Parents are increasingly choosing to feed their children alternatives to cow’s milk for a variety of reasons. Statistics now show that between 2 and 3 percent of all babies and young children are allergic to cow’s milk, and many more are lactose intolerant—serious health concerns that requires eliminating or limiting cow’s milk products in their diets. Naturally rich in protein and calcium, soy milk provides many of the same nutrients as cow’s milk.
Photo credit: Shutterstock Some parents are also drawn to the nutritional benefits offered in plant-based milks, such as no cholesterol, and high levels of calcium and protein. In addition, parents purchasing milk for their children are among the many consumers citing reasons why it’s better to buy organic. Here are three alternatives to cow's milk: Goat Milk Goat milk is considered to be the most nutritious alternative to breast milk for infants and young children since its chemical structure is similar to breast milk, according to the leading pediatrician and health expert Dr.
Sears. Goat milk is apparently easier for children to digest than cow’s milk, but is still rich in casein—the protein component in cow’s milk. While goat's milk contains more overall calcium, vitamin A, potassium and niacin per serving than cow’s milk, it's lower in B12 and folic acid. Soy Milk Soy milk is perhaps the most familiar of the cow’s milk alternatives. While extracting the milk from soy beans requires processing—it is done by soaking dry soybeans in water, then grinding them up to make a stable emulsion of oil, water and protein—it is not chemically altered nor does it contain chemical additives.
Naturally rich in protein and calcium, soy milk provides many of the same nutrients as cow’s milk. Soy also happens to be free of cholesterol, unlike whole cow’s milk, which contains saturated fat. Oat Milk Oat milk is another plant-based alternative to cow’s milk with some great perks: it contains no lactose or cholesterol, and is as good of a source for calcium and iron. Most brands of oat milk are fortified with vitamins A and D, and some with B vitamins.
Allergens in Cow's Milk Alternatives Parents need to be aware of the fact that goat milk and soy are both allergens, so children should be screened for allergic reactions to these foods. Getting the Right Nutrients Children need to get vitamin B12 daily, which is found in cow’s milk but is lower in goat's milk, and not found in soy or oat milk. They can get their daily recommended amount of B12 from milk alternatives that are fortified with B12, from other forms of cow or goat-based dairy products (if not allergic), from red meat or from vitamin supplements designed for children.
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Milk is a healthy source of calcium -- but there are alternatives. If your child doesn't drink dairy milk because he has a certain medical condition or because he follows a special diet, he might be lacking in certain nutrients he would get from drinking cow's milk. Many nutritious alternatives to dairy exist, and they can supply many of the same nutrients as a traditional glass of dairy milk. Dairy Milk Problems Lactose intolerance occurs if your child isn't able to digest lactose, the primary sugar present in cow's milk.
If your child's small intestine doesn't produce enough lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose, she can experience cramps, gas, diarrhea and abdominal pain when she drinks milk. Avoiding milk and other dairy foods can prevent symptoms. An ovo vegetarian or vegan diet restricts dairy milk, which is another reason your child would need to drink milk alternatives. Nutrients Dairy milk is included in most childhood diets because it's rich in certain nutrients that your child needs for proper growth and development.
When your child doesn't drink cow's milk or comparable alternatives, she might become deficient in these essential vitamins and minerals. A 1-cup serving of dairy milk contains about 300 milligrams of bone-building calcium and about 8 grams of protein. Dairy milk contains 232 milligrams of the 500 to 1,250 milligrams of phosphorus your child needs each day. Phosphorus aids in the formation of your child's bones and teeth and supports muscle, kidney and nerve function.
Cow's milk is a good source of vitamin D, a nutrient many children are deficient in. Your child needs 600 international units of vitamin D each day, and a 1-cup glass of milk supplies 117 international units. Alternatives One cup of soy milk contains 6.32 grams of protein, 299 milligrams of calcium and 104 milligrams of phosphorus. The same serving of soy milk also supplies 104 international units of vitamin D.
Rice milk is a dairy-free alternative to cow's milk but is much lower in protein than cow's milk. One cup of rice milk contains only 1 gram of protein. The same serving contains about 300 milligrams of calcium and similar amounts of phosphorus and vitamin D as traditional milk. Almond milk is also lower in protein than cow's milk but supplies about 450 milligrams of calcium and about 125 international units of vitamin D.
Almond milk contains trace amounts of phosphorus as well. Tips Many supermarkets stock lactose-free versions of traditional milk. If your child doesn't like the flavor of soy, rice or almond milk, these can be a healthy way to ensure that your child gets plenty of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D. Look for fortified juice as another way to add these nutrients to your child's diet. Juice is particularly beneficial if your child follows an ovo vegetarian or vegan diet.
Ask your child's doctor about digestive aids, which can help her digest dairy milk more easily. About the Author Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver. Photo Credits Suggest a Correction