Advice Column, Health, Nutrition, Recently, Rediscover Dairy

Children and dairy: a healthy combination

  • RediscoverDairy
  • Category Advice Column, Health, Nutrition, Recently, Rediscover Dairy

Encouraging healthy eating patterns in childhood already sets the stage for habits that will endure throughout life. Good nutrition affects children’s health and well-being throughout their development, from conception to adolescence. Children who eat well develop lively minds and strong, active bodies. 

Including a variety of foods from all the food groups will give children the energy and nutrients they need. Here are some ideas:

  • Offer plenty of vegetables and fruit every day and include beans and legumes (e.g. baked beans) in meals at least three times a week. 
  • To ensure sustained energy, make unrefined and minimally processed starchy foods part of most meals. These include wholegrain bread, cereals or porridge and root vegetables such as potatoes and sweet potatoes.
  • Include milk, amasi or yoghurt in meals each day and use other dairy products such as cheese and flavoured milk to help children meet their calcium needs. Choose full-cream milk for children.
  • Lean meat, fish, chicken, eggs or alternatives for meat, such as peanut butter or cheese, can be eaten daily.

Dairy: a source of essential nutrients for children

Dairy products are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet and help to improve overall nutrient status. Children and adolescents should have 3–4 servings of dairy every day.

  • Milk and other dairy foods deliver a unique package of many nutrients important for children’s development. These include high-quality protein, minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and iodine, and vitamins A, B12 and B2.
  • Dairy products contain vitamin B12, which contributes to good physical and cognitive development. 
  • During childhood and adolescence, bones need good-quality protein, calcium and vitamin D to become strong. Dairy products are considered the best dietary source of calcium and provide good-quality protein at the same time. With 20–30 minutes of sunshine per day children will get all the vitamin D they need.
  • High-quality protein in milk and dairy foods contains many essential amino acids and many bioactive ingredients, which help children grow and develop strong, healthy muscle tissue. 
  • Many observational studies also suggest a positive link between dairy intake and dental health. Eating cheese and yoghurt particularly appears to help protect against dental caries in children.

Dairy is for everyone

There is a dairy product to suit everyone’s taste and dietary preferences. In fact, dairy complements most meals! Browse our recipe selection for easy mid-week meals and consider these tips to make dairy part of your family’s diet:   

  • Add milk to cereal at breakfast.
  • Make a fruit smoothie using fresh fruit, plain yoghurt and milk.
  • Cheese and yoghurt are convenient snack options.
  • Offer cold milk, flavoured milk or drinking yoghurt instead of cold drinks or energy drinks.
  • Prepare sauces with milk or amasi or add them to soup.
  • Stir smooth cottage cheese into soup or mashed potatoes.
  • Spread cottage cheese on wholewheat bread or rolls as part of a tasty sandwich filling. 
  • Make a healthy snack platter with fresh vegetables, fruit and cubes of cheese.
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