Got Milk? Get Your Measuring Cup
With soda and fruit-flavored drinks off the table, milk seems like the logical healthy beverage choice for preschool age children. In moderation, it is.
Certain beverages can be a sneaky source of empty calories that do growing bodies and minds no favors. Soda, sugary drinks from powders, sports drinks, sweet tea, coffee and energy drinks are considered inappropriate beverage options for preschoolers. Even juice has a bad reputation these days.
“Juice has fewer health benefits than whole fruits and vegetables, and it often is mixed with sugar and preservatives that make it even less nutritious,” says Ellen Wells, M.S., R.D., L.D., clinical dietitian and diabetes educator with Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Stephenville. “Still, juice is alright, as long as it is 100 percent juice and parents limit intake to half a cup a day. Good drink options for children are water and low-fat milk.”
Mooove Over Juice
That’s right — milk still has a spot at the table, as long as it’s consumed in moderation. Milk is a good source of iron and calcium. In fact, research conducted using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey found that children who drink three or more cups of milk a day may actually be taller than those who don’t.
However, those results also outlined that the same children were more likely to be obese. Children who were 4 years old and drank more than two cups of milk a day were 16 percent more likely to be overweight.
Obesity is an epidemic that affects nearly one-third of all children. It can lead to chronic medical conditions later in life and seriously impact a child’s ability to enjoy life when he or she is young.
To prevent unhealthy weight gain and help secure healthy futures for children, stick to the two-cup a day milk limit suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Supplement that with water, small amounts of juice, and water-rich foods to keep children hydrated.
Family-friendly Fruit Smoothie
Wells recommends this fruit smoothie as a tasty option for using a little bit of low-fat dairy. It includes two servings of fruit and a lot of nutrients. Customize this recipe to your family’s taste for a real home run.
1 large banana
1 cup peaches, strawberries or another soft, chopped fruit of your choice
8 ounces low-fat vanilla yogurt
½ cup low-fat milk
Place ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Pour and serve immediately. Serves two.
Physicians on the medical staff practice independently and are not employees or agents of the hospital or Texas Health Resources.