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Check the nutrition facts label on milk cartons. You will see several nutrients that everyone in your family needs:
1) Calcium and vitamin D for your child’s growing bones and teeth. These same nutrients help your bones stay healthy.
2) Protein for building a growing body. It also keeps your body in good repair.
3) Vitamin A for healthy eyes and skin–all ages.
Offer milk or water to satisfy thirst. Your child needs plenty of fluids to stay healthy, too.
What to purchase?
An 8 fluid ounce glass of whole milk has 8g total fat. The same amount of 1 percent milk has only 2.5g total fat and skim milk has none. It is pretty easy to see how you can eliminate fat from your diet through the milk you choose to purchase. Nutrition facts labels on milk cartons can help you make choices for your family, so be sure to pay special attention to those. Your child will get the same amount of bone-building calcium no matter what type of milk you pick.
Which milk for your child?
Starting at age 2, children can drink low-fat milk. It is a good habit for your whole family to learn. Whether you are trying to lower the fat in your child’s diet (or yours), change slowly to low-fat or non-fat milk. Switch first from whole to 2 percent milk. When your child gets used to the flavor, try low-fat or fat-free milk. The flavor of chocolate low-fat or fat-free milk is about the same as in higher fat chocolate milk. Offer low-fat or fat-free milk on cereal and in smoothies. Most people would not notice.
Drink milk to protect your bones and your child will do what you do. The secret to success is having milk in your refrigerator. Have enough for you and your child, too. Remember, children ages 2-5 need two cups of milk or equivalent milk products each day.
What about supplements?
Always think “foods first.” Meals and snacks can provide all the vitamins and minerals most children need. That is the best way to get them. If MyPyramid guides your child feeding, you can relax. Your child likely will not need a supplement. Foods are the best sources of nutrients anyway (for you, too). Foods have nutrients for growing kids that vitamin and mineral supplements do not have.
Talk to your child’s healthcare provider before you give your child a vitamin or mineral supplement or take one yourself. That way you will not put your child or yourself at-risk. A vitamin or mineral supplement may not be necessary or safe. Children with a food allergy and those who are vegetarians might need a vitamin or mineral supplement.
What if your health provider recommends a supplement?
Get what is advised—one with enough vitamins and minerals, but not too much. That may be a supplement for children, not adults.
1) Give only the dose directed by your doctor or health care provider. Giving your child more is not better. More can be dangerous.
2) Know the amount of nutrients taken daily from vitamin or mineral supplements. Combine that with the amount from enriched or fortified foods.
3) Teach your child that supplements are not candy, even if the names, shapes, and colors are fun.
4) Store all supplements out of reach. Keep them in a container with a childproof cap. Reminder: An adult iron supplement can be poisonous for your child.
Source: USDA Food and Nutrition Service