One of the frequently asked questions I get via social media and in person is all about milk. Picky eaters often rely on milk. Yes, it fills kids up. Yes, they mostly love it. The recommended serves for a toddler (1-3yo) = 1.5 serves per day. And 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.
Facts Relating to Kids Drinking Milk
- In Australian dietary guidelines, 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 / vegetables (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 it is helpful and I recommend that you check out any new food 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 Health Ambition article with 8 tips for enhancing iron absorption, if this is a concern for you. Yet, for picky eaters, you may want to watch this Video with Meg and I before considering any sort of dietary supplements for children (these should only be given with medical advice for your situation.)
- 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!
What if they don’t drink enough milk?
I wrote a 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 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. I also then know that my children are getting 75% of their calcium intake for the day. 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.
Other ideas for additional calcium are covered in this blog post I wrote about specialty cheeses. If your kids like fritters or pancakes, adding ricotta and natural yoghurts are a super way to boost calcium in a portable way.
What if your child is very attached to their milk?
If you are looking to work on reducing your 2-5 year old picky eater’s milk consumption at bedtime from a bottle, this blog post of mine is full of additional strategies for you.
Last Updated: 11 Oct 2017 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?