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 Activities for Kids

Healthy Activities for Kids

Parents feel responsible for the future well-being of their children. Whether that well-being is defined as physical, emotional, or psychological, we know that healthy children – who learn good habits at a young age – are more likely than not to develop into healthy adults. Interestingly enough, a focus on physical well-being can lead to beneficial patterns of behavior in both the emotional and psychological realms. Feeling good physically makes anyone feel better about themselves in general, and as a parent, helping your child stay active and engaged in activities other than watching television or playing video games is an important goal to try to achieve.

Recommendations Regarding Physical Activity for Children

The American Heart Association recommends that children over the age of 2 participate in at least 60 minutes of enjoyable, moderate-intensity physical activities every day. Those physical activities should be developmentally appropriate and varied so that your child enjoys the experience and feels successful.

If 60 minutes per day seem too difficult because of your work schedule or your childcare logistics (and there seems to be barely enough time for your child to even do his or her homework), try to provide at least two 30-minute periods or four 15-minute periods in which they can engage in vigorous activities appropriate to their age and stage of physical and emotional development. 

Strategies to Increase Physical Activity in Children

A related strategy is to work on reducing sedentary time (e.g., watching television, playing computer video games or talking on the phone). First of all, try to actually track how much time your child spends now on the phone or siting in front of an electronic device. Then, set limits and begin to reduce the allotted time for these activities to create time in the day for being physically active. 

Don’t forget to ask your child what kind of physical activity they enjoy. Remember, being active is supposed to be FUN! Being physically active doesn’t have to be hard. Riding bikes with friends, jumping rope, playing hopscotch, and running a relay around the park all qualify as meaningful physical activity. Any game that gets your child up and moving is a great way to stay physically active and make their heart, bones, and muscles strong.

Also, remember that parents should try to be role models for an active lifestyle and teach your children through example that you, too, value increased physical activity. Show them that you value the importance of daily exercise. Take the stairs or park the furthest distance from the entrance to the store so that you can more steps in your day. Take the family for a weekend hike, ride your bicycles together, walk to the store after school, sign up for a parent/child yoga class or just shoot hoops in the park. Any of these options will provide you both not only with exercise but also valuable time together. You will both benefit!

The results should be almost immediate. You will begin to notice that your child demonstrates improved psychological well-being, more self-confidence and higher self-esteem. Feeling good physically benefits your child’s overall health – a worthy goal for any parent and one that you can readily achieve.

Research Says … Citrus Fruits Can Help Prevent Obesity!

Research Says … Citrus Fruits Can Help Prevent Obesity!

Proper consumption of citrus fruits can play a significant role in preventing obesity.

Citrus fruits are loved by kids for their refreshing and tangy sweetness, and they provide various health benefits. As a parent, you can encourage your kids to enjoy them even more, knowing how they may prevent obesity.

Certain citrus fruits, like lemons and oranges,can help keep obesity at bay. Because they are rich in flavonoids (the largest group of plant chemicals), citrus fruits help prevent fat from accumulating in the body.

What Studies Reveal about Citrus Fruits’ Role in Preventing Obesity?

According to research presented at ACS,the world’s largest scientific society, citrus fruits can help prevent obesity-related diseases of the heart and liver.

At that stage, citrus fruits are helpful as their flavanones protect healthy cells from being damaged while minimizing the risk of oxidative stress. They ease pressure on an already overworked immune system.

The research report was presented at ACS by a team of researchers from University Estadual Paulista in Brazil, who reported their findings from experiment on 50 mice. They kept the mice on flavanones from lemons, limes, and oranges for nearly one month. The mice on the flavanones diet showed less fat accumulation and less damage to the liver.Under these conditions, the body doesn’t acquire fat, keeping the subject in good shape. This means that citrus fruits are helpful even for those who are not obese but whose daily diet is highly caloric.

The researchers are hopeful that they “can use citrus flavanones, a class of antioxidants, to prevent or delay chronic diseases caused by obesity in humans” in the future.

Your Kids’ Diet Deserves Oranges and Lemons:

citrus-fruits-health-benefits-for-kids

 We need such studies to discover more anti-obesity foods because the USA is plagued with childhood obesity like never before. Obese children are prone to various health risks, including heart diseases, liver diseases, and diabetes. Therefore, it makes sense to add anti-obesity foods like oranges and lemons to your diet.

However,the form in which you consume these citrus fruits does matter. Consuming them in juice and pill form is beneficial, but consuming the whole fruit provides the maximum benefit.