Why I Don’t Give My Kids Almond Milk.

If you were to open our refrigerator, you would be greeted with a variety of milks. Organic Whole Milk, 2% Organic Milk, Chocolate Soy Milk, as well as Unsweetened Almond Milk. While my husband enjoys almond milk on his cereal and I enjoy a mug of warm chocolate soy milk, our boys stick with traditional cow’s milk.

Why? Let’s chat. 

 

We Start Whole.

After celebrating each of our boys’ first birthday, I began to transition them off of any leftover frozen breast milk and powered formula (I am not one to let anything go to waste! A “finisher” by definition.), mixing either with whole milk in a sippy cup. Once the leftover milk was gone, it was whole milk all of the way. Served at meals only, with water in between. 

As every child is different, each boy reacted very uniquely. My first, who remains quite stubborn, has probably consumed a total of two cups of milk since this transition. Unless the whole milk was placed in his beloved bottle, he was not about to give in and try it from a cup or straw. Because of this, I, being the worrier that I am, allowed him to have one 6 ounce bottle of whole milk while we did story time at night until he was 18 months-old. Bad habit surely and perhaps it made the situation worse, but I was a new mom and he was (and remains) my baby. Still to this day, as a nearly 3 year-old, one who witnesses his younger brother enjoying milk in a cup daily, still will not take a sip (and we have not pressured him to do so ever, in case you are wondering). 

As for our second child, the more laid back of the two, he is quite fine with a sippy cup or straw cup of milk. Once in a while I get a strange look and in that case, I simply warm it up a touch and he is a happy camper.

Now, why whole milk? A glass of organic whole milk has zero additives, 8 grams of protein, 0 grams of added sugar, and a hearty dose of calcium, potassium and vitamin D.

Whole Milk (1 cup): 150 calories, 8g fat, 5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 12g carb, 8g protein, Vitamin A 4%, Vitamin C 0%, Calcium 30%, Iron 0%, Vitamin D 25%

Ingredients:ORGANIC GRADE A MILK, VITAMIN D3

No additives. Natural sugar content from the milk sugar, lactose.

What Do Other Mommy Dietitians Serve At home?

After talking to a handful of other “Mommy RD’s”, it seems my milk practices are quite common. Everyone I spoke with, including Colleen a mom of a 20 month-old cutie, opted for (organic) whole milk while their little ones were 12-24 months. 

Katie over at Mom To Mom Nutrition started her toddler (and plans on doing the same with her soon to be 1 year-old) with whole cow’s milk at age one.

“From a nutrition and cost standpoint, there’s no other beverage (or milk alternative) on the market that compares to cow’s milk. While he could drink a gallon a day, I’ve limited his milk intake, offering in sippy cups 2x a day. I was starting to worry that he was filling up on milk vs. eating solid foods at meals. Naturally he’s OK with less milk and more water, and we’ll be making the switch to 2% milk at 2 years since that’s what the whole family drinks.”

As she comes from a true milk-loving family, she even had a delicious recipe to offer featuring a “Chocolate Hide-the-Veggies Smoothie” made with, you guessed it! Milk.

 

Katie Mulligan, a pediatric dietitian and mom to a 4 and 2.5 year-old, also prefers 2% milk.

“My kids are 4 and 2.5 years. We use 2% and probably always will. I figure they don’t get much fat otherwise because we eat pretty healthy at home. Their other major source of fat on a daily basis is peanut butter and the olive oil I use in cooking. With the absence of processed snacks and treats, the fat in the milk is their fat. Plus, they only drink 9-12 oz/day.”

Melinda, a mom of two boys herself, prefers a lighter fare with 1% milk.

“For my boys – ages 10 and 13 – we use 1%. It is a taste/health compromise – the small amount of fat adds just enough creaminess that the boys like it and drink it. We also have had a rule in my house since they were little: “milk with meals!”.” 

Family Meals + Manners

“Milk with Meals!” A great real for the family table. Although chocolate milk does grace our table from time to time as is evident here.

Danielle, the Migraine Nutritionist and mom to her beautiful 7 year-old daughter, now serves skim after making the switch from whole milk at age 2. 

“We chose to switch her as she has always been an excellent eater, gets plenty of dairy fat and other fat from solid foods and, we didn’t want 2 different containers of milk in the refrigerator all the time. I send her to school with the Horizon Organic low fat milk boxes for simplicity and we buy whole milk from time to time in the colder months for making hot chocolate.”

What’s great about this Momma is that despite her own preferences, she recognizes when and why others may choose something different. A friend of her’s prefers whole milk for their children and as they do not tend to consume milk fat in other forms, and as they are on the thinner side, she agrees it makes sense to serve whole. 

 

Why Not Almond Milk?

Alternatively, plant-based milks may contain 4 or more teaspoons of added sugar. While soy milk provides the same amount of protein as a glass of cow’s milk, almond milk has a whopping ONE gram. Protein is key for growing toddlers, particularly as they tend to live on carbs. While little ones need VERY little protein, often times the glass of milk and fruit are the only things consumed at dinnertime, therefore with a single drink they are well on their way to reaching their goal. 

If I were to serve almond milk instead, surely they may drink more as most are flavored and sweetened, to me it would be equal to another treat. Yes, in our house, chocolate milk is considered a treat! Flavored milk is largely fortified sugar water. Sorry, folks. Take a look at the stats below:

Almond Milk (1 cup): 90 calories, 2.5g fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0.5g polyunsaturated fat, 2g monounsaturated fat, 16g carb, 1g protein, 10% vitamin A, 45% calcium, 2% iron, 25% vitamin D, 50% vitamin E.

Ingredients: Almondmilk (Filtered Water, Almonds), Cane Sugar, Sea Salt, Locust Bean Gum,  Sunflower Lecithin, Natural Flavor, Gellan Gum, Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin E Acetate, Zinc Gluconate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin B12, Vitamin D2.

A Place for Plant-Based Milks

Clearly as I do purchase almond milk for my husband, I am a fan. Plant based milks can have a healthy place in our diets. For him, I started buying almond milk because he tends to go on massive yogurt streaks where he surely exceeds his 3-A-Day of dairy, therefore UNSWEETENED almond milk is a happy way to balance his intake out. 

For myself, I enjoy a glass of chocolate milk, and as one who tends to stick to a plant-based diet, soy is my milk of choice. While controversial, I have done my research and feel just fine enjoying 1/2-1 cup of soy milk many days in addition to edamame or tofu from time to time. Yes, it has added sugars, but it’s my treat and one I feel I have more than earned at the end of a long day with our two busy boys!

What about you?

If I were to visit your home and sneak a peek into your fridge, what would I find? Coconut milk? Flax milk? Or are you a traditionalist yourself? I would love to hear your opinion on this seemingly touchy subject.

Be kind everyone 🙂 

 

Thanks for reading!

Jessica Corwin, MPH, RDN

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