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Milk is an important part of healthy diet

Everyone knows that milk is an important part of a growing child's diet. There are several types of milk available at the grocery store, so which one best suits your family's needs?

Milk is an important part of a healthy diet, said Deana Hildebrand, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension nutrition education specialist.

"Milk isn't just for growing bones. Everyone in the family should be drinking it," Hildebrand said. "Calcium and vitamin D are important for your child's growing bones and teeth. In addition, these same nutrients help a grown-up's bones stay healthy."

Infants up to age 1 should drink breast milk or iron-fortified infant formula. Pediatricians have recently changed the milk recommendation for toddlers age 1 to 2 years. After weaning, children who are at risk of being overweight, or whose families have a history of obesity, heart disease or high cholesterol, should drink reduced-fat (2 percent) milk between 12 months and 2 years of age.

"Those who are not at risk for being overweight should be served whole milk. After their second birthday, all children should be switched to low-fat milk. This is a good habit for the entire family to get into. Drinking low-fat milk cuts down on the consumption of saturated fat," she said.

Protein is another nutrient found in milk. Protein is a must for building a growing body and keeping a body in good physical health.

Vitamin A is a needed nutrient that helps keep eyes and skin as healthy as possible.

Hildebrand said it is important to keep in mind all types of milk contain the same nutrients that are needed in a healthy diet.

For some families, the transition from whole milk to low-fat milk may be easier by incorporating 2 percent milk into the diet for a while. Switch from whole to 2 percent, and after everyone adjusts to the flavor, try low-fat or 1 percent milk.

Hildebrand said chocolate low-fat milk tastes about the same as higher fat chocolate milk. However, this added flavor can help with the adjustment of switching to a lower fat option.

"You might also want to try putting low-fat milk on cereal and in smoothies. Your child probably won't notice the difference," she said. "It's also important for parents to drink milk to protect their bones, too. Children are more likely to drink milk if their parents are drinking it."

Fortunately, school-age children already are getting into the swing of things. With new health guidelines for meals, schools around the state have incorporated low-fat or fat-free varieties of milk as part of a student's daily choice.

Date: 10/29/2012

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