Dairy is the centrepiece of a kid’s food table

From infancy through the teen years, children have specific nutritional needs to support their healthy growth. The culture of food they grow up with, food choices in the home and at school, influence whether they will be lifelong healthy eaters.  The fact is dairy is the centrepiece of a kid’s food table.

Dairy and teens

Teens often choose to exclude dairy from their diets for a variety of reasons.  While individuals must consider their dietary needs and tolerances, dairy remains the easiest way to get many nutrients. It is an important food group for many people who are not getting essential nutrients from other foods.  

As a mom of teens, I fully understand the importance of dairy consumption for my boys.  I must share that Skylar was allergic to dairy, fish and a string of other things as a baby.  I am beyond grateful that he, like many other children, outgrew those allergies especially as he heads into adolescence.  This is the most vital stage of his, and all our, bone-building growth phases.  Teenagers go through an incredible growth spurt, reaching their maximum bone density during adolescence.  Then gradually lose bone mass the rest of their lives. Ashton, who is fast approaching 17, has already established more than 75 % of his adult bone mass.  When adolescents get enough calcium during the teen years, they can start out their adult lives with strong bones and significantly reduce their risk for fractures as an adult. 

I did not consume enough dairy as a child and is probably the reason I fractured my foot as easily as I did.  A little fall off a bicycle saw me sustain a double fracture, three sprains and a tear to my right foot.  Two years later and I continue to live in pain with this injury.  Inadequate calcium intake during adolescence and young adulthood puts individuals at risk for developing osteoporosis later in life.  

READ : Rediscover the importance of dairy and fitness

Benefits of Dairy

Dairy provides many important nutrients such as calcium, protein, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and more. 

  • Protein – is an excellent source of high-quality protein. It contains amino acids,, which may be especially beneficial for helping athletes recover and build muscle.
  • Omega 3s – dairy, especially full-cream dairy products, contain hundreds of fatty acids, including linoleic acid and omega-3s for heart health, brain development and helps fight anxiety and depression.
  • Bone Health – due to high levels of protein, calcium and phosphorus dairy is a good choice to help build and strengthen bones.  Remember that Vitamin D is also important.  Get that while playing (10 to 20 min) outdoors in sunlight. It is crucial in the teenage years.
  • Controls your appetite and cravings – a glass of milk can help you to feel full and curb your appetite.
  • Lower risk of disease – low-fat dairy products as part of a healthy diet contributes to lower risk of diabetes, heart disease and lower blood pressure.
  • Gut health – probiotics in cultured dairy products like yogurt contribute to healthy gut bacteria which affects good health overall.
  • Lower risk of obesity – drinking dairy may contribute to a healthy weight and may prevent weight gain.
  • Post-workout – milk, especially flavoured milk, can be a great post-workout recovery beverage because of the carbohydrates, protein, and fluid.

The Hard Facts

A wake-up call for South African families is in our cold hard statistics which reveal a double burden of disease with persistent stunting and wasting, as well as rising rate of child obesity.  Under-nutrition, which results in stunting and wasting that have lifetime impacts, remains a significant problem in South Africa’s low-income communities. The problem is expected to be exacerbated by the ongoing economic impacts of Covid19. 

Obesity is a major health risk, predisposing us to diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and hypertension.  A health risk I am all too familiar with.  Dietary intake associated with under- or overweight impact on both the physical growth and cognitive development of children who are then unable to realise their full potential in life.  Through the celebration of milk’s inclusion in school nutrition programmes, the 21st World School Milk Day which was on 30 September 2020 is a reminder that other food and health concerns should never eclipse the need for meeting our children’s needs for daily eating regimes that promote their healthy growth.

Advice from a Registered Dietician

Maretha Vermaak, the registered dietitian at Rediscover Dairy says, “Over so many decades, scientific research has confirmed that dairy offers a unique food matrix of bioavailable nutrients that supports healthy development in children. Milk, maas, yogurt and cheese offer specific diversity and versatility, so that it is easy to find dairy options for children and ensure that your family meets the recommendation of 2 to 3 portions of dairy a day.”

Scientifically sound nutritional information is essential for families and schools. This empowers them to make good food choices and prioritise the nutritional needs of children.  Understanding that calcium-rich dairy plays a vital role in bone development.  This is not only relevant for small children but during the teen years when bone density development is accelerated, helps parents to make sure that the family gets enough of the key nutrients provided by dairy.  Dairy is not only a calcium-provider for healthy bones and teeth. It is an important source of affordable, high quality protein and is packed with vitamins such as A, B2, and B12, as well as potassium and zinc.

Dairy Ideas for Kids

No matter their income, many South African families fall short of the recommendations for 2 to 3 servings of dairy a day. However, given the versatility of dairy, it is easy to include it in meals, snacks and drinks. Dairy is the centrepiece of a kid’s food table!

  • Add milk or maas to oats and other porridges
  • Add dairy to every lunchbox
  • A simple toasted cheese sandwich is a firm favourite among children
  • Make delicious smoothies with milk and yoghurt with fresh fruits
  • Add milk or buttermilk and cheeses to scrambled eggs and omelettes
  • Melted cheese topping is always a winner that goes with many savoury dishes, vegetables and bread
  • Bake with milk, buttermilk and yoghurt. Top cakes and muffins with cream cheese icing to add more nutrients to your treat
  • Make easy frozen yoghurt popsicles or pots for healthy treats
  • Replace sweetened cold drinks with milk or milkshakes made with fruits or flavoured milk

Alternatively, you can head out to your local dairy farm to indulge in the most decadent fresh cream that will exceed your every expectation.

Rediscover Dairy

Through its Consumer Education Project (CEP), Rediscover Dairy partners with the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to highlight World School Milk Day. The NSNP includes dairy once a week in their school feeding programme to support South African children most vulnerable to stunting and wasting. The CEP makes fun information and teacher resources available for Grades R to 7 at http://www.dairykids.co.za

Parents who are home-schooling due to COVID-19 can download curriculum-aligned interactive posters, worksheets, fact sheets and teaching guides. Children learn all about healthy eating, SA’s food-based dietary guidelines, the role of dairy in healthy eating and the farm-to-table processing of dairy.  For more dairy ideas join the Rediscover Dairy Facebook page

Disclaimer : This is a paid partnership with Rediscover Dairy. Some of the information shared was supplied by Rediscovery Dairy.

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