Time to get moo’vin!

September 04, 2014

As we get back into the swing of the school year, it’s time to think about your child’s dairy consumption. We all know calcium is an important mineral that helps build strong bones during childhood and prevents osteoporosis later in life, but is your child getting enough? If you can’t remember the last time he/she had 8oz of milk, now is the perfect time for some dairy 101!

First, let’s start with defining what counts as dairy. Besides milk, there are four other main dairy products: cheese, milk-based desserts, yogurt, and calcium-fortified soymilk. Aim to select low fat or fat-free options and those without added sugars – think plain yogurt over flavored. Feel free to start with a plain base and then have your child add his/her favorite fruits for some added flavor.

While a variety of foods fall within each dairy sub-category (think provolone and mozzarella cheese), it’s important to note that all milk-based foods are not created equal – some foods such as cream cheese, cream, and butter are not included in the dairy group. So make note!

As for all food groups, recommended intake amounts vary by age and gender. To make things simple, all you really need to remember is the below.

  • Children 2 to 3 years old: 2 cups
  • Children 4 to 8 years old: 2.5 cups
  • Girls and Boys 9 to 18 years old: 3 cups

When we think about cups, it’s an easy measure to conceptualize for some items more so than others. With milk and yogurt, it’s an equal 1 to 1 ratio: 1 cup equals 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of yogurt. For cheese, it requires a little more thought. For example, 1 slice of hard cheese equals ½ cup of milk and ½ cup of cottage cheese equals ¼ cup of milk. For more details on what counts as a cup, click here.

If your child is lactose intolerant, it means he/she cannot digest the milk sugar lactose due to low levels of the enzyme lactase. While there is no cure for lactose intolerance, individuals find most relief in choosing lactose-free or reduced lactose options when choosing dairy.

Just because the milkman may not come around and leave a jug on our doorsteps these days, that doesn’t mean we should stop having dairy! As the summer temps start to wane and cooler breezes make there way in, it’s the perfect time to swap the ice cream for hot chocolate...made with low-fat milk of course!

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