One of the frequently asked questions I get via social media and in person is all about milk (and I am not the only one to get this question – see Kyla’s response over at mealtime building blocks too). Yes, it fills kids up. Yes, they mostly love it. Yes, the recommended serves for a toddler (1-3yo) is 1.5 serves per day. Yes, some kids don’t love it. Yes, there are known allergens in dairy products. Yes, it is an emotive food. Milk has to be the most controversial kids food out there because it is THE first food and your child’s acceptance / rejection of it sets a tone for their feeding journey. So, I am going to break the great milk debate into a few facts for you to chew on and consider for yourself and for your family. I strongly believe in providing the facts but you determine what applies to you based on the root causes you see with your child.
- Calcium requirements for toddlers is 500mg which is found in approximately 375ml of dairy (1.5 serves). For 4-8 year olds, a 700mg calcium daily intake is recommended. However, calcium is also found (in lower concentrations) in soy beans, legumes, fruits / veg (eg strawberries & leafy greens), fish, eggs and fortified cereals. If your child is allergic/sensitive to dairy products getting the RDI via alternative milk sources (like almond milk and coconut milk) is a bit more challenging. Here is a fact sheet from QLD health that gives some OK information (even though it may be a little dated and there are new products on the market that will make getting calcium RDI a bit easier).
- To get 1.5 serves of dairy remember that 1 cup of milk (250ml) is a full serve. If you team that with one tub of yoghurt or a slice of cheese, your toddler has reached their RDI. Filling up on dairy foods means that they have less appetite for other foods.
- If your child is low in iron or has a meat aversion, having calcium at the same time can inhibit the absorption of iron because calcium and iron compete to be absorbed. It would be my recommendation that you give your iron rich foods at a time separate to the calcium rich foods. For example, my 3 year old goes through times of meat aversion and at those points we only offer milk or yoghurt sparingly and not at all with her iron rich meals of the day. Here is a good article about enhancing iron absorption if this is a concern for you.
- Other nutrients in the diet increase the absorption of other nutrients – it’s lucky that these pairings also taste good together too. For example, try to couple Vitamin C (tomatoes) with Iron (beef) – as I did in this recipe. Or to boost calcium absorption serve it alongside bananas!
In August 2015, I wrote this guest post on The Kids Menu about how I had a new “f” word in my house. It is “Forbidden”. That’s right, I am trying not to label “forbidden foods” or “sometimes foods” in my household. This is based on behavioral studies that show restricting, rewarding (bribing with) or labeling foods have big consequences in the long-run for our children’s understanding of food.
Therefore, when I was asked to have a look at Sipahh straws I said “YES”. I know that generally my blog is not about WHAT to eat – it is about the HOW to eat and recipes that encourage those thoughts. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Sipahh straws contain less than 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar in them, my kids’ eyes light up when they occasionally have one with afternoon tea. I also then know that my children are getting 75% of their calcium intake for the day. If you are r, we can and I am more than happy to talk to you about the great sugar debate. However, just remember that a typical slice of banana bread at the cafe has 7 teaspoons of sugar in it!
Ultimately, these straws are a way for kids to enjoy a novelty (watching the milk dissolve the tapioca-based flavour balls) and get their calcium intake. My daughters also love coconut milk with the straws too. Keeping hydrated over summer is really important and water is obviously your first choice. However, I would recommend a cup of milk for hydration and nutritional punch over juice, soft drink or cordial any day of the week.
Disclaimer: Sipahh sent me a pack of their “Chrismint” flavoured straws at Christmas time in 2015 to try. This inspired me to write this blog post that is entirely of my own opinion.
Do your children love milk or loathe it? What is your gut feeling about your child’s calcium intake?
If you are wanting to know more about my philosophy on helping your kids learn HOW to eat instead of teaching them WHAT to eat – have a read of this blog post and sign up to the Happy Mealtimes eCourse!
Last Updated: 8 July 2016