What milk is right for you child?

Registered dietitian offers advice for parents

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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No parent will balk at their child wanting a glass of milk to drink, but some wonder if all milks are created equal.

Laura Jeffers is a registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic. She says the biggest difference among milk choices is the fat content.

"So, you have whole milk all the way down to skim milk and all it is is a reduction in fat. And so, really, we know that fat is the saturated fat which can help clog our arteries," said Jeffers.

Cow's milk is not digested well by babies under 12-months, so it should not be introduced until age 1. After age 1, until your child is 2, whole milk is recommended.

American Academy of Pediatrics researchers say your baby will need the fat for nerve and brain development. The AAP also recommends switching to lower-fat milk at age 2, maybe 1% or 2%, in order to move your child to diet with lower amounts of fat and cholesterol.

Keep in mind that kids will need a little bit of fat for development, so you don't have to switch to skim milk right away.  And if your child prefers flavored milk over white milk, jeffers says it's not a big concern. The nutritional benefits of the milk outweigh the added calories.

"Milk can be chocolate or strawberry, so we recommend having flavored milk, versus no milk at all, is definitely the better route to go," said Jeffers.

If you're considering something like soy or almond milk for your child, Jeffers recommends talking to your pediatrician first to rule out allergies.

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