Drink more milk, eat more yoghurt and enjoy more cheese! These are words I have used thousands of times over the last 14 years, to families whose children are not meeting their daily requirements of calcium-rich foods. It seems that after children are weaned from breast milk or formula, there is a sharp decline in the emphasis on “milk” and most parents tend to be more concerned about fruit and vegetable intake. The reality is that all of these foods are important.
Most parents are surprised to learn that a child between the ages of 1 and 3 years needs two serves of dairy per day, and this increases to two to three serves for the 4 to 8 year olds, three to four serves for 9 to 11 year olds, and then four serves for adolescents in the 12 to 18 year age group (one quarter of all adult bone mass is laid down in the “bone bank” from 12 to 14 years for girls and 13 to 15 years for boys). A “serve” is equivalent to 250mL milk, 200g yoghurt or 40g (2 slices to cover bread) of cheese. Generally, children over the age of two are recommended to have reduced fat dairy options.
A recent paper on dairy intake in Australian children, released by CSIRO Food and Nutritional Sciences, stated that whilst over 84% of Australian children (2 – 16 years) consume some dairy food, most over 4 years consumed less than two serves daily, with girls faring more poorly than boys. We need to change this as not only does dairy provide the most abundant source of calcium, it is also a terrific source of high quality protein which helps muscles grow and develop and keeps us fuller for longer. Add to this a well balanced mixture of carbohydrates, vitamins A, B12 and B2 (riboflavin), magnesium, potassium, zinc, and phosphorus and it really does pack a powerful punch! So, think milk for all children, not just babies and toddlers!
Absolutely, growing bones need calcium to make them strong, but did you know that calcium also aids good dental health with milk being recommended by dentists to reduce the risk of tooth decay? Milk has even been touted as the natural “sports drink” for recovery after exercise, due to its energy-giving carbohydrates and muscle-building proteins as well as fluid to rehydrate. Dairy is also great for kids’ healthy blood, eyesight, nerve and muscle function, and the immune and nervous system.
Top ways to make dairy irresistible for kids!
By Alison Walsh BSc (Physiol), BA (Psych), M.Nutr & Dietetics, Grad Cert Sports Nutr, Cert of Paed Nutr & Dietetics, APD
Editor’s note: Parents know dairy is an important part of a healthy, balanced diet but, at times, can feel uncertain about how much dairy their children should be consuming each day. To shed some light on the topic and for tips that will encourage kids to consume dairy, we asked dietitian Alison Walsh to share her expert opinion with us.