What is the best toddler meal replacement?

Written by Jack Schrupp and reviewed by Ella McGonagle, M.S. Nutrition

drink wholesome makes the best toddler meal replacement. It is additive-free, dairy-free, and made with real foods, not protein isolates – 99% of supplements fail to meet at least one of these criteria. This makes it perfect for toddlers, as well as for people just looking to supplement their toddler’s diet without the processing and added junk. Order samples to see if our meal replacement powder is right for your toddler. 


easy to digest

“I have a sensitive stomach, so most meal replacement powders leave me with gas, bloating, constipation, and stomach pain, but not this one.” – Shon

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drink wholesome is the best toddler meal replacement.

How many calories does a toddler need?

Can you give toddlers a meal replacement?

What is the best toddler meal replacement?

Why drink wholesome?

How much protein does a toddler need?

Feeding toddlers (children between the ages of 1 and 3) can be challenging. This is because several developmental changes are happening in a toddler at this time. For starters, human growth rate slows considerably after the first year of life. Babies typically double in weight by the time they are 6 months old, but toddlers only put on about 5 pounds each year. A slower growth rate is usually paired with a smaller appetite. 

Toddlers are also striving for independence and control, especially when it comes to food. It is between the ages of 1 and 3 that many children become picky eaters, which can make mealtime difficult. As a result, some children do not get enough of the calories and nutrients that they need. 

Toddlers need to eat between 1,000 and 1,400 calories per day, depending on their age, size, and physical activity level (most are considered active). Here is a breakdown of the recommended daily calorie intake for toddlers based on their age:

1-year-old: 900 to 1,000 calories per day

2-year-old: 1,000 to 1,200 calories per day

3-year-old: 1,100 to 1,400 calories per day

It is important to note that these are just general guidelines and individual toddlers may need more or less calories depending on their unique needs. It therefore always a good idea to consult with a pediatrician or registered dietitian to determine the appropriate calorie intake for your toddler.

Protein is also essential for the growth and development of every child. It is found in every cell of the body, serving as one of the building blocks of muscles, skin, and bones. Protein is also a key component of antibodies that protect the body against illness. Protein needs for toddlers also vary from child to child. According to the World Health Organization, toddlers should eat 0.9 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. This means that a 30 pound toddler should eat 12-13 grams of protein.

Are meal replacements safe for toddlers?

Meal replacements should not replace normal food, that is, you should feed your toddler balanced, nutritious meals whenever possible. For most toddlers, this should be more than enough to cover their nutritional needs. Some toddlers, however, may need an extra calorie and protein boost – maybe they are picky eaters, or maybe they have a dietary restriction or a chronic illness. If this is the case, a high protein meal replacement can be a lifesaver. A meal replacement shake is just food and is perfectly safe for anyone, including toddlers. That said, not all meal replacements are created equal. 

not all meal replacements are created equal

What is the best meal replacement for toddlers?

There are two types of meal replacements: ready-to-drink (store-bought) meal replacement shakes, and meal replacement shakes made with meal replacement powder. In order to make a toddler meal replacement shake with meal replacement powder, you have to mix the powder with milk or water. This requires a blender or a shaker bottle, and a little extra time and effort. Some people, prioritizing convenience, prefer to buy ready-to-drink shakes, but if they knew what they were giving their toddler, they would probably feel sick to their stomach. 

Ready-to-drink meal replacements shake are full of emulsifiers, stabilizers, thickeners, sweeteners, and flavors. Ingredients like these improve characteristics like taste, texture, and shelf stability, but can cause uncomfortable side effects and long-term gut damage. This is worrisome because more and more research shows that disruptions to the composition and function of the gut microbiome (the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food) can play a role in the development of a number of chronic diseases. 

I therefore recommend that you make your own toddler replacement shakes with meal replacement powder. That said, not all meal replacement powders are created equal either, and many contain the same additives found in ready-to-drink shakes! 

Why drink wholesome?

drink wholesome is additive-free.

One of the reasons why we make the best toddler meal replacement powder is that we do not use food additives. Most meal replacements, on the other hand, are full of food additives. Although not necessarily bad for you in small quantities, additives can add up quickly (especially if you drink a meal replacement shake every day), and cause gastrointestinal (GI) side effects like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, and stomach pain.

Food additives are hard to digest, and sit in your gut for longer than food should, which gives your gut bacteria more time to eat. As they eat, these bacteria produce gas, causing bloating and stomach pain. Gas also slows colonic transit (the amount of time it takes food to travel through the colon), which can lead to constipation. In the long term, food additives can disrupt regulatory pathways in the intestine and trigger the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and systemic inflammatory disorders.

vanilla meal replacement powder lifestyle image 1
chocolate meal replacement powder lifestyle image 2

When buying meal replacement powder, one ingredient to avoid in particular is artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are among the most harmful food additives in the long term as they alter the composition of your gut microbiota (the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food). This can lead to serious, chronic GI problems, widespread inflammation, and permanent damage to the gut microbiome. Some sweeteners, especially sugar alcohols like xylitol, are also poorly absorbed by the gut (meaning they feed those hungry gut bacteria), and cause diarrhea because they draw water into your intestine. Now you finally have something to blame for those post-meal replacement shake trips to the bathroom!

Here is a list of the most common food additives in meal replacement powder:

acacia gum, acesulfame potassium, artificial flavors, aspartame, carrageenan, cellulose gum, dextrin, dextrose, erythritol, gellan gum, guar gum, gum arabic, inulin, locust bean gum, “natural” flavors, maltodextrin, rice syrup solids, soy lecithin, silica, sucralose, sunflower lecithin, xanthan gum, xylitol

When it comes to identifying food additives, go with your gut. 😉 As a rule of thumb, they are the ingredients that you cannot pronounce. Food additives are not the only thing to look out for when buying meal replacement powder, however. There are several other ingredients that can upset your stomach.

the alternative:


*This is the actual ingredient list of one of the best-selling meal replacements in the United States.

drink wholesome is dairy-free.

Another reason why we make the best toddler meal replacement shakes is that we do not use dairy-based proteins. Many meal replacements are made with whey and casein, which are byproducts of cheese and yogurt production, and known to cause digestive issues. This is especially true for people with lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Over one in three Americans are lactose intolerant, and the prevalence of IBS is somewhere between 10 and 15 percent in the United States. It follows that you may be lactose intolerant or have IBS and not even know it. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a poorly understood condition, and it is unclear why dairy triggers symptoms. Lactose intolerance, on the other hand, is clearly understood. People with lactose intolerance are unable to fully digest lactose, the sugar in dairy. As you just learned, partially digested food feeds the bacteria in your gut, which produce gas. 

drink wholesome is made with real foods.

A final reason why we make the best toddler meal replacement shake is that we do not use protein isolates. Most meal replacements, on the contrary, are made with protein concentrates and/or isolates, foods stripped of everything but the protein. They are listed on the ingredient list as “pea protein” and “whey protein” as opposed to “peas” and “whey.” 

I will not go into the details, but protein concentrates and isolates undergo heavy mechanical and chemical processing before becoming meal replacement powder. Sometimes, manufacturers use chemical solvents like hexane to isolate (separate) the protein from the food. This means that what you end up putting into your body looks nothing like real food.

If you think about it, your gut was designed to digest naturally occurring foods, not laboratory formulated imitations, so if you feed it anything but real food, it might get upset. The long term implications of eating processed foods are still not well understood, but more and more research is finding that it can alter the composition of your gut microbiota, and lead to permanent damage to your gut microbiome.

Your gut does more than just help you to digest food; it protects against pathogens, educates your immune system, and affects directly or indirectly most of your physiologic functions. Disruptions to the gut microbiome have therefore been linked to the development of many chronic diseases. It follows that it is in your best interest to avoid meal replacement powders made with protein concentrates and isolates. 

chocolate meal replacement powder serving suggestion 1
vanilla meal replacement powder serving suggestion 2

Instead of protein concentrates or isolates, we make the best toddler meal replacement powder with whole foods like egg whites and almonds. Egg whites are simply pasteurized and dried before becoming meal replacement. Almonds are just roasted, pressed, and ground.

Whole foods are an easy to digest, gut-friendly alternative to protein concentrates and isolates. This is in part because whole foods contain a variety of enzymes and other digestive aids that help to break down the food, making it easier for the body to absorb the nutrients. Protein isolates and concentrates, on the other hand, have been stripped of these digestive aids, making them harder for the body to digest and absorb. Moreover, minimally-processed plant-based foods like almonds are rich in fiber, which helps promote healthy digestion and regular bowel movements.

Unless you have a sensitivity or allergy to eggs, egg white protein is the best protein for your gut. Egg whites are low in fiber, low-FODMAP, naturally alkaline, and have the highest protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) of any whole food. Our customers have experienced fewer digestive issues with egg white protein than with any other type of protein. We like almonds too because research suggests that they possess prebiotic properties and can improve the diversity and composition of the gut microbiome.


no stomach issues

“I’ve tried out so many protein powders and meal replacements, and they always gave me stomach issues…That’s why I got drink wholesome.” – Tommy

Read more reviews or take the quiz.

drink wholesome makes the best meal replacement for toddlers.


chocolate meal replacement powder

(25) $59.99 or subscribe and save 15%


meal replacement powder samples


This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. drink wholesome is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.