happy child with milk

The Great Milk Debate

By: Stephanie Shabangu, Penfield Children’s Center

Cow’s milk, coconut milk, almond milk…the list goes on. Are they all equal? Let’s take a look at how the popular types of milk stack up.

Cow’s milk:

Cow’s milk is relatively cheap, packs a great amount of protein (9 grams per 8 ounces of milk) and is fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

Coconut milk:

While coconut milk is very trendy, it’s not a great source of protein and many of the varieties available today contain hidden sugar because of flavorings added. Similar to cow’s milk, it is fortified with calcium and vitamin D. It is also low in calories.

Almond milk:

Almond milk contains only 1 gram of protein per 8 ounces. Like coconut milk, it is also very low in calories, but can include high amounts of sugar if sweeteners are added.

 Soy milk:

Soy milk has a high protein content and is a great alternative to cow’s milk if your child has a milk allergy. It is fortified with calcium and vitamin D and is a bit lower in calories than cow’s milk. Make sure to choose unflavored soy milk to reduce sugar content.

So, with this information in mind, which option is best of your child? Research shows that the healthiest choice for most children is cow’s milk (or goat’s milk, as they are quite similar in nutrition content). This is because it not only packs the highest protein content which is crucial for a child’s growth and development, but also contains key nutrients including calcium and vitamin D. Specifically, it is advised that children age 1-2 years drink whole milk.

What if your child has a cow’s milk allergy? Speak to your child’s pediatrician about non-dairy options. Oftentimes, doctors suggest a protein-based, non-dairy toddler formula for children who cannot drink cow’s milk.

Another common question parents have is about the hormones in cow’s milk. These hormones are sometimes injected into dairy cows to increase milk supply. Cows actually produce these hormones naturally and they are not harmful to humans. However, if you are concerned about these hormones, there are a variety of organic cow milks available for purchase. When considering which milk to feed your child, just make sure to only choose pasteurized milk as raw milk can contain harmful bacteria.

While most children will happily sip a cup of milk, some say, “NO WAY!” If your child refuses milk, there are other foods that you can offer. Cheese and yogurt are great options and can be included in a variety of kid-friendly foods including grilled cheese sandwiches, yogurt parfaits and macaroni and cheese (just make sure you make this dish yourself as the boxed varieties contain too much salt).

If you have concerns about your child’s milk intake, make sure to speak with his pediatrician about creative ways to ensure your child gets the nutrients he needs from other non-dairy foods.

Do you have any creative recipes that include milk that your children love?


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