If you worry that your toddler isn't drinking enough milk, is drinking too much milk, or is maybe not drinking the "right" kind of milk, today's post is for you. I'm going to keep this short and sweet to make sure the info you need is front and center. Here goes!
- After a child turns one, they are better able to digest cow's milk—which is why it's not recommended for babies.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that toddlers drink whole milk since they need the fat for proper development of their brains and nervous systems. They still recommend that kids over 2 switch to low fat milk (despite research that that might not be the best idea for longterm health goals).
- A study published in 2013 by the found that kids who drank 1% milk had higher BMIs than those who drank whole or 2% milk.
- A study published in 2016 found that full fat dairy including milk, cheese, and yogurt was protective against type 2 diabetes—meaning that it helped to lower risks of developing the disease.
- Toddlers can get the nutrients from milk in other dairy like cheese, yogurt, and kefir. The goal should be 2-3 servings of dairy a day, which may (or may not) include milk.
- If your kiddo doesn't like dairy or nondairy milk, cheese or yogurt, try to include these foods. For calcium, kale, broccoli, bok choy, almonds/almond butter, canned salmon (with bones, so you need to crush them when mixing into salmon salad or patties), sesame seeds/ tahini, chia seeds, and tofu are good sources. For Vitamin D, salmon, tuna, fortified oj, egg yolk, fortified cereal. (You may need to double check labels on breakfast cereals and fortified juices if you go that route to know what you're getting.)
- Milk can actually interfere with appetite—milk is food after all—so you may need to reduce the amount of milk offered during the day if your toddler isn't interested in food.
- The vast majority of nondairy milk, including almond, cashew, and rice, contain little nutrition on their own. (Most are fortified with calcium and vitamin D, though few contain any protein.)
- Sweetened nondairy milks can contain whopping amounts of added sugars.
- Newer nut milks, like this one from Silk, are being fortified with pea protein to give them a nutritional profile that more closely mirrors cow's milk.
- Unsweetened flax and hemp milk naturally contain more nutrition than nut milks, as well as beneficial fatty acids.
- Unsweetened soy milk is naturally the closest nutritionally to cow's milk. (I know that there has been some concern about soy consumption over the years, but if used in moderation like all other foods, it can be a good option.)
Bottomline ——> Your toddler should eat a range of dairy products to get lots of nutrition (and probiotics from foods like yogurt and aged cheeses) from their foods, not just milk. If they eat other dairy and don't like dairy, it's okay. You might want to consider alternating milk and water at meals and snacks throughout the day to ensure that your little one has space in their belly for food. And if you go with non-dairy milk, reach for unsweetened versions when possible to limit added sugars.
*And, as always, discuss any concerns with your pediatrician.*
In our house, we use whole milk for cereal and some mealtime drinks (and for coffee). We use plant milk—either unsweetened almond, that new Silk nut protein milk that I mentioned or flax—for smoothies and in most baking. And we incorporate yogurt and cheese to round out our dairy intake.
Questions? Comments? Let me know!