Milk and milk products for children: you must be aware of this

Rhineland-Palatinate. Milk and milk products are important sources of calcium. Calcium ensures good growth of bones and teeth and prevents bone diseases in old age. The Consumer Center in Rhineland-Palatinate has put together how much milk and dairy products are recommended for your child.

The essentials in a nutshell:

  • Milk and milk products contain a lot of calcium.
  • It is important for the growth of bones and teeth. In addition, it prevents bone diseases in the elderly.
  • Three portions a day are recommended, about a glass of milk, a little yoghurt and a slice of cheese.
  • Products such as strawberry milk or fruit yoghurt often contain too much sugar.
  • A pure vegan diet is not recommended for children. But plant-based alternatives to milk can supplement the diet.

From 1 to 18 years: This is how large portions and quantities can be

Three portions of milk or milk products daily are recommended for children from one year. One portion corresponds to a small glass of milk or a small cup of yoghurt, quark, sour milk or buttermilk. The portion size depends on the child’s age. You can use the following quantities as a rough guide:

Age in years Guideline values ​​milk per day

1 – 3 300 milliliters/gram
4 – 6 350 milliliters/gram
7 – 9 420 milliliters/gram
10 – 12 470 milliliters/gram
13 – 14 490 / 600 milliliters / grams (girls / boys)
15 – 18 520/680 milliliters/gram (girls/boys)
from 18   300 milliliters / gram
(Source: Kersting/Kalhoff/Luecke, From Nutrients to Food and Meals: The Concept of an Optimized Mixed Diet for Children, Current Nutritional Medicine, 42 (2017), p.304 ff.)

In addition to the important calcium and high-quality protein, milk and dairy products also contain fat. Drinking milk should therefore not be seen as a drink, but as part of a meal or as a snack. Choose low-fat products, such as milk or yogurt with 1.5 percent fat.

If children prefer to drink whole milk, you should save fat in other meals. Low-fat milk and milk products also have the same protein, vitamin and mineral content as whole milk. Skimmed milk and yogurt with only 0.3 percent fat or less are not recommended. The strong skimming not only removes the fat, but also some of the valuable ingredients.

Read here how milk is produced and processed.

Cheese is of course also a dairy product and also provides a lot of calcium. When choosing, you should give preference to varieties with a maximum fat content of 30 percent fat (or 45 percent fat in dry matter). A serving of cheese is a slice the size of your child’s palm.

Although cream is also a dairy product, its high fat content places it at the top of the food pyramid, i.e. among the extras. This means that it should only be used occasionally.

Caution with raw milk: Raw milk that has not been heated is unsuitable for children. It can contain pathogens and thus cause foodborne infections. Be sure to cook in advance! Cheeses made from raw milk are also not suitable. You can recognize raw milk cheese by the mandatory message “made with/from raw milk”.

Dairy products especially for children – does it make sense?

The road along the refrigerator counter seems endless, so enormous is the selection of yogurt, mixed milk drinks, quark, pudding, etc. In particular, the selection of products specially adapted to children is almost unmanageable. Ready-made fruit yogurt or mixed milk drinks often contain a lot of sugar, other additives and usually only have a very small amount of fruit. They belong to sweets and are not a healthy snack. As children get used to this taste, they are more likely to reject conventional dairy products.

You make a good choice with products without additives, i.e. milk, natural yoghurt, quark or sour milk. If your children don’t like to eat them straight, you can easily spice them up at home with some fruit, fruit puree or herbs. Even a small teaspoon of jam now and then can give more flavor. Check out this article for more information on baby food.

If your child refuses to drink milk, cocoa can be an alternative. However, also pay attention to the sugar content here. A teaspoon of instant cocoa can contain up to 4 grams of sugar. This corresponds to 1.5 sugar cubes. It is better to mix your own cocoa from milk (with 1.5 percent fat) and pure cocoa and less sugar.

Plant-based alternatives – are they suitable for children?

A pure vegan diet is generally not recommended for children, as an adequate supply of some nutrients is very challenging, especially during the period of growth and development. If you as a parent decide to have a vegan diet for your child, seek medical and nutritional advice. Have your child’s nutritional intake checked regularly

If children eat the recommended 3 portions of milk and milk products daily, they are already sufficiently supplied. You can then supplement the menu with milk substitutes or plant-based alternatives to yoghurt, cream or quark, for example made from oats or soya. Here, too, you must pay attention to the sugar content and unnecessary additives. Plant-based alternatives with added calcium can occasionally replace a serving of milk. /p.s

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