Dairy products are an essential part of our daily diet, especially for kids who are currently at, or reaching the peak of bone formation. The USDA is pressing for parents and children over age 2 to switch from whole dairy to low-fat or fat-free dairy. With so many dairy options available, parents need to learn why low-fat and fat-free dairy is the healthier option.
What is a Dairy Product?
Dairy products include milks, cheese, yogurt, calcium-fortified soy beverages and much more! Check here for a more extensive list.
Don’t avoid whole milk altogether! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 1-2 years consume whole milk. During this period of rapid growth, fats in whole milk play an important role in children’s brain development. After age 2, parents are encouraged to switch their children over to low-fat or fat-free milks.
Why Choose Low-Fat Dairy for Children Over Age 2?
Whole dairy products can be high in saturated fats, which can increase the body’s levels of “bad” cholesterol (low density lipoproteins - LDL). Saturated fats are fats that are solid at room temperature, such as butter, which can raise the body’s LDL levels. Together, consumption of saturated fat and LDL cholesterol can increase your child’s long-term risk of heart disease. Cholesterol builds up in your arteries over time, eventually clogging them and preventing blood flow.
What is Considered Low-Fat and Fat-Free?
Whole = 3.25% fat
Reduced-Fat = 2% fat
Low-Fat = 1% fat
Fat-free (Non-fat, skim) = 0% fat
What about Chocolate and Flavored Milks?
White milk is always the best. While chocolate and flavored milks have the same amount of calcium as white milk, they can also include added sugar. For picky eaters, flavored milks may be the way to go, but remember to pick low-fat options!
How Much Dairy do My Kids Need?
The USDA recommendations vary with age:
Age Daily Recommendation
2-3 years ………….... 2 cups
4-8 years ……………. 2.5 cups
9+ years ……………... 3 cups
Bertilia Yee-Ngar Trieu and Tisa Hill, Cornell University