During a recent Spectrum News interview, pediatrician Tanya Altmann spoke about the instrumental role milk plays in the diet of a child. In her mind, real milk is the real deal.
“I think a lot of parents don’t realize that it’s very difficult for their kids to get all the nutrition they need for proper growth and development without real dairy in their diet,” Altmann said. “Alternative milks are just not a nutritional substitute for real dairy milk.”
Altmann emphasized how important it is for parents to read nutritional labels to know what their children are receiving in their food choices, especially if they are considering milk alternatives.
“A glass of real dairy milk has 13 essential nutrients kids need for growth and development, including 8 grams of high-quality protein,” she noted. “If switching to a milk alternative, it doesn’t have nearly as much protein, has fewer calories, and doesn’t have nearly as much of the nutrition kids need in their growing bodies.”
When asked about the fat level in milk and what is best for children, Altman explained that they all have the same level of nutrition in them. The only difference is the amount of milkfat present, and the jug parents select from the dairy case might depend on age of the child.
Altmann said current recommendations encourage parents to provide whole milk to their children that are 1 or 2 years old. Then, they can stick with whole milk or switch to 2% or 1% depending on preference. “Some prefer whole milk at every age,” she said, noting that she has three or four varieties of milk in her own refrigerator to meet the needs and taste preferences of her three sons.
As for people looking for lactose-free beverages, she said they still don’t have to turn to dairy alternatives.
“There are many versions of lactose free real dairy milk available,” she shared, and these versions still contain 8 grams of protein, along with important nutrients such as vitamin A, D, selenium, and zinc. “The milk alternatives don’t often have those ingredients,” Altmann pointed out.
She acknowledged that some adults may prefer the taste of alternatives such as soy or oat milk, which is fine, but she said it is important to recognize that those drinks do not contain the same nutrition as real milk.
She further emphasized the value of the protein milk provides, especially before tackling a day of school or work.
“We know that high-quality protein in the morning helps you concentrate, focus, and feel fuller throughout the day,” she said. “Make sure you reach for that real dairy milk rather than a low protein milk alternative, especially in the morning,” she concluded.