Milk and toddlers: Expert advice from a nutritionist

With so much information online about nutrition and children’s diet, you don’t always know which ones to trust. I chatted with Parmalat’s expert consultant nutritionist, Lorette Venter, to discuss the top 5 questions moms ask about milk in children's diets.

Claire: So, Lorette, tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

Lorette: Well, Claire, I am a Registered Dietician with a degree in Dietetics from the University of Pretoria. After completing my Community Service year at Kalafong Hospital near Pretoria, I opened my own successful practice, treating a wide variety of patients, both adults and children, for over seven years. Currently I am a hospital Dietician and I consult to Parmalat South Africa on all matters of diet and nutrition, across their product range.

Claire: So quite a few moms I chat to have concerns about giving their kids dairy products, what actually are the top benefits for toddlers and young kids to drink milk?

Lorette: Milk is one of the best sources of calcium. By having your toddler drink milk, you are helping them get enough calcium for optimal growth and development of teeth and bones.

However, milk is more than just calcium, it also contains very high-quality protein, which is used to build muscles, as well as essential fatty acids (omega 3 and 6), which contribute towards promoting brain and nervous system development.

But more importantly, dairy intake contributes to the establishment of a balanced diet in children, which they will take forward into later life – something which in adulthood can help to prevent lifestyle diseases.

Claire: Even with my kids, I am unsure how much milk per day is too much?

Lorette: The recommended amount of dairy, including milk, for a child is approximately 3 servings per day. One serving equals 250ml milk or 200ml yoghurt or maas. This will provide a calcium intake of 900mg per day.

Claire: Is there a particular time of day that is best for a child to drink milk?

Lorette: There is no “best time”, but to ensure it doesn't interfere with mealtimes and appetite for solid foods, it should be served after meals (if it isn’t part of the meal) or in between meals as a snack.

Claire: So when I'm in a supermarket, what are the top factors to consider when buying milk?

Lorette: Firstly, the milk should be pasteurised or ultra-pasteurised and shouldn't contain any bovine growth hormones, which are commonly called bST, bGH or rbGH hormones. You can check the label for which ones don’t.

For toddlers, the milk should preferably be fortified with the most important vitamins, minerals and omega fatty acids to ensure optimal growth and development.

Claire: Thanks Lorette, this has been really insightful and I know I as a parent have learnt a lot. Any last advice?

Lorette: I think most important for toddler and child nutrition is ensuring that the correct amount of vitamins and minerals are included in your child’s diet. These are essential for healthy living, optimal growth and development. This can be done by means of supplementation, but, ideally a balanced diet with a variety of foods from all food groups should be followed.

Bought to you by Parmalat Growth Milk 3+
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