‘Pie hole’, colloquial for one’s mouth, is believed to have evolved in the USA in the 1980s from the British expression ‘cake hole’ (coined in the mid 20th century). Pie hole refers to a mouth, as in: Shut your pie hole or, in this case: Put less in your pie hole.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Udder Confusion: Are Your Kids Having a Cow Over Milk?

Children and dairy. We've all been told, or heard a poor unsuspecting child told, to "drink your milk" or "you only get dessert if you finish your milk". But will this old-school method of "it's good for you, therefore you must do it" really get results? How, and why, do we get our kids to consume this creamy coloured concoction containing copious quantities of calcium?

Dairy products are one of the most complete foods for human nutrition. They are low cost and contain a great range of macro- and micronutrients featuring the likes of protein, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, zinc, riboflavin, thiamine, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6. In fact, a dairy free diet cannot provide adequate amounts of calcium without incorporating fortified foods or supplements.

Calcium is essential to achieve peak bone mass in childhood and adolescence, when bone mass rapidly increases. This helps stave off osteoporosis and reduce the incidence of bone fractures in later adulthood (both of which increase morbidity and mortality, and cost billions of dollars annually).

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends 2-3 dairy serves for children and 2.5-3.5 serves of dairy for adolescents. Data shows these recommendations are not being met, especially when looking at milk consumption. This is likely reflecting the replacement of milk by sweetened beverages like soda and juices. Over 80% of girls aged 12-16, and almost 50% of boys aged 12-16 are not meeting the estimated average requirements for calcium (which is 1,050mg/day).

Studies show that children who avoid dairy have increased bone fractures in childhood, compared to those who don't avoid it (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). There are numerous other studies that suggest the health benefits of dairy go beyond bone health. Dairy consumption plays a role in maintaining a healthy body weight, reducing the risk of chronic diseases and improving blood pressure control.

Currently, calcium recommendations for 9-18 year olds are 1,000-1,300mg/day. Models show that by increasing calcium consumption from 800mg/day to 1,300mg/day in adolescence, increases peak bone mass by 10%. This translates to a 13 year delayed onset of osteoporosis, and a decreased fracture risk in postmenopausal women by 50%. Now that's a back-breaker!
So, are parents doing the right thing by forcing their children to drink milk? That's somewhat of a loaded question. But the research indicates "no". Parents are responsible for buying and supplying food: ensuring healthy foods are in the house and available to eat at meals and snacks. 

BUT... and there's always a but. Research also shows that children of parents who drink milk and enjoy dairy products themselves, accept and eat more dairy in their own diet compared to the children of parents who do not partake in dairy devourment (1, 2, 3). Basically parents, this is your chance to get amongst it and show your kids how to make healthy choices. "Do as I do", rather than "do as I say". Let's not forget that mums and dads under 50 require 1,000mg of calcium per day too, which translates to 2.5 serves of dairy per day (1,300mg or 3.5-4 serves per day when over 50).
So, if your child doesn't like milk, or you're struggling to get them to eat dairy, it's up to you as the parent to get creative! Here are some tips:
  • Make a fruit smoothie together by cutting up fresh (or frozen) fruit and blending it with low fat milk and plain low fat yoghurt (add a teaspoon or two of cocoa powder if you like)
  • Freeze the above smoothie into icy-pole (popsicle) moulds for a hot day
  • Mix chopped fruit into low fat yoghurt, add a sprinkle of granola (spend an extra 30 seconds layering it into a glass or cup to make it look extra fancy)
  • Buy and offer low fat cheese as a snack
  • Melt a slice (or handful of shredded) low fat cheese on a slice of wholemeal bread with tomato, cucumber, avocado and/or sliced olives for a snack (or make it a toasted sandwich for a meal)
  • Mix a teaspoon of cocoa powder into low fat warm or cold milk and offer it as a snack (a whole glass of milk packs a protein punch for pint-sized pie holes and fills up little tummies very quickly, better to offer it as a snack rather than with a meal)


  1. Great tips on delicious dairy options when plain milk isn't the favorite choice!

  2. Thanks for your feedback, Kate (and thanks for reading!) Milk is the obvious, but not the only, calcium rich choice.

  3. Between my brother and I, we drank a gallon of milk a day as a child - a gallon! I think 65% of that was me consuming it, and 35% was him. We are both way taller than our parents though and when I was 5 years old and broke my arm....the doctor was amazed that it healed in half the time expected. He completely attributed that to my milk consumption. Even as an adult the only things I really like to drink are milk and water (besides of course the occasional glass of wine or a cocktail)! I thank my Mom for doing a great job making the milk readily available in our household. Thanks for this article Thalia!

    1. Hi and thanks for your comment. That's great you and your brother liked milk so much and that your mum made it available for you guys.

      I'm one of the kids who didn't like plain milk as a kid. But my mum also made sure we ate yoghurt and cheese (and milk on cereal) to ensure we got our calcium. Parents whose kids don't like plain milk have many simple and creative ways to get their kids enough calcium without forcing them to eat/drink things they don't like.