Hate drinking milk? Maybe that's what your poor unsuspecting child, niece, nephew or other young relation tells you. Many parents worry about their children drinking their mandated allotment of daily cow juice. More on that shortly. Research shows we are putting our children at risk when they stray from milk drinking, but maybe, just maybe there's more to the story...
Vitamin D is a very active area of research due to it's role in human health which, we are learning, is more than what we once thought. The sunshine vitamin plays a well known part in bone health: allowing our bodies to absorb calcium. Mounting evidence also shows its importance in the immune system: clearing dangerous proteins from the brain - more on that here.
'Non-cow milk' is increasingly readily available and has become something of a fad. These milks include oat, goat, almond, rice and soy milks.
study investigated a group of over 2,500 children aged 1-6 and found:
- Over 10% of children regularly consumed non-cow milk beverages
- Children exclusively consuming non-cow milk were were over twice as likely to be vitamin D deficient (blood levels of vit D <50nmol/L)
- Children drinking both cow and non-cow milk were at greater risk of low vitamin D: every additional cup of non-cow milk corresponded with a 5% decrease in blood vitamin D levels
In the US and Canada, cows milk must be fortified (40IU/100ml or greater) and research shows cows milk is the predominant dietary source of vitamin D for young children. But why?
America has a somewhat disturbing culture of 'child food'. Since living in the US, I've witness the prescribed, and strictly enforced allotment of cow juice for children at mealtimes. Simultaneously though, children are given a meal of mac and cheese; breaded, battered and deep fried chicken nuggets; or unidentifiable sticks of breaded, battered, deep fried fish; or other meals mostly devoid of nutrients necessary for growth, development and developing healthy habits.
That scenario is akin to an obese person getting a combo meal of a BigMac, large fries and a diet coke.
I'm yet to see a parent join their child and both drink a cup of milk together (which, I might add, is an excellent source of protein, calcium and vitamin D that is just as important for adults who want healthy bones when they get old). Parental hypocrisy at its best.
Perhaps contrary to popular parental belief, vitamin D is found in other foods including:
- 3oz/85g of salmon (~450IU of vitamin D)
- 3oz/85g drained, canned tuna (~150IU of vitamin D)
- Eggs (yolk)
- Beef liver
- Fortified foods like orange juice, some yoghurts, some cereals, margarine (always look for ones with 0 trans fat and no hydrogenated oils)
A child requires 600IU/day of vitamin D. Eating a combination of fish, eggs and choice fortified foods throughout the week will get them there without forcing milk down their throats. It'll also remove this ridiculous notion of 'child food'. Perhaps children eating weekly meals of fish, omelets, tuna sandwiches, fruit and yoghurt and other such goodies will improve the outlook of health in this glorious country.
Take home messages:
- Vitamin D is important: For children and adults
- Don't force your kids to drink milk if they don't like it
- If you've got an outlier child who loves milk, give it to them as a between-meal snack rather than filling up their little tummies when you want them to eat a meal
- Ditch the dated and delirious notion that children need 'child food'
For more info on kids, dairy, calcium and snacks, check out:
Udder Confusion: Are Your Kids Having a Cow Over Milk?
Lunch Boxes For Picky Pie Holes
We Came, We Snacked, We Conquered
We Came, We Snacked, We Conquered: A Big Day Out