Despite some well-known marketing campaigns, including one that had people donning milk mustaches in the 1990s, Americans are drinking less milk. In fact, milk consumption in the United States has been trending downward for more than 70 years, with many questioning if milk is good for you. But despite the numbers, it remains a nutritious option for the kitchen table.
Health benefits of milk
“Milk is a good source of protein, calcium and vitamin D, which are important for bone health” said Kari Mizgalski, clinical dietitian with Marshfield Clinic Health System. “It’s also incredibly valuable for growing children as a nutrient-dense source of energy.”
The dairyland staple is also a source of potassium. Many people do not get enough potassium, even though it may help maintain healthy blood pressure.
Without diminishing all of those positives, there are a few downsides.
“Too much can lead to decreased iron absorption,” said Mizgalski. “Large servings can also contribute to increased calorie and carbohydrate intake.”
How much should we have?
Despite dairy’s nutritious profile, about 90% of Americans do not get enough milk or dairy. Daily recommendations for those age 9 and older is three cups per day. It’s especially important during the growing years to meet the overall nutritional needs as kids move from adolescence to adulthood.
|Toddlers||12 to 23 months||1⅔ to 2 cups|
|Children||2-3 yrs||2 to 2½ cups|
|4-8 yrs||2½ cups|
|Teenagers and adults||9-13 yrs||3 cups|
“If you need to drink more milk or consume more dairy, I recommend trying new things to find what you enjoy,” Mizgalski said. “If drinking milk isn’t your favorite, use it in cooking, try yogurt in parfaits or eat it frozen, or look for low-fat cheese options.”
One walk down the dairy aisle showcases how many options people have these days. If you’re sticking with cow’s milk, whole is recommended for kids ages 1-2. Skim or 1% is recommended for ages 2 and up. 2-percent or whole milk may be recommended if additional calories are needed for growth or weight gain.
Non-dairy beverages have increased in popularity in recent years. They are not recommended for growing children unless the child has an allergy. That’s because of nutritional differences. Fortified soy milk and yogurt with added calcium, vitamin A and D are part of the dairy group because of their similarities.
“Other products sold as milk, however, do not have the protein or carbohydrates like normal dairy products,” said Mizgalski. “So almond, rice, coconut, oat and hemp ‘milks’ do not provide the same nutrition as dairy. If you purchase them, try to look for products that have added calcium and vitamin D.”
To learn more about the dairy food group, visit myplate.gov.