I’m getting caught-up on my nutrition article reading. You may have seen headlines all over the news a few weeks ago about how many children are drinking too much milk.
I think that many parents have been convinced, dare I say by the dairy industry (under the guise of Canada’s Food Guide), that children need lots and lots of milk to have strong teeth and bones. Unfortunately for all of us milk loathers who suffered through the dreaded milk program in grade school, this is not true. Yes, milk is a good source of protein (8 grams per cup), calcium (30% of our daily needs as adults), and vitamin D (45% DV – although it’s important to point out that cow’s milk is fortified with vitamin D so I don’t really think it should be praised for that). The thing is, there are plenty of other foods that contain these nutrients. If your child suffers from lactose intolerance or a milk allergy they are not going to develop rickets or osteoporosis (yes, it’s a pediatric disease with adult consequences) as long as they obtain enough of these nutrients from other sources. If you’re child just doesn’t like milk, or you choose not to serve them milk for whatever reason, they can still live healthy and productive lives.
One of the reasons that excessive milk consumption in children is an issue is that it tends to lead to insufficient consumption of other nutrients, specifically iron. Iron deficiency can lead to anemia which can be indicated by paleness, fatigue, decreased immune function. There is also the potential for poor growth and development as a result.
Good food sources of iron include: oat bran cereal, clams, spinach, beans and lentils, tofu, egg yolks, beef, and baked potatoes. Using uncoated cast iron cookware (especially to cook acidic foods such as tomato sauce) can also increase iron consumption. Consuming vitamin C containing foods (such as citrus fruits, peppers, and tomatoes) with iron-containing foods can also increase the amount of iron absorbed.
Good food sources of protein include: tuna (and other fish), poultry, meat, beans, legumes, yoghurt, tofu, nuts, eggs, even grains.
Good food sources of calcium include: yoghurt, fortified orange juice, many cheeses, spinach and other dark leafy greens (kale, broccoli, asparagus), tinned salmon (with bones) and sardines, fortified cereals, and tofu.
Good food sources of vitamin D include: egg yolks, fatty fish (herring, eel, salmon, sardines, tuna), and fortified cereals.
There is a huge proliferation of “milks” on the market these days. You’re no longer limited to cow’s milk or soy milk. There’s almond milk, coconut milk, sunflower milk, quinoa milk, hemp milk, rice milk… The choices can be overwhelming. The first thing you should check for is added sugar. No need to consume any more sugar than we already do. Next, check your labels to ensure your “milk” is fortified. Finally, check for unwanted ingredients like added oils. Beyond those tips, go for what you (or your child) actually likes. With all the options available you should be able to find one that will be both pleasing to your palate and provide the nutrients you need.