The recommendation to choose lowfat and fat-free milk was made to help consumers reduce calories, while still achieving the nutritional benefits of milk. Reduced-fat, lowfat and fat-free milk deliver fewer calories from fat, but all of the same critical bone-building calcium, vitamins, and protein found in whole milk.
Barbara Stegeman Mitchell, a registered clinical dietitian at the Pediatric Specialty Clinic at the University of Missouri explains that sometimes parents take recommendations to restrict dietary fat to the extreme.
The truth is we all need some dietary fat; however, young children in particular, need extra calories and nutrients found in quality fats to support their rapid growth and development. This explains why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that reduced-fat, low-fat and fat-free milk not be started before age two.
The decision to switch to lowfat and fat-free milk after age two depends on the child’s total diet, lifestyle, and the caloric and nutritional needs of the individual child, Mitchell says. “It’s all about balance,” she explains.
For example, Ellyn Satter, registered dietitian and author of “Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense,” believes if a child is consuming a relatively lean diet otherwise -- little to no fast foods, low-fat cooking techniques used in the home, lean meats, lots of vegetables, whole grains, and little added fat, then whole or 2 percent milk can help meet the child’s energy and nutritional needs.
However, Mitchell says: “Most kids today are getting too heavy, too soon.” Because the majority of children get plenty of fat (and calories) from other sources in the diet, such as: hamburgers, ice cream, fried foods and cheese, most health care providers, recommend low-fat and fat-free milk after two to three years of age.
Our national dietary guidelines specifically recommend the following for children and adolescents:
“Keep total fat intake between 30 to 35 percent of calories for children 2 to 3 years of age and between 25 to 35 percent of calories for children and adolescents 4 to 18 years of age, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.”
You can also expect fat from organic, pasture-based meat and dairy products to contain more health-protecting fatty acids, and less pesticide residues. That’s because some fat-soluble pesticides and other toxic compounds tend to accumulate in animal fat.
Bottom line: Lifelong habits begin in childhood. Training your child's taste buds to enjoy healthful whole foods and a moderate fat intake will help contribute to a healthy weight for a lifetime. Speak to your child’s pediatrician for specific concerns and guidance about diet, weight and health.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration oversees milk label definitions. According to the FDA:
Research from Indiana University proved chocolate milk’s performance as an ideal sports recovery drink. When consumed within one hour after exercise, organic chocolate milk’s natural protein, carbohydrate, vitamin and mineral mix refuels exhausted muscles – and may be just the ticket to help boost young athlete's intake.