Disclosure: I am a spokesperson for the Milk Life campaign and was compensated to write this post to share science-based information with you. As always, opinions are my own.
Milk is milk. Or is it? These days, you can walk down your grocery aisle and find many different non-dairy milk options. You may wonder, “Do these non-dairy milk alternatives have the same nutrients as dairy milk?” With 8 grams of high-quality protein per 8-ounce glass, it always amazes me when friends tell me they’re no longer drinking milk or giving it to their children because they’re confused about the nutrition, antibiotics, cost, and more. However, without milk in their diet, it is hard for children to get the nutrients they need. So I’ve set out to bust 5 of the most common milk myths parents ask me about. Here’s what you should know:
- Milk is Not Easily Replaced with Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives
When it comes to non-dairy, plant-based milks, like almond or coconut milk, you may not know they don’t have the same naturally occurring nutrients as real dairy milk. Many contain a long list of ingredients, including added sugar, syrups, salt, thickeners and stabilizers while milk has just milk, vitamin A and D.
I have a general pet peeve that almond, hemp, rice, coconut, etc. milks are called “milk” at all simply because they’re white. I think “drink,” “beverage,” or something more descriptive would be better for those products. Don’t get me wrong, those drinks are fine to have occasionally and some even offer a small amount of nutrition but when you’re substituting it for cow’s milk and trying to make up the same nutrition as what you’re eliminating, those options just fall short.
Often I find that the fat percentage (skim, 2%, whole, etc.) confuses moms causing them to wonder if one type has more nutrition that the other. Regardless of the fat percentage, 8 ounces of cow’s milk rings in at 8 grams of high-quality protein versus just 1 to 2 grams per 8 ounces of some other milk alternative drinks. (Note that soy milk comes in at 8 grams per 8 ounces but naturally lacks many of the additional nutrients that milk offers like calcium.)
2. Milk is a Safe and Wholesome Choice for the Entire Family
Milk is a choice you can feel good about serving your family. Many people don’t realize that from the farm to the dairy plant to the grocery store, milk is one of safest foods you can buy. All varieties of milk – regular or organic, flavored or white – are wholesome and naturally nutrient-rich.
As noted above, when moms share reasons for no longer serving milk to their kids, it is because they are often confused about the safety of milk. Milk is one of the safest foods you can buy because it is highly regulated and held to very high standards. Milk is tested at least 9 times form the farm to the retailer to make sure there is no antibiotic residue. Did you know it is against the law for milk to have antibiotics in it? If you don’t want to take my word for it, listen to a farmer share why it is SO important to her that there are NO ANTIBIOTICS IN MILK. (Note-watch episode 2 of the Udder Truth by the National Dairy Council. Also note, I’m an ambassador for the National Dairy Council.)
3. Milk is the Top Food Source for Nutrients Missing in a Child’s Diet
It’s hard for children to get the nutrients they need to grow up strong without milk in their diets. As a mom, I trust milk for the protein and nutrients it provides. However, a sad fact is that many children fall short of four important nutrients cited by the Dietary Guidelines 2010 and Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report 2015 as nutrients of concern. Thankfully, milk offers three of these four nutrients–calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Plus, the American Academy of Pediatrics cites that milk is a great way for kids to get their bone-building nutrients – even more so than supplements or alternatives like vegetables or milk-like, fortified beverages.
And as an aside, if sugar is a concern, milk has no added sugar. The sugar you do find in white milk is from naturally occurring lactose, not added sugar. This is true if you buy whole, lowfat or fat free milk.
4. Milk is an Affordable, Nutritious Beverage
Milk is one of the most affordable ways to give kids the nutrition they need. Penny for penny, other beverages just don’t compare to the amount of nutrition you’re able to serve in one glass. In fact, milk rings in at around 25 cents per glass. Compare that to some of the beverages kids are drinking these days at a few dollars a piece and it really is an affordable option.
5. All People Need Milk–Not Just Babies
The Dietary Guidelines recommend three servings of lowfat or fat free milk and milk products each day for kids over the age of eight, and two and a half servings for children ages four to eight. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests growing adolescents may need as many as four servings for bone growth. But research has found a milk gap that gets wider from age 9 on (especially among adolescent girls and women) because of a stronger preferences for juice drinks, sports drinks, and soda.
As parents, it is important to remember that these drinks don’t provide the nine essential nutrients including 8 grams of protein to fuel our children, adolescents and ourselves.
Milk and My Family
So how do we get our milk in each day? For the girls, it is at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Sometimes it is in their cups and other times through the straw connected to their cereal bowl. Hey, don’t judge! Brent and I usually get in our milk servings by the glass, in oatmeal (make oatmeal with milk instead of water), in smoothies, or in our cereal.
Love milk and other dairy foods? Check out some of my favorites on my Delicious Dairy Pinterest Board.
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