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Whole Milk Is Not Appropriate For Kids: So Why Are Schools Still Serving It?

Posted by on Apr. 1, 2010 at 1:20 PM
  • 12 Replies

Recently, America’s school lunch menus have been under fire and parents are becoming increasingly concerned about the state of their children’s health and well-being.  Federal law, under the School Lunch Act, provides nutritional guidelines and criteria to which schools must adhere.  These guidelines include the amount and type of foods the cafeteria must offer, in addition to placing limits on nutrients like saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.  Specifically, school lunches must provide 1/3 of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein, calcium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, and 1/3 of the Recommended Energy Intake (REI) for calories.  In addition, the cafeteria must offer 5 components as part of a school lunch, of which three of the five must make their way onto the child’s lunch tray.  These include a starch, meat (or meat substitute), fruit, vegetable and milk.  There are similar guidelines for schools that serve breakfast as well.  These guidelines are especially important because many children eat the majority of their meals at school.

Milk contributes a good portion of nutrients to school lunches.  It is a valuable, nutrient-dense source of protein, calcium and vitamin D, all of which are important for achieving adequate nutrition and optimal growth in school-age children.  However, whole milk can significantly contribute to the saturated fat and cholesterol content of a meal.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) whole milk and other full-fat dairy products are only appropriate for children under the age of 1-2 years old. Children under two, who are in a stage of rapid growth and brain development,  have high energy and dietary fat requirements.  They need the extra fat that whole milk contains.

Everybody else, however, should choosing low fat dairy products, including skim milk.  In fact, the AAP states that no child over the age of two should be drinking whole milk.  Skim milk is identical to whole milk in terms of nutritional value, but is markedly lower in saturated fat, cholesterol and calories.  Diets high in saturated fat are associated with increased risk for obesity, heart disease and certain cancers.  Saturated fat intake causes harmful buildup in the arteries and blood vessels of healthy individuals, starting in young children.  It is important to begin healthy eating habits as a child and to continue making healthy choices throughout life.

A good portion of a child’s learning happens through modeling.  That is, by watching their parents or other caregivers’ actions, they learn how to be an adult.  This is especially important when it comes to eating:  your food preferences as an adult are closely related to the foods you saw your parents eating.  But what happens when your child is eating 2 out of 3 meals a day at school, plus a snack?  Because they are eating so many meals outside the home or the care of their parents, kids are increasingly reliant on teachers, caregivers and cafeteria staff to guide them to make healthy choices and model healthy eating behaviors.

The fact is, the people who are responsible for serving food to or eating with your children usually receive no formal nutrition education.  In most cases, a position as a preschool classroom aide or a kitchen worker requires a high school level education.  Regardless, whatever their educational background, it is a common misconception for people to think that whole milk has a nutritional advantage over skim milk.  It is also very common that parents encounter teachers or caregivers who have different beliefs than their own when it comes to feeding their child.  Especially when you’re talking about the welfare of a child’s health, when a parent feels one way but their caregiver feels another way, this can create some tension.  A well-meaning day care worker just may not be aware of or understand the reasons why full-fat milk can be dangerous, even for young children.  Parents often have a difficult time getting this message across but should continue to be an advocate for their child’s health.

In situations like this, as a parent you have the right to decide what your child does and does not eat.  You can stress this issue to the teacher in a polite way while still standing firm.  If needed, refer them to an appropriate resource, such as www.MyPyramid.gov, the American Academy of Pediatrics, your pediatrician, or even a local dietitian for further advice on this matter.  Your child’s health comes first!

by on Apr. 1, 2010 at 1:20 PM
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Replies (1-10):
campomommy
by on Apr. 1, 2010 at 1:29 PM

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) whole milk and other full-fat dairy products are only appropriate for children under the age of 1-2 years old.

the red part is silly, since babies under one should not be given cow milk at all!

But anyway, I hat milk, my family doesnt drink milk (we arent cows :P ) But i remember at school we only had 2% milk or juice, but half the time they were short on juice so they would have to save it for the kids who had medical reasons to have the juice which meant i couldnt have a drink at all.. Not liking milk wasnt a good enough reason for them, and neither was the fact that i wasnt a cow- lol- i actually told them that once...

sorry my reply doesnt really contribute much to your post......

chefmartha
by Gold Member on Apr. 1, 2010 at 1:42 PM

Wow wish the schools I attended had offered juice. I'm lactose intolerant and like you had to go without a drink unless I brought a lunch from home. As to the whole milk thing in schools today...My kids' school only offers 1% and 2% milk, not whole milk. My kids drink whole milk at home, even though they are teens because they are so active and have a hard time keeping weight on. A lot of kids are stuck with milk only because the schools put such a high price on juices. The milk that the school here is $0.25 while juice is $1.25. Almost the cost of a school lunch, which here is $1.80. So here kids can drink milk and have it part of their lunch or they can have juice and go without lunch. Personally I prefer to worry less about what they are drinking and think we should worry more about what they are eating. I've seen what they call a school lunch here and don't blame my daughter for wanting me to make her lunch instead. At least it's nutritious when I make it.

Quoting campomommy:

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) whole milk and other full-fat dairy products are only appropriate for children under the age of 1-2 years old.

the red part is silly, since babies under one should not be given cow milk at all!

But anyway, I hat milk, my family doesnt drink milk (we arent cows :P ) But i remember at school we only had 2% milk or juice, but half the time they were short on juice so they would have to save it for the kids who had medical reasons to have the juice which meant i couldnt have a drink at all.. Not liking milk wasnt a good enough reason for them, and neither was the fact that i wasnt a cow- lol- i actually told them that once...

sorry my reply doesnt really contribute much to your post......


chefmartha2004
fireangels2
by on Apr. 1, 2010 at 2:12 PM

My children and I all drink it. My kids are 9, 7, and 5. They are all healthy, appropriate weight and just had their check ups about a month ago. I had mine 2 months ago and I'm doing fine also. I don't really read up on what is going on/being served in the public school systems as I am homeschooling my children. But it seems that their should be more choices in schools than what I have been reading. I remember when I was in jr. high ( last time I attended public school) that we had the choice of whole, 2%, skim, or chocolate milk. Not sure how much of that has change since I left.

itsmesteph11
by on Apr. 1, 2010 at 2:14 PM

 I dunno but here where I live inTX they have not served anything but 2% for years. We use fat free at home.

jenr97
by on Apr. 1, 2010 at 2:20 PM

I wish they would offer whole milk at my kids school. It's what we drink at home. Last year, they had 2% white and 1% choclate. Those were OK, my kids drank it OK, but this year it's 1% white and fat free chocolate. They won't touch it. So I guess the school doesn't have to worry about the SatFat problem, but it would be nice if my kids got some Calcium from the lunch I pay $2.45 for.

What I wonder is if anyone has looked into the studies that show Full Fat dairy products can help you loose weight or that low fat dairy products are higher in sugar? Just sayin'....


AngelicaRenee
by on Apr. 1, 2010 at 2:21 PM

When I was in elementary school I think we may have had only 2% but I'm wanting to say that we had 1% most the rest the time I was in school.

I drink whole milk at home. I am not over weight. My son drinks whole milk as well and he's on the skinny side! He's off the charts for height and only in the 50% for weight.

I think people should be more concerned with the FOOD that the kids are getting rather than what milk they are drinking. I remember that food being awful!

Quoting itsmesteph11:

 I dunno but here where I live inTX they have not served anything but 2% for years. We use fat free at home.


native61
by on Apr. 1, 2010 at 2:23 PM

I agree with what you say about needing the ability to choose; however, I would like to share my findings with you.

I did a lot of research on this whole controversy of milk fat. There should be a choice that's for sure, but milk fat  'in moderation' (saturated fat should be less than 10% of total calories), is not necessarily harmful. It is a 'natural' saturated fat with an very high amount of monounsaturated fat (the fat that actually reduces HDL) my research concluded that it is used as an efficient fuel in an 'active' child as well as insures the absorption and utilization of Vitamin A, D, and E. The danger is a 'non active' child consuming to much of it, therein the need for choice, and the milk should be organic (no hormones etc), absolutely. My concern regarding fat would be the pre-packaged snack foods and powdered food products that are served.

I realize I am contradicting the AAP, but nutrition has been my passion for 20 years and I have discovered many contradictions between the 'Medical and Nutritional' professions and their recommendations.Thank you for posting we do need to pay more attention to children and what they eat. I invite you to stop by eatingrainbows.net

Take a look around my website and feel free to post at my feedback page. I welcome this post, I welcome all views as long as the core is to help people learn so that they can make informed decisions.



WildKat
by on Apr. 1, 2010 at 2:27 PM


Quoting jenr97:
...What I wonder is if anyone has looked into the studies that show Full Fat dairy products can help you loose weight or that low fat dairy products are higher in sugar? Just sayin'....

Hate this editor - sorry about the break in that! 

I've heard claims (from the milk industry) that SKIM milk helps you lose weight, but I thought I'd heard that it had been disproved.

As for low-fat dairy products being higher in sugar - read the labels, as it depends on the product.  Some companies are going to try to make the skim or 1% milks *taste* better by adding sugar.  Other brands might not. 

Personally, we drink 1% in our house - I read somewhere a while back that a child's brain's "need" for milkfat decreases gradually, and not overnight on their 2nd birthday, the way the AAP recommendations would have us believe.   

My oldest (DD, age 7) is allowed to pick out her own milk at school, and while I've told her many times that the chocolate milk is not good for her, she of course chooses it anyway.  (I volunteer in the school and sometimes catch her at lunch.)  So yeah - I'm with Jamie Oliver on this one.  Why the heck is this stuff even being offered in the schools?  They may as well give them a friggin candy bar for dessert.  My kids don't need the sugar!

Peace,

Kat

celestegood
by Silver Member on Apr. 1, 2010 at 2:36 PM

Both my kids' school offer skim, 1%, and 2%.  Not whole.  Maybe some schools still have it, but not in my experience.  My kids are in first grade and seventh grade.

Oh and we drink whole milk at home, sometimes 2%.  My kids are so active, and have a hard time keeping weight on-so I don't mind they get extra calories/fat from it.  They are all very healthy according to their pediatrician.

cturner10
by on Apr. 1, 2010 at 2:49 PM


Quoting itsmesteph11:

 I dunno but here where I live inTX they have not served anything but 2% for years. We use fat free at home.

same here and i work in a preschool and all we serve is 2%.

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