Ask The Expert is a weekly column on Littlestomaks.com. The idea is to have a reader-submitted question answered by a nutrition expert or a pediatrician. Feel free to submit your question in the comments section below.
This week, Registered Dietitian Jill Castle suggests a few alternatives to cow’s milk for your toddler if you are concerned about introducing dairy products.
|Jill Castle, MS RD LDN
Question: I am hesitant to give cow milk to my 15 month old daughter because I have heard that there are many problems with dairy. What other options do I have?
Choosing which milk to feed your baby is an important decision, and one that requires thoughtful consideration. With the plethora of milks available on the commercial market, it is often confusing to know which milk is appropriate for your child. And many of these milks advertise their health benefits and are largely targeted at the adult. The younger toddler (aged 1-2 years) continues to have unique nutritional requirements that are different from those of older children and adults, such as higher fat requirements, adequate protein and vitamins, and sufficient calories for growth. Additionally, liquid milk still provides the majority of nutrition (up to 60-70% of total caloric intake) in a given day for the younger toddler.
After a year of drinking breast-milk or infant formula, most emerging toddlers are ready to make a transition. The gold standard, whole cow’s milk, has been the fluid milk of choice for many years, and many generations, and remains so in the eyes of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Whole cow’s milk, when included with a variety of foods, can support the growth and development of children over one year of age. Whole cow’s milk contains about 150 calories per 8 ounces and is a good source of calcium, protein, fat, and Vitamins A and D.
Soy milk is an alternative to cow’s milk, readily available, and is utilized frequently for children who are intolerant or allergic to cow’s milk, or who are following a vegan diet. Soy milk is fortified with calcium and Vitamin D, and can provide adequate protein and calories for the growing toddler. Soy milk is processed to match the nutrient content of cow’s milk and often, sugar is added to mask the bitter tasted of the soy bean. Research indicates that ~40% of children who are allergic to cow’s milk are also allergic to soy milk.
Rice milk is used in children who are allergic to both cow and soy milks, and also may be used with the vegetarian child. Caution should be used when choosing rice milk for the younger toddler, as it contains low amounts of protein, fat, and calories. Some research has shown evidence of growth failure in young children consuming rice milk due to its poor protein, fat, calorie, and vitamin/mineral content. If it is necessary for your young toddler to consume rice milk, be sure to consult with your Registered Dietitian (RD) or your pediatrician (MD) so that proper attention can be given to assuring your child’s liquid and solid food intake will meet their nutritional needs.
Hemp milk is yet one other milk available in stores. Hemp milk is a grain milk, from the cannabis plant, and contains many nutrients found in cow’s milk. The flavored hemp milks (150 calories/ounce) are similar in caloric content to whole cow’s milk and soy milk, however, the unflavored variety (100 calories/ounce) is considerably lower in calories. Protein and fat content are lower than cow’s milk, but higher than other grain milks. Hemp milk can be a nutritious part of your toddlers diet when coupled with a variety of foods.
Nut milks, such as almond milk, also tend to be deficient in protein and fat when compared to the unique nutrient needs of the younger toddler. Caution should be used in introducing nut milks to the toddler before the age of three, due to risk of allergic reaction.
Young toddlerhood is an important time for establishing healthy eating habits and is also a critical time for adequate nutrition, specifically fat, protein, and calories. As the younger toddler is in the process of being introduced to new foods and establishing eating patterns, a nutritious milk is an important component of the daily diet. Evidence of steady growth and acceptance of a variety of solid foods are good indicators that your young toddler is receiving adequate nutrition from all food sources.
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Disclaimer – Information provided in Ask The Expert column on Littlestomaks.com is intended to give you general guidance on a question related to toddler nutrition. It is not meant to be treated as medical advice. You are welcome to contact this expert for a detailed consultation on your specific situation to determine what actions, if any, you should take regarding nutrition and health of your toddlers. We do not recommend you to take any action based solely on the information presented in this column. Experts have agreed to provide their professional opinion on toddler nutrition related questions on a voluntary basis and no compensation is offered to them by Littlestomaks.com.