s terrible spit-up or reflux.  If they are on the label, I prefer they be listed after lactose meaning there is more lactose than corn contributing to baby’s carbohydrate needs.
  • Pre and Probiotics:  Prebiotics are commonly called, “Galactooligosaccharides”.  Probiotics are often listed along with the word “culture”.  Two common strains are: L. reuteri  and Bifidus.  Both pre and probiotics are found in breast milk and can be beneficial to your little one. If you have to choose between them, I recommend prebiotics.
  • Micronutrient ingredients of interest: Look for nucleotides.  They are not added to every formula, and I recommend these.   Also look for a source of ARA and DHA (although almost all formulas have these now).

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