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Got Skim Milk?

Question of the Week


Updated July 16, 2014

Close-up of a boy drinking a glass of milk
Eric Herchaft/ONOKY/Getty Images
Q. Is it recommended for a child under the age of 5 years old to drink skim milk instead of whole or 2%? I have a friend who has a 3 year old and they are having him drink skim milk. Denise, Iowa

A. Yes. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that parents begin low fat milk after age two years. Before that age, toddlers should be either breastfeeding or drinking whole milk, but after age two you can start giving him 2%, 1%, or skim milk. And of course they should be either breastfeeding or drinking an iron fortified infant formula before age 12 months.

Why switch to low fat milk?

Mostly because your child will likely be getting plenty of fat from other things that he is eating. And starting early can help to develop preferences for low fat foods that he will hopefully keep for a lifetime of healthy eating.

If your child has a poor diet and doesn't get enough fat from other areas of his diet, then you may want to keep him on whole milk. Keep in mind that by the time they are 4 to 5 years old, children should be getting about one third of their calories from fat. If your child isn't, then staying on whole milk may be a way to boost his intake of fat. But remember that isn't a problem for most children, especially with the current epidemic of obesity we are facing.

And of course if your child is already overweight, a change to low fat milk can be very important to reduce the amount of fat and calories that he is getting. Milk is still an important part of a healthy diet for these children though.

What if your kids won't drink low fat milk?

It can be a big change to go from whole milk to skim milk, so it is better to make a more gradual change. You might try to go first to 2% milk and then 1% milk, etc.

Starting early can also help to ease this transition to low fat milk. A two year old who really likes to drink milk will probably be more accepting of low fat milk than a school age child might.

Take our poll:
When do you change your child to low fat milk?

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