Have you looked at kids’ drinks and wondered which brand is the best? – Between, Complan, Horlicks, Bournvita and MTR, which product is better for your child? I decided to analyze the ingredient list in each product and list out the pros and cons of each drink.
DISCLAIMER: Before we start, please note – I am not a nutritionist or a medical professional. I am an engineer who researches information. So, please consult your doctor/nutritionist before any major diet changes.”
With their catchy jingles and clever marketing, Complan has been a prominent product in this category for a long time. Who can forget “He is a growing boy, look how he is shooting up….!!”?? and the tamil version “Vallarum payan ivan ….”??
Here are the ingredients for Complan in the order they are printed on the box. The typical rule for nutrition labels is that they are printed in the order of their weight in the final product. For eg. item #1 will be highest in terms of weight and the last item the lowest.
- Milk Solids (54.7%)
- Peanut Oil
When you read the top -6 ingredients, you realize that it is basically sweetened milk in powder form. Which is not a bad thing, per se.
Now, milk being the #1 ingredient begs the question – Does milk make kids grow taller? That is a whole another blog post in itself; but yes, I support the conclusion that milk can be a useful tool for kids to grow to their potential height.
But, when I read the last 3 ingredients- Inositol, Taurine and L-Carnitine, I was stumped. While I am not a nutritionist, I am a keen observer of nutritional labels, and these 3 terms left me wondering “kya hai ye?” (What is this?). The good news is that they are not preservatives.
So, on further study, I realized that these 3 are synthetic nutritional supplements. Inositol (a Vitamin like substance or sometimes referred as B-8) and Carnitine (an amino-acid derivative) are listed under “Brain Development” feature in the Complan label.
And yes, research on these 2 items suggests there may be some positive impact. But just like most studies on supplements, it is really hard to attribute causation. Same with Taurine. Taurine is an amino acid that is found naturally in meat, fish, dairy products and human milk, and it’s also available as a dietary supplement. While research is mixed, some studies suggest that taurine supplementation might improve athletic performance. In all these cases – the supplements are either a cheap filler, or an ok/good supplement for your body or maybe both. The scientists at Complan will know the exact answer, I am not sure.
Either way, people seem to be comfortable buying these supplements in bulk and adding them to their workout drinks, etc. See taurine, inositol and l-carnitine products being sold in isolation. However, the supplement markets are out of control and have no regulation whatsoever, so the fact that they are available is not a convincing argument that our body necessarily needs them.
In conclusion, I like the fact that Complan uses milk protein and not grains as their primary ingredient. But they also added some supplements ingredients like Inositol, Taurine, L-Carnitine and there is no clarity as to why they are being added.
Another staple that has been around since I was a kid and much before that.
Here are the ingredients for Horlicks in the order they are printed on the box:
- Wheat 46% (Wheat flour contains Calcium Carbonate, Ferric pyrophosphate, niacin, thiamin, malted wheat flour)
- Malted Barley (26%)
- Dried Whey (milk)
- Calcium Carbonate
- Dried Skimmed Mik
- Palm Oil, Salt, Anti-caking agent (E551)
- Vitamin Mix (Vitamin C, Niacin, Vitamin E, Pantothenic Acid, Vit B6, Riboflavin, Thaimin, Folic Acid, Vit A, Biotin, Vit D, Vit B12)
- Ferric Pyrophosphate, Zinc Oxide
So, basically this product is cooked wheat + barley flour. It is basically kanji without the prep work. It is fine, nothing terrible about that. Except in my opinion – Indian vegetarians are already eating quite a bit of grains in the form of chapathi and rice.
Do you need yet another powdered grain for your child? If your child is a picky eater, the answer may be yes. Otherwise, this powdered grain might just be adding to your or your kid’s waistline. Remember powdered grains are high in glycemic index and can increase your sugar levels. You will have to evaluate this for your family’s needs.
There is 1 ingredient in Horlicks that I wish was not there. Silica (E551) is commonly used as an anti-caking agent in food products. I am not a fan of silica in food. But even free-flowing salts use the help of such things.
There is a reason why they added it – a product like Horlicks will need some help to prevent it from becoming a giant rock in a bottle just after 1 rain outside or an over-enthusiastic kid with a wet spoon :). So, I get it – they need to add it. But, still not super happy about it.
Here are the ingredients for Bournvita in the order they are printed on the box:
- Cereal Extract 51% (Barley, Wheat)
- Cocoa Solids
- Caramel (150c)
- Liquid Glucose
- Protein Isolate
- Milk Solids
- Emulsifiers (322, 471)
- Raising agents (500 ii)
- Edible Salt
So, Bournvita is basically like a chocolate-flavored version of Horlicks. It is basically powdered grains with some sugar and cocoa added to it.
Let us discuss a couple of synthetic additions to the product. Item #10 lists Emulsifier E322, which is lecithin and Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids (E471). E 471 refers to a food additive composed of diglycerides and monoglycerides which is used as an emulsifier. This is added to help the solubility of the drink when added to water. I am not happy that they have to resort to additives. I hope Bournvita can find a way around it.
Raising agent 500 ii is basically baking soda. It is fine. If you are eating baked goods already, you are most certainly eating baking soda in another form.
MTR Badam Mix
Saved the worst for the last. Here are the ingredients for MTR Badam in the order they are printed on the box:
- Sugar (Oye Ve!!)
- Milk Solids
- Almonds (8.2%)
- Antioxidant Tocopherol (E306)
- Natural Saffron Flavor
- Colors Turmeric, Carotene
So, the ingredient list by itself is fairly clean. E306 is basically Vitamin E, most likely added to prevent the almonds from getting rancid too early.
But boy o boy – having sugar as your #1 ingredient is NEVER a good thing. What is the difference then between your homemade drink and a McDonald’s or Starbuck’s sweetened drink?
My personal evaluations in terms of ranking is:
This order may not be your favorite, and that’s ok. My philosophy is to focus on what the majority ingredients in the drink are and what are they doing to your body.
I like the fact that Complan has predominantly milk protein and lesser in carbs, considering that Indian Vegetarian cuisine is already abundant in carbs.
I like Horlicks second because of its fairly straightforward ingredients, although it is basically powdered breakfast cereal or kanji.
Third comes Bournvita, which is a cocoa-flavored powdered grain drink, which is meh. But it also has added emulsifiers, which in my opinion is unnecessary for the human body.
Finally, MTR Badam milk is basically powdered sugar flavored with almonds and “naturally flavored saffron”. Make badam kheer occasionally at home and save yourself the trouble of buying this drink. Especially not a good choice as an everyday drink for kids. Too much sugar!!
I hope this exercise makes you more comfortable reading ingredients and determining the best product for your child and family.
What would your ranking be? Post your favorite drink in the comments below. Would you like me to analyze any other product? Mention that too…
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