**This blog was written in partnership with Milk Life
Providing good nutrition is one of the most important things parents can do to prevent illness and disease and ensure their kids are healthy for life. While this may seem like an easy thing to do, with children spending much of their day at school, the busy life style of today’s modern family and let’s face it, some kids are just picky eaters, getting all of the necessary nutrients into a child every day doesn’t always happen. Here are some ways to simplify your child’s nutrition plan and ensure your kids get the nutrients they need to grow, develop and learn.
There has been a lot of conversation recently about changes made to the school nutrition standards. As a mom and a pediatrician, I feel that a critical point that is missing from the conversation is that more than half of kids are falling short on important nutrients (calcium, vitamin D and potassium) they need to grow strong. Not getting enough of these important nutrients, especially during the growing years, could have serious health implications. Kids are getting many of their calories and nutrition from school meals and the reality is that milk is the top food source for calcium, vitamin D and potassium (the nutrients they often lack). That’s why I’ve partnered with Milk Life – because giving kids access to milk and flavored milk is so important – it’s really challenging for kids to get all the nutrients they need without milk in the diet.
I know that you may be thinking…but flavored milk has added sugar. Studies show that children who drink flavored milk drink more milk overall, meet more of their nutrient needs, do not consume more added sugars or fat and are not heavier than non-milk drinkers. Research also shows flavored milk contributes just 4% of added sugars to kids’ diets – versus sodas, fruit drinks and sports drinks, which account for 36% of the added sugar and deliver much less, if any, nutritional value. I’d much rather have my patients and my own boys drink chocolate milk than juice, soda or a sports drink.
So why don’t we just serve white milk at school? Research has shown that without flavored milk in the lunchroom, overall milk consumption drops. Boston schools tried it removing flavored milk during 2012- 2013 and this led to a 24% decrease in total milk selected during the second year after removal, and students consumed 10% less of the milk selected. Another study published in 2014 found that when flavored milk is removed from schools, it may lead students to take less milk overall, drink less (waste more) of the white milk that is taken and no longer purchase school lunch. A study of 51 elementary schools from 7 school districts in California, Colorado, and Illinois that when lowfat flavored milk was not available in school cafeterias, many children chose not to drink milk and missed out on the essential nutrients that milk provides. On days when only white milk was offered, milk consumption dropped an average of 35 percent, with some schools experiencing a decline of more than 50 percent. That’s really significant data!
Sure there are other ways to get calcium, vitamin D, potassium and the other essential nutrients found in dairy milk, but I find many parents don’t realize that replacing the nutrients lost from milk required 3-4 food items to match milk’s nutrient contribution, added back more calories and fat than were being reduced and added back roughly half the sugar (saving only around 15-28 g per week). When students choose orange juice fortified with calcium and vitamin D instead of white milk, you would still need to replace the remaining missing nutrients by ADDING: ½ cup of diced cantaloupe, 100g of apple with skin and ½ cup of cooked baked beans. That would add 171 more calories than drinking chocolate milk.
Parents should feel good giving their kids milk, whether chocolate or white—I know I do! Milk is a simple way to help kids get nutrients they need to grow strong. Plus, kids love milk. That’s a win-win in my book.
[i] Wiley AS. Does milk make children grow? Releationships between milk consumption and height in NHANES 1999-2002. American Journal of Human Biology. 2005;17(4):425-441.
[ii] Rockell JEP, Williams SM, Taylor RW, Grant AM, Jones IE, Goulding A. Two-year changes in bone and body composition in young children with a history of prolonged milk avoidance. Osteoporosis International. 2005;16(9):1016-1023.
[iii] Morency M, Birken CS, Lebovic G, Chen Y, L’Abbé M, Lee GJ, Maguire JL and the TARGet Kids! Collaboration. Association between noncow milk beverage consumption and childhood height. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2017;106(2):597-602.
[iv] Marshall TA, Curtis AM, Cavanaugh JE, Warren JJ, Levy SM. Higher longitudinal milk intakes are associated with increased height in a birth cohort followed for 17 years. The Journal of Nutrition. 2018;148(7):1144-1149.