Children need at least 3 portions of dairy foods per day for good nutrition

Milk and dairy products play a key role in your child’s growth and development. Not only does it give your child strong and healthy bones , but they also aid in your child’s overall growth and development.

Raw milk can contain harmful bacteria which can cause life threatening illness particularly in young children and those with weakened immune systems. Raw milk is milk straight from the cow or milk that has not been pasteurized. It is 150 times more likely to cause foodborne illness and results in 13 times more hospitalizations than illnesses involving pasteurized dairy products. (Centre of Disease Control CDC 1993 – 2006).

Children should drink pasteurized milk or long life milk. This milk has been heated to kill harmful bacteria. The UHT milk has a shelf life of six months. There is no addition of preservatives or additives. Once the pack of UHT milk is open it “goes off” at the same rate as ordinary milk hence the need to refrigerate it.

Why do kids need dairy?

Milk is tasty and healthy for your child. It will help your child to fuel up before activity and recover after activity as it provides them with energy to go around their activities all day .Physical activity helps kids build strong bones and muscles, maintain a healthy weight, improve balance, develop skills and improve self-esteem. Research has found milk to be a more effective drink than water for rehydrating active kids.

When children exercise they lose fluid and electrolytes through sweat. Kids are at increased risk of dehydration after physical activity, particularly in warmer weather. There are a variety of vitamins and minerals in milk that support growth and development during childhood. Milk is full of calcium, vitamin D, phosphorous and a balance of other nutrients that have been proven to build your bones and teeth as well as promote the healthy functioning of your muscles and blood vessels.

Calcium needs for toddlers

The body cannot make calcium, so the dairy foods (white / flavored milk and yoghurt) that children eat and drink every day are important. Calcium is needed for strong, healthy bones and teeth. The child’s bones are growing all the time. They need a lot of calcium.

How much milk does my child need?

Children need at least 3 portions of dairy foods per day for good nutrition. A portion of dairy is equal to: 1 cup (250mls) of white/ flavored milk 200 ml of yoghurt

EXPERT OPINION – Dr Peter Ngwatu Consultant Peadiatric Gastroenterologist

According to Dr Peter Ngwatu , milk is the primary source of dietary energy, high quality protein and fats, and also makes a significant contribution to meeting requirements of essential nutrients. Milk and dairy products are not the only source of essential nutrients; hence it is of necessity the practice of combination of food for a healthy diet.

While milk and dairy products are the richest dietary sources of calcium, dark green leafy vegetables like spinach also contain a considerable amount of the nutrient. However the challenge of calcium from spinach is the poor absorption hence diminishing the contribution. Milk fat contributes up to 50% of energy in whole milk, and hence can play a significant role diets of children in population with a very low fat intake, where availability of other animal sources is limited.

The calories from the fats can also be important in providing calories to picky/ fussy toddlers. Whole milk can provide essential fats of significant importance to brain development. The recommendation in Infant and Young Child feeding Practice in Kenya is exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, and throughout the complementary feeding of up to 2 years breastmilk should continue to be the main type of milk consumed by the baby.

The Kenya Food Based Dietary guideline 2017 which is still under development recommends drinking milk, fermented milk or yoghurt daily for healthy eating. Many countries Food bases dietary guidelines advocate for between one serving/250ml to 3 servings/750 ml of milk a day. Children between 12 months and 2 years at risk of being overweight or have family history of heart disease, obesity or high cholesterol should drink 2% milk instead of whole milk, while those with no risks can consume whole milk.

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