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  • Kids Under 5 Need to Avoid These Types of Milk, According to New U.S. Health Guidelines

    This type of milk does not contain nutrients kids need, like vitamin D and calcium.
    by Kate Borbon .
Kids Under 5 Need to Avoid These Types of Milk, According to New U.S. Health Guidelines
PHOTO BY iStock
  • New recommendations from various health groups say that children under 5 years old should not be given plant-based milk or milk made from rice, oats, coconut, and other blends.

    On Wednesday, September 18, 2019, “Healthy Drinks, Health Kids,” a project by Health Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in the United States, published a new set of recommendations of what children should drink in their first years of life. The guidelines were reached through consensus by four organizations: the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Heart Association.

    According to groups’ recommendations, children under age 5 years should not drink plant-based milk because it lacks the nutrients they need for early development, such as vitamin D and calcium. Fortified soy milk is the only plant-based milk recognized as an acceptable substitute for dairy milk, says a fact sheet from Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids.

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    “In the last five to 10 years there has been an explosion of interest in plant-based milk,” Megan Lott, deputy director of Healthy Eating Research, who also helped in developing the guidelines, said, as CNN reports. “More and more parents are turning to them for a variety of reasons, and there’s a misconception that they are equal somehow to cow or dairy milk, but that’s just not the case.”

    However, these guidelines do not apply to children who are allergic to dairy or cow milk, lactose intolerant, or observing certain religious rules or a vegan diet at home. In this case, parents may consider giving their child unsweetened and fortified plant-based milk. But before giving these beverages, make sure to talk to your doctor to find out which milk substitute you can use to make sure your child’s nutritional needs are met.

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    Other drinks children should avoid

    The recommendations also cite other beverages to avoid for children ages 5 years and below. These include flavored milk (e.g. chocolate milk, strawberry milk), “transition or weaning” formulas (sometimes called toddler milk, growing up milk, or follow up formulas), low-calorie sweetened drinks (e.g., ‘diet’ or ‘light’ drinks), sugar-sweetened drinks (e.g., fruit drinks, soda, sports drinks), and drinks with caffeine (e.g., soda, coffee, tea, energy drinks).

    Lott shared, “We are finding more and more of these artificial sweeteners showing up in food marketed to young children, and there is no research on these substitutes that show they cause harm, but there’s really no research showing that they are safe.”

    Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids also discussed several guidelines regarding plain, pasteurized cow’s milk with no added caloric sweeteners, low-calorie sweeteners, or flavorings. Varieties of this beverage include whole milk, reduced-fat (2%), low-fat (1%), and skim (fat-free).

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    The recommendations for milk are the following:

    • Infants less than 12 months old should only drink breast milk or infant formula.
    • Children 12 to 24 months old can be introduced to plain, pasteurized cow’s milk. If there is a family history of obesity or heart disease, reduced-fat or low-fat milk may be considered in consultation with a pediatrician. The recommended amount is 2-3 cups a day.
    • At 2 years of age, children should transition to plain, pasteurized fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) milk. The recommended amount is 2 cups a day for children ages 2 to 3 years and up to 2.5 cups a day for children ages 4 to 5 years.

    Again, milk should be served in a cup and only during meals or snacks. If your child likes to carry a covered cup or sippy cup wherever she goes, the group recommends that the best drink to have in it is water.

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