Milk is good for your kids. It helps build strong bones, healthy teeth, and prevent osteoporosis (weak bones) when kids grow up.
For kids who can't drink milk, either because of a lactose intolerance or milk allergy, parents should talk to their pediatrician about an appropriate substitute to replace the nutritional benefits.
While kids with lactose intolerance can simply drink a lactose-free milk, those with a true milk allergy will likely need to drink soy milk, rice milk, or other fortified milk drink.
Calories in Milk
Calories are calories. We don't usually think in terms of good calories and bad calories, but if you did, the calories in milk would probably be considered good calories because of all of the other milk benefits. So 150 calories from milk would be better than 150 calories from a can of soda with a lot of added sugar.
The calories in an 8 ounce glass of milk can be different depending on the type of milk you buy, including:
- Whole Milk - 8g Fat - 150 Calories
- 2% Milk - 4.5g Fat - 120 Calories (Reduced-fat milk)
- 1% Milk - 2.5g Fat - 100 Calories (Low-fat milk)
- Skim Milk - 0g Fat - 80 Calories (Nonfat milk)
In general, children should drink nonfat or low-fat milk beginning when they are 2 years old. Although some parents continue to give their kids whole "vitamin D" milk after age two, it is important to realize that milk with less fat has all of the same nutrients as whole milk, so there is usually no good reason to continue serving whole fat milk.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, if you or your pediatrician have a concern that your toddler is overweight, then changing to reduced-fat milk might be appropriate between the ages of 12 months and two years. This includes children with a family history of obesity, high cholesterol, or cardiovascular disease.
Reducing the Calories in Milk
Worrying about calories is usually not a good reason to cut back on how much milk your child drinks. In fact, some experts think that a diet high in calcium can help you lose weight.
So instead of cutting out milk to reduce calories, make sure you transition to low-fat or fat-free (skim) milk at the appropriate time.
This includes trying to substitute lower fat alternatives for whole milk when you are cooking.
Another big way to help reduce the calories in milk is to simply make sure you aren't increasing the calories in milk by adding strawberry or chocolate flavoring to your child's milk. In addition to flavor, this is going to add sugar and calories to your child's milk.
If you do give your child strawberry milk or chocolate milk, consider going with one with reduced sugar and putting it in skim milk.
American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report. Optimizing Bone Health and Calcium Intakes of Infants, Children, and Adolescents. PEDIATRICS Vol. 117 No. 2 February 2006, pp. 578-585.
American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report. Prevention of Rickets and Vitamin D Deficiency in Infants, Children, and Adolescents. Pediatrics 2008 122: 1142-1152.
American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report. Lipid Screening and Cardiovascular Health in Childhood. Pediatrics 2008 122: 198-208.