Dairy foods like milk, yogurt and cheese are important sources of high-quality nutrition that support brain maturity and overall growth and development for kids. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate recommends kids eat 2-3 servings of low fat, fat free or lactose-free dairy foods each day, depending on their age.
By age 6, consumption of dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt falls below the DGA recommendations throughout childhood and the trend continues into adulthood. It can be hard to meet nutrient recommendations without eating three daily servings of dairy foods.
Dairy Every Day is A Healthy Way
Leading organizations continue to recognize the importance of dairy milk for the growth and development of young children. At about 6 months, infants should be introduced to nutrient-dense, developmentally appropriate foods such as yogurt and cheese to complement human milk or iron-fortified infant formula, according to the latest DGA.
After their first birthday, as babies transition from human milk or infant formula, whole milk and other dairy foods provide critically important sources of essential nutrients to support healthy growth and development. Whole milk is important until at least age 2 because the fat in whole milk provides extra calories and nutrients for development.
From ages 1-5, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Academy of Pediatric Dentists, American Academy of Pediatrics and American Heart Association have provided beverage recommendations recommending cow’s milk and water as “go-to” beverages. Serving low fat, fat free or lactose free milk with meals is a great way to get kids the nutrition they need and serves as a safety net for picky eaters, while water hydrates without calories or sugar.
Benefit Brain Health and Development
The first 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday are a brief but important window of opportunity to nourish early brain development. Moms-to-be can take a proactive role in helping their child grow, learn and thrive through their nutrition choices.
Dairy foods play a key role in supporting a healthy pregnancy and are a brain health powerhouse, the American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes 14 nutrients important for early brain development, and dairy foods provide 7 of them. One 8 ounce glass of milk provides 60% daily serving of iodine, which is necessary for brain development during pregnancy and infancy, and is linked to cognitive function in childhood.
Build Strong Bones and Bodies
Eating adequate amounts of dairy foods every day is also a healthy way for kids to build strong bones and muscles. Dairy foods are a good or excellent source of nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, protein and vitamin D, that work together to build and help protect bones.
Building your child’s “bone bank” is like saving for their education – investing in good nutrition now during peak bone-building years, will pay off with stronger bones in the future and help reduce the risk of osteoporosis later in life.
Support Overall Health and Immunity
As children continue to grow, the DGA recommends low fat, fat free or lactose-free milk and dairy foods as a part of an overall healthy diet, along with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. When paired with these foods, dairy foods also provide nutrients that are important for immune health. Nourishing your child’s immune system with the nutrients in dairy foods while building a foundation for healthy eating will help them to develop healthy habits to last a lifetime.