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Can the Soda, Drink Milk Instead

Milk's many nutrients make it the best choice of beverage for children (and adults). But in an alarming trend, soda and fruit-flavored drinks are replacing milk, even in the diets of young children. According to surveys in recent years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, children under the age of 5 are drinking more soda, while the amount of milk they drink is decreasing.

Other national surveys find that children who are not getting enough calcium are those with the fewest dairy foods in their diets. Vegetables have some calcium. But your child would need to eat six cups of broccoli to get the calcium in 1 cup of milk.

The Scoop on Calcium Fortified Foods

It seems like every month there's another new calcium-fortified product-orange juice, cereal bars, fruit drinks, and more. Are these good sources of calcium? Nutrition experts encourage consumption of calcium through dairy products.

This form of calcium is easier for the body to absorb. Plus the vitamin D in milk helps the process. However, calcium-fortified foods are a reasonable alternative if your child is allergic to milk protein or lactose intolerant. Get your doctor's advice before removing dairy products from your child's diet.

Whole, Skim, Or Choose A Percent?

All types of milk, whether whole, skim (fat free), 1%, or 2%, have the same amounts of vitamins and minerals. All are healthy choices for children older than 2 years. Children between ages 1-2 years should only have whole milk. Once a child reaches her second birthday, you can gradually switch her to drinking reduced-fat milk.

The Protein Group Is Important Too!

The Protein group includes meat, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, and nuts. Feel comfortable offering Protein-group foods that are family favorites. Chopped peanuts in a stir fry, pinto beans in vegetable soup, or hummus on crackers all provide protein. You may need to cook meat a bit longer than you prefer as your child gets used to its texture and taste. Let your child choose how much meat to eat (or none at all). Remember that young children's appetites vary from day to day. With time, they develop a taste for most foods.

Prevent Choking Cut meat into very small pieces for young children. Chunks of beef, hot dog, and whole nuts can cause choking. Never leave your child alone when he or she eats.

Tips

Tips on Raising a Milk Drinker

Provide a small measuring cup partially filled with milk as your child's very own "pitcher." If there are spills, they'll be small ones.
Be a role model and drink milk yourself.
Offer your child milk at every meal. Let him decide how much to drink.
Keep milk cold. It tastes better.

If Your Child Just Won't Drink Plain Milk...

It's OK to offer chocolate or strawberry-flavored milk. You can also make your own flavored milk by blending in fresh or frozen strawberries or a fresh banana. Add a couple of ice cubes to be sure it's cold.

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