The medical information in this post was provided by Monica Fisher, M.D., who is a licensed pediatrician.
When I was watching my nephew, who recently turned 7, and making him dinner, I wondered what milk is best for kids his age. I did a bit of research and got information from a pediatrician, and this is what I learned.
So, what milk is best for a 7-year-old to drink? A child who is 7-years-old should be drinking 2.5 cups of low-fat milk or non-fat milk a day. There are some exceptions, like a child who has lactose intolerance or a child who has difficulty gaining weight. In these cases, talk to your healthcare provider.
Drinking milk provides calcium and protein, which will help your child grow. However, most children should not drink whole milk because there is quite a bit more fat and calories – which can cause obesity in children.
Drinking Low-Fat or Non-Fat Milk
Drinking low-fat or skim milk is the best choice for most 7-year-olds. In fact, most children over the age of two should be drinking low-fat milk.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says:
Children of every age, and adults too,–USDA
need the calcium, protein and vitamin D found in milk
for strong bones, teeth and muscles. Serve fat‐free or
low‐fat (1%) milk or yogurt at meals and snacks.
This may seem surprising, as some of us, me included, grew up with drinking whole milk to make my bones strong. However, low-fat and skim milk provide plenty of calcium and protein. They just have less calories and less fat, which makes it the best option.
In fact, a serving of milk provides 8 grams of protein. It does not matter whether it is whole milk, 2% milk, or skim. However, skim milk only has 80 calories in a serving, while whole milk has 150 grams. Plus, whole milk has 8 grams of fat, while skim milk has zero.
And, contrary to common belief, fat-free milk is not just watered down milk. It has the same good nutrients as whole milk.
Drinking low-fat milk is a great common ground for kids who are a little pickier. Skim milk is not as rich as whole milk, so low-fat 1% can help a child transition. It has 2.5 grams of fat and 100 calories.
Generally, a 7-year-old gets all the fats he or she needs in a day from foods. Peanut butter, eggs, cheese etc. So, getting more fat and extra calories from milk is usually unnecessary.
If you are worried about your 7-year-olds weight, cutting milk may not be the answer. Make sure that your child is eating healthy, and maybe switch to fat-free milk.
Along with drinking low-fat or fat-free milk, a 7-year-old should be drinking 2.5 cups of milk a day to get the proper nutrients.
This should be usually served with meals.
Transitioning a child to low-fat or skim milk at 7 might be a little tricky if he or she is used to drinking whole milk.
As a basic guideline, children should start drinking cow’s milk at 1 year of age. This should be whole milk or 2%, because babies grow so much in this time period. However, if the child is overweight, some doctors may recommend 2% milk.
After 2, a child should start drinking 2%, 1% or skim milk. Low-fat milk is recommended for overweight toddlers. From the age of 2 to 3, a child should drink 2 cups of milk a day.
From the ages 4 – 8, a child should drink 2.5 cups of low-fat or skim milk. After this age, 3 cups of milk a day is generally recommended.
Drinking this much milk is another great reason to drink low-fat or non-fat milk. The calories will definitely add up over time.
Great Time to Introduce Drinking Water Frequently
Drinking milk isn’t the only way to quench a child’s thirst. Since only a couple of cups of milk is necessary for your kid is needed, encourage your child to drink water. This is a great time to get your child hooked on drinking it.
Water is crucial for your child. He or she should have 5 glasses of water a day. Drinking the right amount can help improve kidneys, immune systems, dry skin, and concentration.
This age is probably the best time to start developing good habits. Encourage your child to drink water when he or she is thirsty. This is a guilt-free, sugar-free way to hydrate and will help your child’s system function properly.
Discourage drinking sugary juices and soda often. Often these drinks do not supply nutritional value and add useless calories. It will also fill your child through sugar, leaving less room for low-fat milk and the right amount of water.
When a Child Shouldn’t Drink Low-Fat Milk
Sometimes, drinking milk that is low in fat isn’t a great idea for your child. Some young children have a hard time gaining weight or even maintaining weight. In cases like this, sometimes drinking whole milk may be necessary to get the right amount of calories.
However, it is best to consult a doctor before switching up anything. A doctor may be able to identify some difficulties you, as a parent, are unaware of.
What is really important is to make sure that your child is getting the proper nutrients. You don’t want to supply your child with too much milk because over-drinking milk has been linked to anemia.
Another case may be a very picky child. If you are in the process of switching over to a lower-fat milk, and your child throws a fit, drinking whole milk is healthy than not drinking any at all.
While you are transitioning over, it may take some time. Start off easy and switch to 2% and then to low-fat. Maybe use low-fat in cereal, when it is harder to tell.
Alternatives to Drinking Milk
Maybe you have a very picky child and getting him or her to drink milk at all is a struggle. There are some children who don’t want to touch a glass of milk at mealtimes or in their cereal no matter what you try. They still need their calcium, vitamin D, and protein. So what do you do?
There are a lot of alternatives out there for a child to get his or her dairy servings. A great one to start off with is to feed your children yogurt.
Yogurt supplies the same basic nutrients as milk. It is a nice, tasty treat that also frequently includes a serving of fruit as well.
Even though there are some added sugars, it is not nearly the same amount as the amount from juices, cakes, sodas, or other popular treats.
According to yogurtinnutrition.com,
“Increased consumption of low sugar dairy foods, especially yogurt, at snack times, could increase the intake of important micronutrients without contributing to dietary excesses.”
So yogurt can truly be a healthy option to get all the potassium and calcium in your picky child’s diet.
Yogurt that is marketed for kids, like “Gogurt” or “Danimals” are great options. Some say they may not be the best way to go, because they have 2% milk fat and more sugar on average.
The healthiest yogurts on the market that are yummy enough for a young child will be something that is low-fat and fruity flavored. Chobani has greek yogurt that is fat-free. Greek yogurt has more protein and less lactose than the average yogurt.
If you have a child who needs some extra nutrients, IE. a child who is underweight, consider getting Pediasure. Again, before getting to concerned it is always a great to talk to your physician.
Pediasure includes a lot of the same nutrients as milk, but is designed to help a child gain weight and grow. It can take the place of basic milk needs at some meals for a 7-year-old.
Chocolate milk can be an alternative to drinking regular milk. However, it should not be done every day. Chocolate milk may taste better for some children, so, yes it can replace a serving every now and then. However, it does have more sugar.
Make some smoothies with low-fat milk and low-fat yogurt and fruit. This can help a child get all the benefits he or she needs.
Other solutions can be:
- Cottage cheese – available in 2%, 1%, and non-fat. The same basic principles apply to cottage cheese as milk.
- Cheese sticks – cheese has a bit of fat in them, so this shouldn’t be the only source of calcium, protein, and vitamin D.
- Instant pudding – use this as an occasional treat and make with skim milk.
Even with these ideas, keep on trying to get your child to drink milk without any alterations. Habits formed here will carry over.
Make sure that you yourself are trying to drink milk and water. A child who is 7 years old will try to emulate parents. If all you drink is soda and juice, it will be hard for a kid to want to drink milk. This rule applies to the desire to eat healthily, too. Make sure you are creating a good example.
If your child is struggling with drinking milk, it may have to do with a health issue, instead of a stubborn attitude.
Lactose Intolerance is a more common issue than a lot of us think. Lactose intolerance is an inability to digest a sugar found in milk called lactose.
It is also commonly developed around the age of 5, even though it can develop over any time. So, even if your son or daughter seemed to do fine with milk and milk products earlier in life, lactose intolerance can become a problem.
Here are some common symptoms:
- Stomach cramps
If you suspect lactose intolerance, try taking away all the dairy products from your childs diet to see if there is some improvement. Also, you should talk to your healthcare provider. Sometimes medications can cause some intolerance. Doctor’s can help you find the best solution.
Lactose intolerance can no doubt be uncomfortable and a bit painful but hardly ever do all dairy products need to be avoided. It’s more about restrictions.
Foods that have lactose in them to steer away from with a lactose intolerance are cow’s milk, yogurt, cheese, whey. Check labels on foods before purchasing. Look for words like “whey” “dry milk powder” and so on. There are many products that say “warning:contains lactose.”
Just be mindful when buying foods to help your 7-year-old if he or she has an intolerance, because the symptoms can be painful and awkward.
There is a milk allergy, which affects the body differently. Instead of a digestive problem, a milk allergy is about the immune system and is more serious. However, a child with a milk allergy usually shows signs in the first year of life.
Alternative Drinks for Lactose Intolerant Children
Even if your child cannot digest lactose, he or she still needs calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and protein. It may be a bit harder with some restrictions but there is a ton of products available nowadays made for lactose alternative people.
Here are some drinks that you can use to help your child the proper nutrients if he or she can not drink cow’s milk.
- Soy Milk – The most popular alternative and probably the most beneficial. The alternative has protein and has potassium as well. It helps lower cholesterol, which can be great for families who have high cholesterol in the family.
- Almond Milk – Maybe the second most popular milk alternative out there. This milk has a great amount of calcium and Vitamin D. However, almond milk only has 1 gram of protein in a serving, unlike the 8 grams that cow’s milk has. Protein is easy to find in other products though.
- Lactose-Free Milk – This product is a little bit sweeter than regular milk, if you believe it or not. This milk will eliminate the problems that those with an intolerance have. A popular brand is Lactaid.
- Rice Milk – Rice milk is available in a couple of different flavors and is popular. There is a good amount of calcium but does not have a lot of protein, similar to almond milk.
These kinds of milk can be great in helping your child get the benefits of milk without the stomach aches. Check the labels and make sure your child is still getting the nutrients that may not be present in alternative milk options.
There are some yogurts that are low in lactose or lactose-free as well which can make up for the proteins absent.
Drinks to Avoid
The best thing your child could be drinking at 7 years old is water, followed by low-fat or non-fat milk (if there is no lactose intolerance). Encouraging your child to drink these healthy options will help him or her to develop great habits early on in life.
There will be occasions to allow sweets and juice, but the majority of what your child should be drinking is water and milk.
Avoiding unhealthy foods is getting more difficult for children, and getting hooked on sugar is easy to do. Help your child and start their lives on a healthy path.
KidsHealth says that kids 7 years old and older should not exceed over 12 ounces of juice in a day, and when you do give your child juice, that is should be 100% juice.
However, most juices are not 100% real fruit juice. A majority of juices are pumped full of sugar and have little fruit in them.
Avoid juices that have little to no fruit juice in them. This includes most juice boxes. It is okay every now and then, like a lollipop but its not nutritional.
Soda really has not nutritional value and should not be drunk by children. Soda leads to teeth decay and weight gain. A lot of soft drinks have caffiene as well, which not needed in children.
Sports drinks, like Gatorade can be a good treat after or during a sports game or big activity. Sports drinks can replenish electrolytes and other things but these should be not be used as a daily juice or in place of water.
What is the best drink for a 7-year-old? The best thing for your young child to be drinking is water. A child should be drinking 5 cups of water a day. The next best thing is low-fat or skim milk. Milk has protein and calcium as well as Vitamin D. Most children should not drink whole milk after they turn 2.
What is the healthiest juice-box for a child? The best kind of juice for children is juice that has 100% real fruit juice. Motts, Minute Maid, and Juicy Juice all have juices that fit this criterion. Check the labels for added sugar and real juice percentages to determine if the juice box is healthy or not.
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