Yes, children and adolescents should drink milk, and according to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, consumption of low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, like milk, cheese and yogurt, as part of healthy eating styles are linked to improved bone health, particularly in children and adolescents. This led to the current daily recommendation:
- Ages 9-18 years: 3 cups
- Ages 4-8 years: 2.5 cups
- Ages 2-3 years: 2 cups
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) clinical report, “Optimizing Bone Health in Children and Adolescents,” stated:
- One study in adult women found that drinking milk (more than one serving a day) in childhood and adolescence was associated with higher bone mineral content and reduced risk of fractures through the years compared to women who drank less than one serving a week.
- Cow’s milk’s unique package of nutrients, includes calcium and vitamin D, which the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans acknowledge as nutrients of public health concern.
But “Can’t kids meet their nutrient needs without milk?” some ask.
It may be difficult for most to do. The same AAP report also stated that milk alternatives, such as soy- based beverages, may have a reduced amount of naturally occurring calcium per glass, even when fortified with calcium. However, “Further research is needed regarding the mineral levels and bioavailability of these beverages.” Additionally, research has found that person would have to make significant changes to their diet in order to replace several of the nutrients found in dairy foods. In short, milk contains a powerful punch of nutrients.