Should I let my child drink chocolate milk? Is this really part of a healthy diet? Many parents ask these questions.
Nutrition professionals agree that calcium is necessary for all ages, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
Researchers examined the dietary intakes of 7,557 children and adolescents ages 2 to 18 and compared body mass index scores (measurement of weight for height) of those who drank either flavored or plain milk to those who did not consume milk at all.
Children who drank milk of any type had comparable or lower BMI scores than those who drank no milk at all. Also, those children who milk had significantly higher intakes of crucial vitamins and minerals needed for growth such as Vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium.
Parents need to be concerned with calcium intake, not so much about the sugar in flavored milk.
This study indicates that children and adolescents are at no increased risk of unhealthy weight gain if they consume milk on a daily basis as part of a well-balanced diet. Adding flavor to milk is safe and does not lead to a higher intake of added sugars, as compared to those who drank plain milk, according to this study.
Many youth are consuming high amounts of soda and sweet beverages each day, including fruit punch, diet cola, regular cola, sports drinks and orange juice. It is essential that children, teens and adults consume enough calcium-rich food and beverages.
Milk and dairy products provide calcium along with other needed nutrients, which help children grow strong bones and teeth. If sufficient calcium is consumed daily, the body can store calcium. For youth, this storing of calcium is important to prevent osteoporosis.
Parents need not worry about lactose intolerance as there are many milk products. Most soy milk products contain added calcium, as does some orange juice.
Getting enough calcium each day is possible by following the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Everyone needs at least three servings of low-fat/fat-free milk or milk products (yogurts and cheese) every day to meet their calcium needs, which many of our children are not getting.
Whether the milk is plain or flavored, it is an excellent source of calcium, vitamins and minerals.
Source: Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station
Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290.