Getting kids to drink milk past the infancy period is the bane of many parents existance. Between true milk allergies, milk intolerance and kids who just don’t like milk it becomes a true uphill battle to get enough milk into kids past the age of about 18months or so. Some lucky parents may be able to push that to 2 years of age but then it drops off considerably.
The problem, of course, is bone health. Growing kids, boys and girls, need Vitamin D and calcium.
Did you know that the amount of calcium kids need increases with age? Just check out this chart by the National Institute of Child Health’s Milk Matters Campaign. Roughly put, infants need approximately 250mg of calcium, toddlers 500mg, elementary school kids (ages 4-8) 800mg, and tweens and teens 1300mg. An 8ounce glass of milk has about 300mg of calcium to give you a sense of serving size.
Vitamin D amounts are now double what they used to be to 400 IU a day. This is the amount found to prevent rickets, other soft tissue disorders and to make up for dietary deficiencies. Because are not drinking as much milk as they should be, most kids will need a supplement starting in infancy.
But what about milk? For the kids milk allergic and milk intolerant, there may be hope. A new study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and Duke University suggests that exposing these kids to small amounts of powdered milk can over come the allergy. The theory is that the allergy may have evolved from lack of intake and that slowly increasing the amount of milk again will allow the immune system to not over react as it does in an allery.
As for the kids who just don’t like milk, flavoring is the way to go. According to the New England Dairy Council, flavoring nonfact milk only increases intake and not BMI. That is, kids will not add calories to their diet if we add a bit of chocolate or strawberry flavoring to their daily milk!
Bone health is important and it must start young. It’s great that we have ways to help our kids keep their milk consumption up throughout childhood but we must be realistic that we are dealing with kids and they just may not be able to accomplish all their calcium and vitamin D needs in their diet. That’s ok and why supplements were invented!