Milk your child’s diet for their health

Strawberry Banana Cooler


• 1 cup milk

• 1/2 cup sliced strawberries

• 1/2 banana, cut into chunks (preferably frozen)

• 1/2 teaspoon honey, optional

Place all ingredients into a blender and process until smooth. Serve immediately. Makes one serving.

Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 160, Protein: 9 g, Carbohydrate: 33 g, Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol: 5 mg, Sugars: 27 g, Dietary Fiber: 4 g, Sodium: 105 mg, Vitamin C: 54 mg, Calcium: 300 mg

Picking up a carton of milk at the grocery store used to be simple. The choices included whole, reduced fat, low fat or fat free. Now we also have soy, rice and almond"milk” and even milk for people with lactose intolerance.

Milk is healthful for children and should be encouraged instead of other sweetened beverages. The 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines affirmed the nutritional value of dairy milk (or low-fat cheese or yogurt) by encouraging the consumption of two servings every day for children ages 2 to 8. Children over 8 should consume three servings. This helps ensure enough potassium as well as calcium.

According to numerous studies, your children are watching you—mothers who drink milk have children who are good milk drinkers.

How should parents decide what’s best for their family? This month, I’ll discuss the many choices and leave it up to you.

The dairy case

Dairy milk is an excellent source of calcium, and a good source of the essential nutrients vitamin D, riboflavin (a B vitamin), magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and protein (about 8 grams in an 8-ounce glass). The naturally occurring milk sugar, lactose, aids in the absorption of calcium. Children over the age of 2 should drink low-fat or fat-free milk to reduce saturated fat intake (all other nutrients are the same compared to the whole or reduced fat versions.)

Non-dairy alternatives

Alternatives to cow’s milk have exploded in recent years. Children may be allergic to casein, the protein in milk, or parents may simply prefer a non-dairy product. For children over the age of 1, look for a beverage that comes close to dairy milk with comparable protein, at least 30 percent Daily Value for calcium, 10 percent DV of vitamin A and 25 percent DV of vitamin D. Alternatives may be found chilled in the refrigerated section, as well as in shelf-stable cartons. They typically provide fewer essential fats and more carbohydrates than dairy milk.

Soy milk

Soy milk is made from soaked soybeans, tofu or isolated soy protein and contains protein and some healthy fats. Its protein level is comparable to cow’s milk (7 grams per 8-ounce glass). Soy can inhibit the absorption of iron. Natural soy milk is a poor source of calcium, so calcium salts, such as tricalcium phosphate and calcium carbonate, are added. Although many soy milks contain the identical level of calcium as dairy milk, the body only absorbs about 75 percent of it. Also, a Creighton University study found that 69 percent of the calcium that’s added tends to settle to the bottom of the carton. Shaking the carton well right before serving redistributes just some of it.

Rice beverage

Made from brown rice and sweetener, rice beverage is easy on the digestive tract. It is very low in protein (1 gram per 8-ounce glass) and may not contain calcium. Look for a product that provides at least 20 percent DV calcium. Children who drink this in lieu of cow’s milk should increase their protein from other sources.

Almond beverage

Grinding almonds produces a liquid that is another dairy alternative. It is also very low in protein but contains some minerals and vitamin E. Children who exhibit tree nut allergies should avoid this.

Organic milk

The demand for organic milk, produced without antibiotics or growth hormones, is increasing by 20 percent or more every year, although it can cost up to double the price of regular milk. In recent years, even nonorganic dairies have begun asking their farmers to refrain from using hormones and are adding product labels to reflect that.

Lactose-free milk

Some people, often of African or Asian heritage, lack the enzyme needed to digest the lactose found in milk. Lactose-free milk, treated with an enzyme, tastes sweeter because the lactose is broken down to its simple sugars.

Raw milk

Some local dairies sell milk that is unpasteurized. Proponents claim that it is more nutritious and contains enzymes that pasteurized milk does not contain. But both the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say raw milk is unsafe due to the very real risk of contracting Campylobacter, E. coli and Salmonella bacteria.

Dear Good Sense Eating,

Does milk lead to mucus production? Should my child avoid them when she has a cold or allergy symptoms?

No studies have found an actual link between either dairy or soy milk and mucus, although people who believe in the mucus and milk theory report more respiratory symptoms after drinking milk. According to a research review published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, milk and dairy products temporarily coat the mouth and tongue with a film that only feels like a mucus coating. Some doctors mistakenly tell patients to avoid milk products when they are suffering from a cold, asthma or allergies.

Christine M. Palumbo, RD, is a Naperville-based dietitian in private practice who enjoys a cold glass of milk with most of her meals. Contact her at or (630) 369-8495.

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