Milk is an excellent source of beneficial nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. In children and adolescents, moderate milk intake has been linked to improved bone health. It has been shown that children and adolescents are not drinking enough milk. According to the Dietary Guideline for Americans 2010, children and adolescents ages 9-18 years should consume 3 cups/day, ages 4-8 should consume 2 ½ cups/day, and ages 2-3 should consume 2 cups/day of milk or milk products. Currently, the majority of milk consumed is reduced-fat (2%) or full-fat milk (whole).
There has been an ongoing debate over flavored milks being offered to children in schools due to the increasing trend of overweight children. Some schools have even banned flavored milks in an attempt to eliminate unhealthy beverages. Some children refuse to drink plain milk; therefore some argue that if we want kids to meet their nutrient needs, such as calcium, then flavored milks need to be allowed. Studies have actually shown that when flavored milk was removed, children avoided drinking milk all together.
Milk processors have been working to provide new nutritious milk products with the same great flavor children love. The Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP), which coordinates the National Milk Mustache “got milk?” Campaign, recently informed the public that in September flavored milks will contain less calories and sugar. Flavored milk cartons offered at school, will now have less than 150 calories and 22 grams of total sugar. It is projected to contain 31 calories on average more than white milk.
The bottom line:
- If your child does not like plain milk, choose fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) flavored milks.
- Make your own flavored milks by using sugar-free or lite syrups.
- If flavored milk products are chosen, the added sugars should be part of the discretionary calorie allowance, or the calories that are left over after having met nutrient requirements with choices from Choose MyPlate. Visit www.choosemyplate.gov and click on the “get a personalized plan” link. Enter your child’s age, gender, and activity level and a nutrition plan will be created. This plan provides how much of each food group your child needs and calculates daily discretionary calorie allowance.