Dairy smarts: Make the switch from whole to low-fat milk

In recent years, there has been a lot of debate around how much and what kind of milk kids should drink. Nutrition and health professionals have encouraged schools to provide only low-fat or fat-free milk, eliminating the whole milk option that some kids are used to. So what’s all the fuss about?

Milk can be an important part of a healthy diet, especially for children whose bodies are still growing and getting stronger. Low-fat and fat-free milk provide key nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D – and have little or no fat or saturated fat. In fact, one of the key MyPlate messages is to “Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk.” Calcium and vitamin D help children build strong bones and have been linked to improved immunity (ability to fight infections).

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that parents not try to limit fat in their children’s diets, up until age 2 to 3. This is “because the brain in particular relies on dietary fat for proper growth and development in these earliest years of life.” However, once your child reaches pre-school age, it is important to reduce the amount of fat he or she is consuming. One of the best ways to do this is to switch from whole milk to low fat or fat-free (which is good for the rest of your family, too!).

One thing that worries some parents about switching from whole milk is taste preference. In New York State, schools wanted to switch whole for low-fat milk. But the milk industry feared that phasing out whole milk might decrease the amount of milk that students drink. What happened when they made the switch? School milk purchases actually increased slightly over time!

If your child is not ready to move directly from whole milk to fat-free, try gradually switching from whole to 2 percent, then to 1 percent, and eventually to fat-free milk. Even small steps can lead to big changes in your child’s health. Try Healthy Family Fun’s Cheesy Veggie Scramble with reduced fat mozzarella cheese or Peach Freeze with fat-free milk and let us know how your child likes them in the comments section below!

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