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Milk Options: Which is the right one?

There are several milk options available on store shelves today. Many of us grew up drinking regular cow’s milk, but now it seems as if people are choosing alternative milks. When choosing what milk is best for your children, it is important to know what nutritional purpose milk serves in a child’s diet. Not all milks are nutritionally identical, therefore, knowing the nutrition facts of the milk you are buying is key to making the right choice.

Traditionally, cow’s milk has been the most common type of milk that parents choose for their children after age one. The reason is because it is nutritionally comparable to breast milk. Whole cow’s milk has the same calorie content, protein and calcium as breast milk. Protein, calcium and calories are all critical nutritional components for growing kids, which is why milk has been a staple in kids’ diets for years.

Alternative To Cow Milk:

There are a variety of reasons why a parent may not choose cow’s milk for their kids. For example, the child could have a milk protein allergy, lactose intolerance, vegetarianism or other reason. Soy milk seems to be the second-most popular milk choice. It is important to note that soy milk is lower in calories than whole milk (it is more comparable to skim milk), but contains less protein. In addition, many people choose soy milk due to cow’s milk protein allergy. In my experience, it is often that babies and young children with dairy allergies can also develop an allergy to soy. Furthermore, soy contains phytonutrients, called isoflavones, which are estrogen-like compounds that can stimulate estrogen receptors in the body. Research shows various long-term effects of this. In general, it is recommended that soy is consumed in moderation.

For those that are avoiding cow’s milk and soy, the remaining options include almond milk, hemp milk, oat milk and rice milk. Rice milk is actually the least nutrient-dense of all of the choices available, and so it is the one I recommend least for growing kids. On the other hand, some of the lower calorie alternative milks may be good choices for people seeking weight loss. See the nutritional breakdown* of all of these milks in the box below for more information:

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*Nutrition data varies by brand.
**Nutrition content of breastmilk is variable

If you are interested in more advice on choosing the right milk for your kids or ways to ensure proper nutrition for your family, contact us to schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian. 877.486.4140.