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The Milk Myth: Your Kids Do NOT Need Milk in Order to Grow and Be Healthy!

Posted Sep 14 2011 9:03pm

Do my little sprouts Caroline and Oliver really need 3 glasses of milk in order to grow?!? 

Is that really the best, most nutritious way for my children to take in a whopping 600 calories in their diets? I think not!

Although my views are fairly "liberal" with respect to nutition in my neck of the woods up in the UES in Manhattan, I still go to the same more traditional pediatrician that I have for 10 years. They have gotten me through surgery with my son at 2 weeks old, fairly serious staph infections, flus, hives and the throw ups, so I am fairly loyal. And, the kids love them and feel confortable going.

We have seemed to live in happy harmony... until yesterday. When I was beseiged!!!

It all started when I began being questioned about how much milk my kids were drinking. I tried to stay fairly light about it all and just brush over the subject and talk about the kids healthy diets etc... For anyone who knows me, my kids eat very healthy diets full of fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, beans, salmon and tofu. Anyway, the line of questioning got quite, how shall I say it, aggressive! And, I came back fighting!

Number 1: Milk is not the holy grail for calcium!

8 oz of milk contains 408 mg of calcium but there are many, many other sources!

Tofu (1 cup contains 408 mg calcium)
Kale (1 cup contains 80 mg)

Almonds (1 oz contains 75 mg)
1 cup tofu                                         408 mg
1 cup of spinach                              280 mg
1 cup of fortified orange juice        350 mg
1 cup fortified cereal                      300mg +
1 cups of soy milk                           200-300 mg
5 dried figs                                      258 grams
1 cup of soybeans                           298 mg
1 cup of broccoli                               94 mg
1 cup kale                                         80 mg
6 oz salmon                                     360 mg
2 slice whole wheat bread                 42 mg
2 tbsp sesame seeds                      126 mg
1 cup navy beans                            140 mg
1 cup black beans                             60 mg
1 cup lentils                                       40 mg
1 oz almonds (approx 20)

Anyway, my point is this- there are soooo many different ways to get in calcium than drinking milk,  and I am a firm believer that kids have an intuitive sense for what is good for their bodies and, if served healthy foods, will naturally eat what their bodies need!

So how much do we need?  According to the recommended guidelines, children 4-8 need 1000 mg and children 9-13 need 1,300 mg and we grown ups need 1,000 mg. 1 cup of soy or almond milk, 1 cup of orange juice, some broccoli, and salmon for dinner and your done! Sometimes my kids will eat 2 servings of tofu at dinner alone, which is approximately 800 mg of calcium in one meal! Check out this video for an easy, delicious marinated tofu recipe you can prepare in under 10 minutes!.

Number 2: Milk is high in saturated fat and calories!
Saturated fat has been known to cause disease and obesity. Do our kids really need more saturated fats in their diets with all the processed foods and junk foods that are out there? We are experiencing record numbers of obesity in the United States- our children included!

The real problem, though, is that if our children are drinking 3 glasses of milk a day I guarantee that they will be eating less fresh fruits and vegetables and other nutritious foods we serve them. You try having a glass of milk before your dinner and see how hungry you are! 

Back to the saturated fat issue. Saturated fat has been linked to cause high cholesterol! In the last year, the diets of my children have even becoming higher since my son went on a gluten and dairy free diet. When they took my children's blood, their numbers were perfect and I was informed that "both of their cholesterol went down! My daughter's cholesterol went down 50 points and my son's cholesterol went down 70 points in one year!" And, these are children who even then were eating healthier than average diets!

As a sidenote, w hy was I not informed that my childrens' cholesterol was high in the first place and the fact they don't drink milk such an issue??? Uhm...

Fact #3: Milk does not cause growth or attribute to kids thriving!

My daughter does not drink milk and is in the 97 percentile for height, she is a competative swimmer, plays tennis, does well at school and is thriving. Does this really look like a girl who is not getting the nutrition that she needs?

Further, when I started in on the line of questioning saying, "well, let's have her tested, the doctor balked saying that it was hard to tell because our blood leaches calcium out of the bones and I would have to arrange another test." "Ok, I said," I am all about science ,"let's get that test ordered." "Oh, well, that is not necessary." Really. But, it's ok to blindly (and strongly) suggest my daughter drink 3 glasses of milk when we don't have the science to back it?

The pleasant conversation ended with my saying that they could have what they liked at school but it would not be in my house.

End of story. End of discussion.

But, what scared me about this conversation was how many moms- well educated, smart moms- are blindly following this protocol because they respect their doctor and feel that it is the right thing to do?

Please no hate mail from mom's who feed their kids milk and feel right about it! We moms all have to follow what we know is right in our hearts for our own children. And, I just personally don't feel like it is right to feed my children 600 empty calories of milk filled with saturated fat and casein crowding out other healthy foods just so I can check the calcium box!

For more information on my view of milk check out my article The Milk Myth.
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