by Judy Dutton
While most moms know their kids should drink milk, many are torn about which type. Odds are you fed your baby whole milk, only as your little tyke shot up into toddlerhood, you may have considered making the switch to skim, 1%, or 2%. After all, we're in the midst of a childhood obesity epidemic. Once kids have graduated beyond the chunky baby phase, whole milk seems like a gratuitous amount of fat and calories that could lead kids down an unhealthy path.
For starters, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids drink whole milk up until the age of 2. After 2, they say parents can switch kids to skim or low-fat milk. They based these recommendations on studies that found that kids who drank low-fat milk had lower concentrations of LDL cholesterol -- and thus a lower risk of heart disease.
But health experts aren't unanimously behind the switch to low-fat milk at age 2. "Growing children absolutely need whole milk at all ages," says Sally Fallon Morell, President of the The Weston A. Price Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to disseminating nutrition research to the public. "Nature puts butterfat in milk -- including mother's milk -- for a reason. The vitamins in butterfat are needed to absorb all the minerals. The fats are also essential for development of the brain and nervous system. Plus, the fat in the milk keeps blood sugar stable."
As for parents who give their kids skim milk due to worries about weight gain, these efforts may actually backfire: A recent study by the University of Virginia School of Medicine actually found that kids who drink 1% or skim milk have higher Body Mass Indexes than those who drink 2% or whole. Researchers theorize this occurs because whole milk provides a greater sense of fullness, so kids don't get hungry and eat more later.
More from The Stir: Drinking Whole Milk May Actually Make You & Your Kids Thinner!
Bottom line: Although some interesting evidence has cropped up that should make moms consider sticking with whole milk, the jury is still out on whether skim, whole, or low-fat is best. So you're best off just choosing what your kid likes and what fits with your family (for instance, if the rest of you drink low-fat, maybe it's just easier to have Junior hop on the bandwagon).
Plus, experts also point out that milk probably isn't a big factor in unhealthy weight gain in kids anyway. A far bigger culprit is sugary drinks! So keep the juice and sodas to a minimum and just make sure your kids are drinking the recommended amount of dairy: 2 cups for children aged 2 to 3; 2.5 cups for 4- to 8-year-olds; and 3 cups for 9 and up, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Do you feed your kids skim, whole, or low-fat milk?
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