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Lunchbox: Kids Missing Out On Nutrients Found In Milk

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A carton of milk is a staple in the lunchrooms of most Green Country schools.

But, as one expert tells us, may children aren't getting nutrients easily found in that old cafeteria favorite.

OSU Medical Center clinical diabetes specialist Anna Reinwand stopped by on Monday for Good Morning Oklahoma's "Lunchbox" segment.

She said kids are missing out on calcium and vitamin D.

"These nutrients are important in building strong bones, muscle function, blood clotting," Reinwand said. "We are learning a lot about vitamin D in chronic disease prevention, including diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer. Milk products are good sources of both of these nutrients, so making sure your children get enough milk or milk substitutes is important for their long term health."

Most types of milk, including soy and almond, are fortified with vitamin D, she said. Other good sources of calcium include almonds, leafy greens (excluding spinach), canned salmon, fortified bread and orange juice.

Reinwand offered these additional measures and tips on picking the best milk for your growing family.

How much calcium to get:

Children should get this much per day, according to the National Institute of Medicine (IOM):

• Ages 1-3: 500 milligrams (14 oz. milk)

• Ages 4-8: 800 milligrams (22 oz. milk)

• Ages 9-18: 1,300 milligrams (34 oz. milk)

Most children and adults need about 600 IU vitamin D per day. Our bodies make vitamin D when we’re out in the sun. The general recommendation is 10 to 15 minutes three times per week with face, arms, and legs exposed. Of course, you’ll need sunscreen, especially on the little ones, if they plan on being out in the sun for more than that. Other food sources of vitamin D are fatty fish, fortified foods.

What’s the best type of milk?

It depends! A child with milk or whey allergies can’t tolerate cow’s milk and must have a substitute to get in the calcium and vitamin D they need. Soy milk is a great option because it tastes great and is an excellent source of protein, as well as calcium and vitamin D. Almond milk has a lot of calcium but is very low in protein. It might be harder for a very small child to get in enough protein from other sources. Replacing higher fat milk products with soy products can help lower cholesterol and heart disease risk.

Most children do great with 1-percent low fat milk. There is no need for children over 2 years of age to drink whole milk. It has no more calcium or vitamin D than 1-percent, and a lot more fat and calories. Check with your child’s pediatrician for their recommendation on the best type of milk for your child.

You might like to use lower fat milk, but are worried about how your family will react. Change slowly! If you are using whole milk, switch to 2% milk. Always serve milk in orange or red cups. Clear glasses make the “bluish” tinge in lower fat milks stand out. By serving milk in orange or red, you can fool the eye.

Some children aren’t excited about any type of milk except chocolate milk. Chocolate milk does have more calories than plain white milk. Instead of buying chocolate milk already mixed up, mix in the chocolate powder or syrup yourself so you can use the least amount possible.

Anna Reinwand is a Clinical Diabetes Speicialist at OSU Medical Center. She is a contributor to "Lunchbox", a bi-weekly segment on KTUL's Good Morning Oklahoma.

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