Milk and dairy products are important for kids because they are a rich source of nutrients that are essential for growth and development.
- Here are some of the reasons why milk and dairy products are necessary for kids:
Calcium: All of us know the importance of calcium for kids. So, Milk and dairy products are the best calcium sources as they are essential for building strong bones and teeth. Kids need to consume it regularly to maintain healthy bone density.
Protein: Dairy products are also good sources of protein, which is essential for building and repairing muscles and other tissues in the body.
Vitamin D: Milk and related products are fortified with vitamin D, which is important for the absorption of calcium and maintaining healthy bones. So, we must consider vitamin D for kids in their daily routines.
Other nutrients: Some other important nutrients, such as vitamins B12 and B2, phosphorus, and potassium are also necessary for kids’ health and these are present in dairy products.
How much dairy products should a child have?
The amount of dairy products that a child needs can vary depending on their age, weight, and overall dietary needs. However, here are some general guidelines for the recommended daily servings of dairy products based on the age of the child, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):
- Children aged 1-3 should consume 2 servings of dairy products per day. One serving is equivalent to 1 cup of milk or yogurt, or 1.5 ounces of cheese.
- Children aged 4-8 should consume 2.5 servings of dairy products per day. One serving is equivalent to 1 cup of milk or yogurt, or 1.5 ounces of cheese.
- Children aged 9 should consume 3 servings of dairy products per day. One serving is equivalent to 1 cup of milk or yogurt, or 1.5 ounces of cheese.
If your child can’t drink milk due to lactose intolerance, a milk allergy, or other reasons, there are still many alternative sources of calcium and other nutrients that can be incorporated into their diet. Here are some dairy-free sources of calcium:
- Calcium-fortified plant-based milk: Many plant-based milk alternatives such as soy, almond, and oat milk are fortified with calcium and other nutrients to make them nutritionally comparable to cow’s milk.
- Leafy green vegetables: Vegetables like kale, broccoli, and spinach are high in calcium and can be incorporated into meals as a side dish or added to smoothies.
- Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds such as almonds, chia seeds, and sesame seeds are good sources of calcium and can be added to snacks and meals.
- Tofu: Tofu is made from soybeans and is an excellent source of calcium. It can be added to stir-fries, salads, and soups.
- Fortified cereals: Many bowls of cereal are fortified with calcium, so check the label to see if your child’s favorite brand is a good source.
Milk choice for infant and toddlers
- For infants and toddlers, breast milk is the best choice as it provides all the necessary nutrients that the baby needs for the first six months of life. If breastfeeding is not an option, infant formula is a suitable alternative.
- Once a baby reaches six months of age, parents can introduce small amounts of plain, full-fat cow’s milk into their diet, but it should not replace breast milk or formula as the main source of nutrition until after the child’s first birthday.
- After one year, whole milk can be the main source of milk for most children, unless there are specific concerns or dietary needs.
- Overall a child needs dairy products at early age for the growth of their bones and muscles. It’s important to note that some children may need more or fewer dairy products depending on their individual needs and that other sources of calcium and protein can be substituted for dairy products if necessary.
- It’s important to talk to your child’s pediatrician or a registered dietitian to ensure that your kids are getting enough calcium and other essential nutrients in their diet. They may also recommend calcium supplements if necessary.
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