Understanding Food Labels: What does “Nutritionally Complete” Mean?

Posted 3.11.10 | Christine Graham-Garo

I often get asked whether our Neocate® formulas have all the vitamins and minerals a child would need to thrive for all stages throughout their lives. The answer is yes; but I thought I should explain further what the term “nutritionally complete” really means.

If a formula is considered nutritionally complete it can be used as a sole source of nutrition because it will provide all of the important carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals a child needs to grow and thrive. For a nutritional product to be nutritionally complete and say so on its product label, it should be age-appropriate and provide all the nutrients a child would need for that specific age. For example, infant formulas are designed specifically to meet the needs of infants. As the infant grows into a toddler and older child, their nutritional needs differ and age-specific nutritionally complete products are needed to ensure they are meeting all their nutrient needs.

Having complete nutrition is important for children who are on very restrictive diets because of conditions such as food allergies, eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) and short bowel syndrome (SBS). When children cannot eat a wide variety of foods, it is common for them to have nutrient deficiencies as a consequence. One study1 found that in children with food allergies, many were not receiving enough vitamin D, calcium, iron, vitamin E and zinc. This is a serious problem because inadequate nutrition in children could have long-lasting implications such as poor growth, delayed development, and failure to thrive.

One way to avoid nutrient deficiencies is by having a registered dietitian involved in your child’s care – they can assess your child’s nutritional status and give recommendations on what options may work for you and your family. Your chosen nutritionist can also help you to properly read food labels and really understand what is being put into your child’s food. Just as important, finding a nutritional formula that has adequate (and even higher) amounts of important nutrients (such as calcium, iron, vitamin D, phosphorus and zinc) can help you ensure your little one is receiving proper age-specific nutrition to grow and thrive.

As I mentioned, all of the nutrition formulas in the Neocate family are nutritionally complete. If you are also using Neocate Nutra (a semi-solid amino-acid based medical food) don’t forget that it is meant to supplement formula and not replace it. Nutra contains lots of important nutrients like protein, fat, calcium, and vitamin D but just not enough to be the only source of nutrition.

Are there any vitamins and/or minerals you are worried your little one may not be getting enough of due to a restricted diet? Let us hear about it!


1. Salman et al, Dietary intakes of children with food allergies: comparison of the food guide pyramid and the recommended dietary allowances, J Allergy Clin Immunol 2002.

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About Us

Food Allergy Living is a resource for parents of children with food allergies, brought to you by Nutricia, the makers of Neocate. For more in-depth information about our purpose & authors, see our About Food Allergy Living page.