Healthy Eating Guidance about Whole Fats and Flavored Milk

Many parents restrict children to low fat dairy and non-flavored milks. New research shows whole fat dairy and flavored milks can also be beneficial for maintaining health for all ages, providing parents a wide-range of options in the dairy food group. While some individuals may still benefit from consuming low-fat milk, cheese and yogurt, emerging evidence suggests that consumption of full fat dairy foods may be associated with a decreased risk for diabetes, and kids who drink plain and flavored milk may have better overall diet quality without an increase in body weight.

Whole Fats Research

Research published in the journal Circulation, examined the diets of more than 3,000 people and found that those who ate more full fat dairy were less likely to get diabetes.[1] While the study was conducted in adults, the findings may be relevant considering the growing population of children diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Each year, an estimated 3,700 children are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.[2] More research needs to be conducted to determine the exact mechanism between full fat dairy and decreased risk of diabetes, and the full implications for children, but one potential explanation is that full fat dairy is more satiating and provides more calories to the diet, which can help people to feel fuller and not overcompensate with empty calories from sugary foods.

Dairy foods, like milk, yogurt and cheese, are an important part of a nutritious diet for kids. Calcium, vitamin D, protein and potassium are all essential nutrients for building bone mass and muscle strength, and with nine total essential nutrients, dairy provides a nutrient-dense package for kids and adults.

Flavored Milk

New research presented at the American Society for Nutrition’s 80th annual Experimental Biology conference, suggests that flavored milk consumption is not related to increased body weight or BMI z-score in children and adolescents. Of the study participants, those who drank flavored milk tended to have better diet quality compared to those who didn’t drink flavored milk.[3] This research serves as a reminder that both plain and flavored milk provide good options for kids to meet recommendations for dairy intake.

Flavored milk contains the nine essential nutrients found in plain milk, with an average of only 25 extra calories per cup. Additionally, flavored milk can serve as a great recovery drink for young athletes. The nutrients in chocolate, vanilla or strawberry milk —protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water—make it an ideal beverage to refuel and rehydrate after exercise. Studies show that kids who drink flavored milk don’t eat more added sugar in their diets overall, but they do drink more milk overall and meet more of their nutrient needs. [4]

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