Milk Options for Your Child

Milk Options for Your Child

It used to be that getting your child to drink milk every day was a “no brainer” in terms of what we believed were the long-term health benefits. Conventional wisdom maintained that every growing child needed calcium to build strong bones and teeth, and so parents worked hard to include multiple glasses of milk in their child’s daily diet.   Those children were served primarily whole cow’s milk, of course, because that was what was available. 

In the last few years, our milk choices have expanded exponentially. We now want more overall choices in our diets and are more concerned and knowledgeable about what is good for us. Many parents are also aware that dairy allergies are on the rise in America, and the conventional wisdom regarding the positive attributes of milk products is being challenged by major studies. In fact, researchers who once maintained that dairy milk was the healthiest food in the world are even exploring the possible association between dairy milk and several types of cancer.

The days when “milk was milk” appear to be over. Now there is a bewildering array of choices that confront parents in the grocery store. Let’s just start with the recent variations in cow’s milk available to any shopper.  A parent can now buy skim (1% or 2%), full fat, homogenized, organic, calcium-enriched and even lactose free milk from dairy cows. Regardless of your choice, remember that cow’s milk isn’t digested well by babies under 12 months, and it lacks essential nutrients supplied by breast milk and formula.  So hold off on introducing it until your baby’s at least a year old.

Milk Choices

But there are also many other milk choices now. One can buy milk from goats or sheep or drink milk made from almonds, rice, coconut, soy, hemp or flax. There is milk made from oats, cashews and even peas. And, if you add various flavorings or fortified elements to the mix, there are even more choices. It is confusing, to say the least. Here’s a summary of some of the most common ones available and some of the pros and cons of each to help you make sense of all the choices to be made in order to give your child the calcium and Vitamin D he or she needs.

Cow’s Milk

Cow’s milk (our dietary standby) is routinely pasteurized to kill potentially harmful bacteria. That milk will likely then be homogenized, a process in which the fat particles are mechanically broken down so they don’t separate, or it may be available non-homogenized, which results in an old-fashioned layer of rich cream on top. 

If cow’s milk remains your dairy drink of choice, it is now generally recommended that you choose whole milk rather than reduced fat options as the research is mixed as to the perceived benefits of low-fat milk unless children are overweight. Natural fats have been proven to be healthy and actually help to curb appetite so whole milk is a healthy option. Try to buy organic milk that comes from grass-fed cows who have not been fed synthetic hormones to increase their milk production or antibiotics to fight the diseases that come from being fed corn while standing around in feed lots. There is a direct connection between what a cow is fed and the quality of the milk produced.

Other Sources of Dairy-Based Milk

Some parents may choose to have their child drink sheep or goat’s milk as an alternative form of dairy. Because of the different protein and fat structures in goat or sheep’s milk, some people can tolerate them better than milk from cows. One drawback, however, may be the taste – these alternatives are stronger flavored than cow’s milk so your child may not like the taste. These milks are also generally more expensive and less easily found, especially when eating out, so those are also considerations.

If your child experiences symptoms such as loose stools, stomach cramping and gas, especially after eating foods containing dairy products, he or she may have problems digesting lactose, the main sugar in milk and milk products. If a doctor has found your child to be lactose intolerant, then you need to find a dairy milk alternative. Since lactose is present in ALL animal-sourced milks, sheep or goat’s milk is not an option. 

Plant-Based Milk

One healthy alternative is to serve your child soy milk, a highly-nutritional beverage made from an extraction of soybeans, water, sweetener (usually), oil, thickeners and some added vitamins and minerals. One controversy associated with soy, however, is that it contains phytoestrogens, plant-based estrogens that mimic the female sex hormone estrogen. Research has been mixed as to the potential risks or benefits of soymilk due to the presence of these estrogens. Soymilk is also relatively low in protein and most of its nutrients come by way of fortifying additives. So, if you go soy, look for non-GMO varieties and add additional protein elsewhere in your child’s diet.

Serving your child milk that comes from almond or rice can also provide a nutritional option. Almond milk – or other “nut” milks like those made with macadamias or cashews – has a light nutty flavor as a result of mixing roasted blended nuts with water so children usually like it. Rice milk is the blandest in flavor of all the milks, which is to some people’s preference. Using it in a smoothie makes it an instant favorite.

Rice milk, made from one of the world’s most common and frequently cultivated grains, is typically found at a cheaper price point than other dairy-free milks. Naturally low in protein, however, both almond and rice milk typically must have other nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D added. Coconut milk presents the same dilemma. In general, these plant-based milks are low in protein and calcium and have to be fortified in order for your child to get the nutrients he/she needs. And, as when you rely on soymilk, it is a good idea to add additional protein elsewhere in your child’s diet.

Hemp milk is a lesser-known option. Its rich Omega-3 and 6 essential fatty acids, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous, its low allergen risk, and its taste and texture make it an appealing alternative to dairy. Hemp milk is made by grinding and soaking hemp seeds in water. It has less protein than cow’s milk and can be hard to find as well as expensive.  There is none of the active ingredient found in marijuana leaves, by the way. 

Flax milk is rich in a group of Omega-3 fatty acids which have been consistently shown in studies to help offset the effects of inflammation on the body. Flax milk has just as much calcium in it as regular milk, making it a sensible option for people who wish to maintain healthy, adequate levels of calcium.  And best of all, it is actually quite creamy and delicious and blends well with smoothies.

Milk is Essential, No Matter Its Form

Whatever your choices for your child, milk is still essential. Even though recent research has produced mixed results, there is still widespread agreement about the importance of some form of milk in every child’s diet. Strong bones are the results of genetics, physical activity and calcium. Since milk is the number one source of calcium, it is essential for your child. And almost all types of milk – whether dairy-based or plant-based-  are fortified with other essential nutrients, making milk a mainstay of a healthy diet for your child.

Healthy Eating Tips: Which Foods Can Benefit Your Mental Health—and How

Healthy Eating Tips: Which Foods Can Benefit Your Mental Health—and How

You might have heard the old saying, “You are what you eat.”

Eating healthy food is not only beneficial for your body, but also essential for your mental and emotional well-being. Several studies have demonstrated the relationship between “food” and “mood.” Many healthy foods have also proved to be beneficial to mental and emotional health.

Sadly, the role of nutrition in mental health has been under-recognized by the health industry for many years. Thanks to the latest research, the connection between nutrition and emotional health is finally pushing its way into the mainstream.

How do certain foods work to improve your mood?

Dr. Mercola clarifies this relationship:

In a very real sense, you have TWO brains—one in your head, and one in your gut—both of which are created from the same tissue during fetal development.

These two systems are connected via your vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem down to your abdomen. It is now well established that the vagus nerve is the primary route your gut bacteria use to transmit information to your brain.

Maintaining optimal gut health is therefore paramount when trying to address your mental state.

Understanding the role of nutrition in mental and emotional health is important because one in five people suffers from depression, anger, and anxiety. Those mental problems can be minimized by ingesting certain minerals—like iron, Vitamin B12, and calcium.

A few changes in your diet may be effective at alleviating the symptoms of mental illness, mood swings, and other disorders.

However, you cannot just eat anything, whether it be a big, juicy hamburger or a slice of spicy pizza. Consume only healthy foods, rich in nutrients that benefit your mental health. Those foods are listed below:

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

It is interesting to note that New Zealand reports having a 60 times more depressive population than does Japan; the Japanese diet is rich in cold water fish, rich in Omega 3 fatty acid.

Several studies have proved that Omega 3 fatty acids are beneficial for controlling psychiatric disorders, like bipolar disorder and depression. Sadly, our standard American diet lacks these essential nutrients, and depression has become a common mental illness in the US.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that include EPA and DHA. Studies have found that EPA affects the blood flow, hormones, and the immune system, influencing brain functions. Moreover, DHA facilitates the processes of shaping and transmitting electrical signals to the brain.

Great sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids are salmon, cod liver oil, walnuts, tuna, white fish, egg yolks, hemp seeds, and sardines.

Whole Grains

Whole grains are counted among the best brain foods for many reasons. Enriched with glucose, they deliver glucose to the brain. Plus, they are helpful in reducing mood disorders by regulating spikes in blood sugar. Therefore, add brown rice and whole grain cereals and pastas, and granary bread to your diet to reap these rewards for your brain.

Dark Green Leafy Vegetables

Dark Green Leafy Vegetables

Green leafy veggies are rich in vitamin E and folate, which are believed to be good for improving memory. The folate level in green veggies like kale, collard greens, spinach, and broccoli in turn lowers the level of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine is the amino acid that, in excess, can damage nerve cells in the brain.

Fermented Foods

Several fermented foods—like yogurt, olives or pickles—contain probiotics, which are healthy bacteria; probiotics have been found helpful in combatting cases of stress and anxiety. They also affect the GABA neurotransmitter.

Adding these foods to your diet is essential to your mental health. However, they don’t serve as alternatives to medications and other treatments for mental disorders. In addition to improving your diet, you must consult your doctor if you are suffering from any mental disorder.

It is important – and tasty! – to begin to integrate these healthy foods into your meals for your physical health and, just as importantly, your vibrant mental health.

Weight-Related Questions to Ask the Pediatrician (by Your Child’s Age)

Weight-Related Questions to Ask the Pediatrician (by Your Child’s Age)

With child obesity increasing at an alarming rate, consulting your kid’s doctor is as important as adopting a healthy lifestyle for your children. It should be the first step in preventing childhood obesity. Most parents avoid discussing their children’s weight issues with doctors if they are overweight themselves. Surprisingly, some pediatricians don’t think it’s necessary to talk about it as they feel that doing so may hurt the parents’ self-esteem, especially when the parents’ self-esteem centers around their children.

(more…)

How Can Parents Teach Their Children about Healthy Food?

How Can Parents Teach Their Children about Healthy Food?

Parenting is overwhelming enough, but it becomes even more challenging when you are discouraged by your kids’ food choices. Every parent has a common story to tell about how their kids shy away from green veggies or sort the carrots out of the soups. At the same time, those kids are quite fond of cookies, ice cream, burgers, and chips. We all know very well how tough it is to have a picky eater for a child.

Most children simply hate healthy foods in a world where they’re surrounded by convenient fast foods. As a result, obesity has been increasing at an alarming rate, posing big health risks such as asthma, bone and joint problems, and even cancer.

(more…)