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What are the benefits of milk and what makes it the most wholesome food for your toddler. Here are some surprising benefits of milk for children, that you didn't know.
Milk and dairy products play a key role in your child's growth and development. The United Nations recognizes June 1 as World Milk Day. The main objective of celebrating this day is to promote the importance of milk and milk products, across the globe.
If your child is a picky eater, he may not receive all the nutrients from the diet he consumes. Therefore, supplementing his diet with a glass of milk is a good idea. Milk contains a lot of important nutrients such as protein and calcium that are essential for growing children.
However, if your child shows an allergy or intolerance to milk, you can switch him to a milk alternative such as soy milk or other foods which contain these essential nutrients.
There are several varieties of milk you can give your child based on her age. These are:
For infants (babies under 12 months of age):
For babies above 1 year of age:
Milk is a well-accepted and wholesome food for all age groups. It contains most of the nutrients necessary for the growth and development of your toddler. All the macro- and micro-nutrients are present in an easily digestible and absorbable form in milk. The following key nutrients constitute the complexity of milk as a wholesome food for your toddler:
The main carbohydrate present in milk is lactose, which is involved in the intestinal absorption of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, and the utilization of vitamin D. 100g of milk contains 4.94g of carbohydrates.
The protein present in cow's milk is of high quality, containing a good balance of all the essential amino acids (which cannot be synthesized by our body) including lysine. Milk proteins possess high biological value which is almost equal to that of meat, eggs and other high quality animal proteins. Milk proteins are valuable supplements to most vegetarian diets. 100 g of milk contains 3.26g of protein.
Milk is a good source of B vitamins. If you are a strict vegetarian, then milk is the only source of vitamin B for your child. Significant amounts of riboflavin are present in milk. Riboflavin is necessary for the release of energy from foods and also to maintain the body membranes including skin. It is also crucial for the maintenance of normal vision, red blood cells and functioning of the immune system.
Further, milk and milk products are the main sources of vitamin B12 in the diets of toddlers. vitamin B12 is required for the maintenance of healthy nerves and red blood cells, energy production and cell division. It carries high significance in your toddler's growth, as it is involved in the functioning of the immune system, neurological and psychological functions and reduction of tiredness and fatigue. The fatty acid composition present in milk serves as a vehicle for important fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D and E.
Read the below ClipBook to know more about the benefits of milk for your toddler.
i) Calcium - Milk is a rich source of calcium which helps in the formation and building of strong bones. Calcium is important for blood coagulation, energy yielding metabolism, regulation of cell division and differentiation, muscle, nerve and digestive functions. A 200 ml glass of milk provides your toddler about 40% of his or her calcium requirement per day.
ii) Phosphorus - Milk is the main source of phosphorus in your toddler's diet. Phosphorus plays a vital role in the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. It plays a significant role in cell membrane structure and regulation of your child's basal metabolic rate (BMR).
iii) Potassium - Milk is a good source of potassium. Potassium is essential to maintain blood pressure and helps maintain muscular and neurological function.
iv) Iodine - Milk is also a good source of the mineral iodine. Iodine is required for the production of thyroid hormones, energy metabolism and maintenance of healthy skin.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (2010) recommends a daily calcium intake of 600 mg/day for children aged 1 to 9 years and 800 mg/day for children aged 10 to 17 years. It also recommends feeding 100 ml (standard portion size) of milk and milk products as 5 portions per day for children aged 1 to 18 years, as part of their balanced diet. 100 ml of cow milk contains 118 mg of calcium; and 100 g of paneer contains 476 mg of calcium. Thus, to meet the recommended calcium intake of 600 mg/day, you can feed your toddler a 100 ml of milk thrice a day (118x3 = 354 mg/d). The rest of the requirement can be met by feeding her with other dairy products such as curds, yoghurts, paneer, cheese or other calcium-rich sources such as green leafy vegetables, fish, nuts and oil seeds.
The Indian Council of Medical Research does not recommend a difference in the requirement of calcium or the daily number of portions of milk and milk product consumption among children aged 1 to 9 years. However, the calcium requirements increase as they grow, due to the growth spurt occurring during the phase of adolescence.
Toddlerhood makes your child go through an intense phase of developmental changes in his physical, psychological and social attributes, demanding more calcium and vitamin requirements. As milk forms a major part of a toddler's diet, it serves as the primary source of all the nutrients that your child requires. Picky eaters may struggle to get enough protein and calories in their diets. Milk is an easy, nutrient-rich way to compensate the need and prevent malnutrition.
There is no scientific evidence supporting the taboo that milk consumption should be avoided on an empty stomach. Milk, being a complex food, can be had any time of the day.
Milk is a wholesome food for your toddler. Plain, pasteurized whole cow's milk is best for children between 1 and 2 years of age. This is based on recommendations by a panel of American organizations which includes the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Only pasteurized or boiled milk should be fed to your child to ensure protection from contamination and pathogens.
On the negative side, some children are allergic to milk proteins or intolerant to milk sugar (lactose). If your child cannot tolerate cow's milk, you may replace it by an equal volume of curd/yogurt/soymilk/almond milk.
Now that you know the benefits of milk for your kids, ensure they have their daily dose of calcium!
About the expert:
Written by Shiny Lizia M on 01 June 2017; updated on 29 December 2020
Shiny Lizia M is a nutritionist based in Chennai.
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