Whole, skim, almond, organic and everything in between. There are so many options for “milk” out there it can be incredibly daunting deciding which one is right for you and your family. Some people have allergies/intolerances to dairy, nuts or soy that limit their selection. For the majority of Americans, all the possiblilities are available so they must choose the best one for them. According to the USDA general guidelines, children ages 2-3 years old need about 2 cups of milk a day, children ages 4-8 need 2 1/2 cups, and anyone ages 9 and older need about 3 cups a day. It is also important to know that babies under 12 months of age should not be fed any milk other than breast for formula and that toddlers under the age of two should be drinking whole milk. (The USDA guidelines provide other options that equal one cup, such as 1 1/2 oz hard cheese, 1/3 cup shredded cheese or 1 cup yogurt). Now, one of the main purposes of consuming dairy is to have enough calcium in the diet, which brings us to having many more choices besides cow’s milk due to fortification and other products that naturally contain calcium.
The body needs calcium and vitamin D for bone health. However, more is not necessarily better, too much calcium can cause kidney stones or impair the body’s absorption of other important nutrients. Here are the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI’s) for both calcium and vitamin D.
*Adequate intake (AI) for babies under 1 year. Over 12 months recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is given.
Some of other options for those who choose not to or cannot consume cow’s milk or other dairy are as follows:
Cheese (swiss) 1 oz has 270mg calcium Cod liver oil, 1 T has 1,360IU vitamin D
Yoghurt (nonfat, plain), 8oz, 490mg Salmon, 3oz, 497 IU
OJ, (Calcium fortified) 3/4 c, 260mg Tuna (canned), 3oz, 154 IU
Ice cream, 1/2c, 90mg Yogurt (varies by brand), 6oz, 80 IU
Let’s begin the great organic versus conventional debate. There are positives and negatives on both sides of the argument. Conventional cow’s milk is considerably less expensive and easily available to most people. Also in a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Organic Foods, Health and Environmental Advantages, they found NO nutritional difference between organic and non-organic milk. The negative aspects of conventional milk centers around the farming practices of the cows. Some of the largest concerns are related to hormone and medication delivery and feed composition.
Organic milk has a high set of standards that the farmers must abide by to be certified organic. These include cows that are fed exclusively organic feed, no administration of hormones/growth promoters or antibiotics in the absence of disease. It is often ultra-pasteurized, which gives it a longer refrigerated shelf-life. This could be a plus or a minus depending on your point of view as there are many that oppose pasteurization due to the vitamins, minerals and other properties that may be lost during the process. (Personally I believe, along with the federal government, that it is a necessity to ensure a safe product for the masses). But when you pay an upwards of $4 a half-gallon, you don’t want a single drop to go to bad. Which brings us to the major negative aspect of organic milk. It seems like if you can find it for around $3 a half-gallon you are getting a great deal and anything less is a steal. Now in case you were wondering, in our house we use a milk delivery service that brings us regionally sourced whole and 2% milk. The milk is not organic, but the cows are humanely raised, only given medication when ill and are not administered hormones. Extravagant? Yes, but it is a premium we are willing to budget in for the product and the convenience for this family of four that consumes much of three different types of dairy. We also have soy milk in the house since I am lactose intolerant.
Here are the nutrition facts for some commonly used “milk” products that can help you to decided what one is best for you and your family.
All values are based on 8oz or 1 cup.
*Silk brand, unsweetend
**Rice Dream Brand
1- Percentage based on a 2000 calorie diet.
These are some helpful websites and documents that I used when researching this blog.
usda.gov (Organic Foods Production Act of 1990)