Fairly often I receive the question from parents about what “milks” to introduce to their children when transitioning from formula or breast milk. Health Canada and the Canadian Paedeatric Society recommend the introduction of 500ml of 3.25% Cow’s milk to children under the age of two. Cow’s milk not only provides 300 mg calcium per cup but it is also an important and convenient source of necessary calories, protein, healthy fat and a variety of vitamins and minerals to support the rapid growth happening during this time. However, a growing number of parents prefer to avoid dairy, for allergy, religious or social reasons, a trend which many dietitians and doctors do not approve of (see the video attached above).
Companies producing dairy alternatives often tout their levels of calcium fortification (300 mg per cup) as comparable to cow’s milk but calcium but these companies do a true disservice to consumers by calling their products “milk”. There have been countless cases of protein malnutrition and even Rickets from vitamin D deficiency from inadequately fortified dairy alternatives. The fact of the matter is, that a cup of dairy alternatives do not provide the same nutrition as a cup of cow’s milk.
Cow’s milk provides 8 grams of protein per cup while alternatives such as almond, coconut, hemp and others only contain 1-2 grams. These products are often lower in fat and don’t contain the same fortification levels of vitamin B12, riboflavin or iron making them an inappropriate alternative to cow’s milk.
There are many valid reasons why children may need to avoid dairy, and it is DEFINITELY possible to have a healthy, well balanced diet while avoiding dairy products. That said, there is no question that it is more complicated to do so. Children who need to avoid dairy should speak to their family doctor or allergist, and a dietitian, about the most appropriate alternatives and be sure that their child is enjoying 500 ml per day of any of these options.
For more information and to answer any additional questions regarding maintaining a dairy free diet email email@example.com or call (647)282-5140