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Busting the top 6 myths about serving milk to kids

Tara Vander Dussen for Progressive Dairy Published on 22 May 2020
Drinking milk

Editor’s note: Have you ever had a conversation where someone caught you off guard with a myth about milk? It’s especially hard to know how to respond when it involves feeding our children.

We asked “New Mexico Milkmaid” to provide the top myths she hears – and the talking points she uses – when discussing milk as part of childhood nutrition.

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1. Myth: All ‘milk’ is created equal

I see this all too often on mom/parenting groups when discussing what milk to offer young children. Parents think they can substitute any “milk” on the shelf for cow’s milk. But other “milks” don’t offer the same nutrition profile.

Cow’s milk is the only milk that has nine essential nutrients including protein, calcium, vitamin D, B12, healthy fats and more. Cow’s milk offers more nutrients that are naturally occurring than many of the other beverages on the market. Many of the alternative milk options have to be fortified with vitamins and minerals in order to try and stack up to real cow’s milk. Not to mention that cow’s milk is one of the least expensive choices. And for many parents on a budget, choosing foods that have the most nutritional value per dollar is important.

And the evidence proves cow’s milk is the best option for young children. According to an expert panel representing the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association, water and cow’s milk are the only drinks recommended for children aged zero to 5 years old. These four national health and nutrition organizations made their recommendations after reviewing comprehensive and consistent evidence-based data. Their consensus statement was that cow’s milk was healthier than other beverage options.

2. MYTH: Only skim milk is healthy for kids

Whole milk is back. The case for whole milk is stronger than ever. Fat is no longer the enemy. And most dietitians agree children need a healthy amount of fats for brain development. The fat found in cow’s milk is one of the most complex natural fats.

And the fat in whole milk can make you feel full longer, helping you avoid those mid-morning/mid-afternoon cravings. New studies have found that higher milkfat consumption can be associated with a lower risk of childhood obesity. Now we just need the U.S. Dietary Guidelines and school nutrition programs to catch up with this new research.

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3. MYTH: Chocolate milk is as unhealthy as soda

Chocolate milk is a great option for children for many different reasons. Flavored milk offers all the same nutrients as plain milk. Many parents worry about the sugar content in chocolate milk, but the truth is: Flavored milk makes up only 4% of the total added sugars in children’s diets.

Soft drinks account for about 40% of the added sugar in their diets. And children who drink flavored milk are less likely to drink soda. Plus children who drink milk tend to consume more valuable nutrients than children who don’t because they aren’t filling up on drinks with empty calories.

Also, chocolate milk is a great recovery drink for all athletes, including active children. Milk has been found to be more hydrating than water. And chocolate milk offers a great balance of protein and carbs for post-workout recovery.

Let’s be honest: Chocolate milk tastes great. And kids love drinking it. Anything that is a healthy option and easy to get my kids to drink is a win in my book.

4. MYTH: Lactose-intolerant children should avoid all dairy

Now more than ever before, there are tons of great lactose-free options on the market from milk to cheese to ice cream and more.

For milk, the entire line from fairlife is lactose-free, with many flavors and varieties geared toward children like the YUP! flavors. Organic Valley also has a lactose-free option as well as the Lactaid brand.

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For cheese, many cheeses are naturally low in lactose or lactose-free. So no need to search out specific brands – just stick to certain types of cheeses including cheddar, swiss and Parmesan. Aged, hard cheeses tend to be lower in lactose.

Similar for yogurt; yogurts tend to be easier for people to digest, especially yogurts with probiotics or live active cultures. This is because the live bacteria breaks down the lactose.

For ice cream, fairlife’s new ice cream line is lactose-free. And Breyer’s ice cream offers a few flavors that are lactose-free.

Again, there are tons of options for children who are lactose-intolerant. Lactose-intolerant does not have to mean dairy-free. Find the dairy products that work best for you.

5. MYTH: Milk causes early puberty

This is absolutely false. I feel like this one is worth saying more than once. Milk does not cause early puberty. I know this one is extremely scary for parents. But the current research shows that milk does not cause early puberty. There is no conclusive evidence to support the claim that milk changes the onset of puberty.

I think this myth stems from the misconception of hormones in the milk. Milk does have naturally occurring hormones, just like most foods, including fruits and vegetables. These hormones are broken down during digestion and pose no health risk to anyone.

6. MYTH: Milk causes congestion

I have heard this myth my whole life, and so have a lot of other moms. I have always been told that if a child has a runny nose or cough, don’t give them milk because it causes congestion. But this is completely false. Milk does not cause your body to produce more phlegm.

Milk can actually be beneficial for children to drink when they are sick. It can keep them hydrated and provide them with much-needed vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin D, which can improve immune function. So no need to shy away from milk when you have a sick kid.

I hope you find the above information valuable for when you hear similar myths about serving milk to children. end mark

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Follow Tara at her blog, New Mexico Milkmaid.

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