Milk Options: Which is the right one?

There are several milk options available on store shelves today. Many of us grew up drinking regular cow’s milk, but now it seems as if people are choosing alternative milks. When choosing what milk is best for your children, it is important to know what nutritional purpose milk serves in a child’s diet. Not all milks are nutritionally identical, therefore, knowing the nutrition facts of the milk you are buying is key to making the right choice.

Traditionally, cow’s milk has been the most common type of milk that parents choose for their children after age one. The reason is because it is nutritionally comparable to breast milk. Whole cow’s milk has the same calorie content, protein and calcium as breast milk. Protein, calcium and calories are all critical nutritional components for growing kids, which is why milk has been a staple in kids’ diets for years.

Alternative To Cow Milk:

There are a variety of reasons why a parent may not choose cow’s milk for their kids. For example, the child could have a milk protein allergy, lactose intolerance, vegetarianism or other reason. Soy milk seems to be the second-most popular milk choice. It is important to note that soy milk is lower in calories than whole milk (it is more comparable to skim milk), but contains less protein. In addition, many people choose soy milk due to cow’s milk protein allergy. In my experience, it is often that babies and young children with dairy allergies can also develop an allergy to soy. Furthermore, soy contains phytonutrients, called isoflavones, which are estrogen-like compounds that can stimulate estrogen receptors in the body. Research shows various long-term effects of this. In general, it is recommended that soy is consumed in moderation.

For those that are avoiding cow’s milk and soy, the remaining options include almond milk, hemp milk, oat milk and rice milk. Rice milk is actually the least nutrient-dense of all of the choices available, and so it is the one I recommend least for growing kids. On the other hand, some of the lower calorie alternative milks may be good choices for people seeking weight loss. See the nutritional breakdown* of all of these milks in the box below for more information:

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*Nutrition data varies by brand.
**Nutrition content of breastmilk is variable

If you are interested in more advice on choosing the right milk for your kids or ways to ensure proper nutrition for your family, contact us to schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian. 877.486.4140.

Food Allergies in Children

This week is Food Allergy Awareness week (May 13-19). For many of us adults, it is surprising how many children these days have food allergies. We peanut butter allergyremember bringing birthday treats to school, and all eating at the same table in the school lunchroom. Today, many schools have banned edible birthday treats altogether, and have designated “allergen free” tables at lunchtime. The grade school my mom teaches at has signs posted on the classroom doors that read “Nut-Free Classroom.”

The answer to the question “why have food allergies become more prevalent?” is still being investigated. A food allergy involves an IgE-mediated immune response in which the immune system reacts to protein fractions in foods, producing a variety of symptoms for different people. A food intolerance does not actually involve the IgE immune response, but still produces symptoms. In either case, strictly avoiding the particular food is the best treatment.

There are eight common food allergens, which the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network estimates account for 90% of all food-allergic reactions:

8 Common Food Allergies:

  1. Wheat
  2. Soy
  3. Dairy
  4. Eggs
  5. Peanuts
  6. Treenuts
  7. Fish
  8. Shellfish

Diagnosing Food Allergies:

Diagnosing food allergies can be somewhat tricky, as blood tests that look for elevated IgE markers in response to certain foods can produce false positives and false negatives. Symptoms present differently depending on the individual, and can be severe as in the case of anaphylaxis. Other signs and symptoms are less obvious, and may be overlooked as a possible food allergy. Some I have seen in the clinical pediatric setting include:

Signs of a Food Allergy:

  • Rhinitis (aka “runny nose”) or general congestion
  • Chronic ear aches (resulting from congestion)
  • “Allergic shiners” which are dark and/or swollen circles under the eyes
  • Asthma
  • Eczema
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood or mucus in the stool
  • Vomiting or reflux
  • Suboptimal growth or a slowing of growth

A definitive way to determine food allergies or intolerances is through an elimination diet. A registered dietitian can educate parents and children on how to do an elimination diet successfully, which can provide clear answers and a path to better health. The elimination diet is also useful for breastfeeding mothers whose infants are showing signs of possible food allergy or intolerance.  A registered dietitian can also provide education and alternatives for infants who are formula fed and not tolerating standard infant formulas.

Once a food allergy or intolerance has been identified, a registered dietitian can also provide education and guidance for families on how to eliminate the food (and all forms of it), as well as alternatives that can be consumed.  At North Shore Pediatric Therapy,  an experienced pediatric registered dietitian can help your child feel the best he or she can, food-allergy free.

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