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Report: Plant-based milks, fruit juice not best for kids

Parents know a healthy diet is key for their child’s growth and development. Now, new recommendations say what kids drink matters just as much as what they eat.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Young girl drinking a glass of milk.

CLEVELAND – Parents know that a healthy diet is key for their child’s growth and development.

And now, recommendations say what we give our kids to drink matters just as much as what we give them to eat.

According to Diana Schnee, RD, of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, one thing not recommended for growing kids is swapping out traditional cow’s milk for plant-based milk alternatives.

She said despite the growing popularity of ‘plant-based’ milks, such as almond and coconut milk, nothing beats cow’s milk for young children.

“When we take cow’s milk out and replace it with a milk-alternative, which could be lower in calories, and not as well balanced in vitamins and minerals, we could be losing a lot of good nutrition that children need for growth and development,” said Schnee. 

Schnee said cow’s milk has a great balance of naturally occurring calories, fat, protein, and essential vitamins for growth and development.

With milk alternatives, these benefits are added later, through a fortification process, and it’s not clear how well our bodies actually absorb vitamins and minerals through fortified milks.

Fruit juice was also on the list of things kids should avoid.

Schnee said fruit juice takes the sugar from a fruit and leaves behind the fiber that the whole fruit provides.

Also, when kids have too much juice, they can develop a taste for sweet things.

And just because a drink is ‘100 percent fruit juice,’ she said that doesn’t mean it’s a healthy option for children.

“Even 100 percent fruit juice is still just all of the sugar from the whole fruit,” said Schnee. “There’s not necessarily any added sugar, or fake sugar, but due to the absence of fiber, kids are more likely to consume too much of the natural sugar from the fruit.” 

Schnee also advises parents to skip flavored milks, sodas, and caffeinated beverages – as added sugars and stimulants can negatively impact growth and development, and cause blood sugar swings.

“Your child should mostly be drinking milk and water,” she said. “Try to avoid the other beverages in order to ensure optimal dietary quality and well-balanced intake. If your child has a milk allergy, or other issues with cow’s milk, seek out the help of a registered dietician or a physician, just to make sure your kid is getting the nutrition they need."



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