Kids, as you’ve likely heard, if not experienced firsthand, can be picky little eaters — especially when it comes to anything that’s not a carb. Enter the Kids Super Elixir Nourishing Protein, a powder supplement just introduced by WelleCo, a company cofounded by former Sports Illustrated cover girl Elle Macpherson. To announce its arrival, the supermodel posed on Instagram with her teenage son, Cy.
“Cy is a 13-year-old teenager with a fast metabolism, often running on low blood sugar,” she wrote. “I needed a nutritional and supportive solution for him.” The supplement, which costs $30 and is available at WelleCo’s site, has high-quality ingredients including a plant-protein blend (sourced from organic brown rice and peas), probiotics, magnesium, iron, folic acid, Vitamins A, C, and B, pomegranate, broccoli, apple, pumpkin, and beetroot.
“Protein is essential for nearly all functions of the body,” Macpherson’s post, from two weeks ago and liked more than 680 times, continues. “It’s vital for brain development, organ function, muscle repair and a healthy immune system. It also forms part of the structure of hormones, which is again crucial for growth and development. But it should be the right kind of protein, without exposing kids to added hormones. So our Kids Nourishing Protein is much more than just a super healthy snack … a clean source of organic plant protein that is free from estrogen/ free from whey and dairy for optimal digestion/a healthy dose of fruit and veggies hidden in a delicious chocolate flavor.”
Some Instagram commenters were thrilled to learn about the product. “I’ve been looking all over for something like this,” wrote one mom. “My eldest (10) has sensory-processing disorder, and food is our biggest issue. … This could be a life changer for our family if he likes it. He only eats starchy white carbs and gets ketosis / migraines / low energy as a result.” Another was thankful but noted, “If it passes my kid’s taste-test then it would be some sort of minor miracle.”
It’s not the first protein supplement for kids to hit the market, but it is one with a comparatively low sugar content and other nutritional positives. Still, is this something parents should be considering?
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, for one, is skeptical. “I think that one, I’m always leery, and any parent should be leery, of any type of supplement,” says Kristi King, academy spokesperson and a senior pediatric dietitian at Texas Children’s Hospital. “Reason being, supplements are not regulated by the FDA. So what is on the label is not necessarily what’s in the product and what’s in the product is not necessarily on the label. Two, because it’s not regulated by the FDA, there’s no oversight, so there could potentially be some sort of herb or supplement in the product that could potentially interact with any kind of medications that your child might be taking.”
Protein requirements for children are also going to vary greatly depending on sex, age, size, and level of athletic activity, notes King, with the general rule being one gram of protein for every two pounds of body weight. “If they have some sort of chronic illness, [the amount needed] may also increase or decrease, depending upon what type of medical condition they have,” she says. “I only recommend protein supplements for children with medical conditions that need it. And the protein supplements that I recommend are FDA-approved. So I don’t believe that our growing and developing children need additional protein supplements when they can get those types of protein from foods.”
Michelle Dudash, a registered dietician nutritionist and author of Clean Eating for Busy Families, concurs with King, calling the supplement “unnecessary for most children.” That’s because protein, she says, is a nutrient that’s very easily found in nutritious foods — cheese, nuts, nut butter, meatballs — that kids typically like. “If a child maybe has for some reason no appetite, and they were needing some kind of a supplement, I could see where it could be helpful there,” Dudash says, adding that tossing a scoop into smoothies could be a convenient way to get in the protein element, in place of milk or yogurt. The Super Elixir could also be useful for vegan children, she notes, or those who subsist purely on carbs — especially because of its relatively impressive ingredients.
“As compared to other protein powders, I would consider this a relatively clean protein,” she notes. “However, there are cleaner, as in less processed, plant protein sources, like almonds, soy milk and hemp seeds. … It is a good source of iron, so that is a beneficial feature for kids, and women, too — as is 10 percent of the [daily recommended intake] for calcium.” Dudash adds that one can is a 16-day supply at one scoop daily, which will cost about $2 per day. “For 11 grams of protein, I consider that a little pricey compared to other foods,” she says. “But you are getting the convenience if you enjoy making smoothies.”
If you’re worried your kid might not be getting enough protein, King suggests, look for signs, which can include irritability, tiredness, and hair falling out, “maybe a little bit more than the typical shedding.” “If you feel like your child isn’t getting enough protein,” she writes. “I recommend talking to your child’s pediatrician, [or] talking to a registered dietitian or nutritionist, who can help you come up with ways that can get your child additional protein from food sources,” she says. “We know for a fact that the body absorbs the protein from food a little bit better than it does from supplements. … So if we can get them to take their additional protein needs — if they need it — via food, then that’s the avenue that we should be pursuing.”