20150111 milk

As the second installment in the series about picky eaters, we are going to discuss those kiddos who are not big fans of drinking milk.  If you think about it, milk in some form provides sustenance to children from the day they are born, and human milk or infant formula is recommended as the sole source of nutrition in the first 4 months of life.  Now, if your child is going to become picky about their intake of milk, it is usually not until at least 1 year of age (although my son, Mr. L, is trying to challenge that notion at 10 months old, but more on that in another post).  So before we talk about ways to get creative with dairy, let’s understand why milk is such a vital part of the diet.

“There is an intricate relationship between calcium and vitamin D…your body requires vitamin D in order to absorb the majority of dietary calcium.”

Just as concrete provides the foundation for our homes, bones are the living structure of our bodies.  Bone mineral deposition begins in utero, and by 18 years of age, 90% of bone mass has been accrued with approximately half of this coming during the adolescent years.  While a great deal of our bone health is determined by genetics, nutrition, especially calcium and vitamin D intake, is one of the greatest modifiable factors of bone mass.  There is an intricate relationship between calcium and vitamin D…your body requires vitamin D in order to absorb the majority of dietary calcium.  While there are various foods that contain calcium and vitamin D, dairy is one food source that contains substantial amounts of both needed nutrients.  For example, one cup of milk contains 300 mg of calcium and 100 IU of vitamin D.

So exactly how much calcium and vitamin D are required on a daily basis to keep children’s bones nice and healthy?  The recommended daily allowance of these nutrients will vary based on age, but here are a few rough estimates.  When it comes to calcium, it is recommended that children 1-8 years of age have between 700-1000 mg daily while those 9 and older should get at least 1300 mg per day.  For vitamin D intake, 400 IU per day is recommended under 1 year of age and 600 IU per day thereafter.  There are, of course, cases where these recommendations will vary based on health conditions a child may have (ex: kidney diseases) or medications they may be taking, so make sure and discuss these situations with your pediatrician.

“Drinkable forms of yogurt, or as we call it “princess milk,” are especially popular in my household.”

Ok, so now you know why milk is important and how much your child should be getting, but what if your child decides that milk doesn’t do their body good?  Here are a few of my favorite tips and tricks to get them back on the cow train…

Make milk taste better or different- While you can add flavoring like chocolate or strawberry syrup to milk, this will add a good deal of sugar.  Instead, add fresh or frozen fruit to 8oz of milk and blend it in order to make a tasty milkshake.  Fruit has natural sugars that can transform plain milk into a frosty, tasty treat.  Add a swirly straw and you can call it a party!

Alternative forms of dairy-  While milk provides a good deal of calcium and vitamin D, other forms of dairy can provide equivalent amounts of these nutrients.  For example, 1 cup of yogurt or 1.5oz of cheese provide 300 mg of calcium and 100 IU of vitamin D, basically equivalent to 1 cup of milk.  Drinkable forms of yogurt, or as we call it “princess milk,” are especially popular in my household.  I also like tubes of yogurt such as the Chobani greek yogurt tubes which can be put in the freezer and then eaten for a great refreshing afternoon snack.  Finally, you can take a banana, coat it in yogurt, roll that in granola and then chill it in the freezer as a quick breakfast meal.

Fortified foods- If you have tried various forms of dairy and still have been unsuccessful with your little one, then look for calcium and vitamin D fortified foods.  Orange juice is probably one of the easiest of these foods to incorporate.  Eight ounces of fortified orange juice provides 500 mg of calcium and 100 IU of vitamin D. There are also certain breakfast cereals that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D as well, but just make sure to read those labels to ensure that you are not adding extra sugars as well.

Don’t forget sunlight and physical activity- UV B rays from sunlight are the major natural source of vitamin D for the body.  It is estimated that 5-15 minutes of sunlight on the arms and legs 2-3 times per week provides 3,000 IU of vitamin D.  Studies also point to weight bearing exercises such as jumping, skipping and dancing (also known as playtime to children) for 10 minutes three times a week increased bone mineral density.  So if you are keeping track, being outside and playing a great game of chase rather than sitting inside and playing a sedentary video game, can help to keep your bones healthy and strong.

Hopefully, these tips will help some of you with more particular kiddos when it comes to dairy.  As I discussed in my post last week (check it out here if you missed it), sometimes you have to try things more than once before kiddos will be excited to eat or drink it, so if you try a creative way to incorporate dairy and are met with resistance, never forget to try, try again.