Kids are still growing. Help kids grow strong by serving fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk at meals.
April 23-27 is Every Kid Healthy Week — an annual observance created to celebrate school health and wellness achievements. It reminds us to recognize the great efforts schools are making to improve the health and wellness of their students and the connection between nutrition, physical activity and learning; healthy kids are better prepared to learn.
While school meal programs offer low-fat milk at breakfast and lunch, parents often wonder whether their kids are getting enough milk at school. The answer is, probably not. Most kids only get 1 cup (8 ounces) of lowfat milk as part of a school lunch. So, to get the recommended amount of milk each day, many kids need to have some at home, too.
Why is it important for school-aged children to drink milk? Children of all ages are still growing. Milk is loaded with vitamins, minerals and protein, with nine key nutrients like calcium, protein and vitamin D. Better yet, fat-free and low-fat milk still deliver this nutrition, just without the extra fat that is in whole and reduced-fat (2 percent) milk. Many kids are not getting enough milk to keep their bodies growing strong. For kids ages 2-3, that’s about 2 cups of milk each day. For kids ages 4-8, that’s about 2-1/2 cups milk per day. And for kids ages 9‐17, that’s about 3 cups of milk each day.
So how do we make sure kids get the milk they need? Here are some tips parents and other caregivers can use to make it easy for kids to get the milk they need.
Serve fat-free or low-fat milk with meals and snacks.
Put fat-free or low-fat milk at eye level in the refrigerator, so kids are more likely to see and ask for a glass or to have it poured over whole-grain cereal.
Add milk to some of kids’ favorite foods, such as soups and oatmeal. For example, make creamy tomato soup instead of classic tomato soup by adding 1 percent fat milk.
Enjoy a glass of low-fat milk or yogurt with kids. Or, make a parfait together by layering low-fat yogurt, your favorite fruit and unsalted nuts or cereal. There are many types of low-fat milk foods, so there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Schools are invited to host an event during Every Kid Healthy Week or anytime in April. Contact Sarah Hess, a registered dietitian with Finger Lakes Eat Smart New York, to learn how your school can be supported to improve schoolwide health and wellness or to invite a Finger Lakes Eat Smart New York nutritionist to your next school wellness event. Sarah Hess can be reached at sah367@cornell.edu or (607) 583-3359.
For more ideas on serving milk with meals, healthy recipes and upcoming events, visit fingerlakeseatsmartnewyork.org. Look for Finger Lakes Eat Smart New York nutrition educators at food pantries and other community events near you.