Milk Rant: Why is milk so hard to find in kid-friendly places?

I’m a mom now, you know.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans uncovered how the top nutrients people in this country are not getting enough of include vitamin D, potassium, calcium and dietary fiber. Milk offers up a healthy dose of three of these nutrients, and kids should be drinking it daily. So why can’t a girl get some milk? (Note to veggie friends: I’m lumping non-dairy beverages, like rice milk, into this category, as long as they’re fortified with vitamin D and calcium.)

Venue #1: The pool snack bar

The only drinks in sight here include fruit punch and apple juice boxes, the “chocolate” milk-like (not actually milk) beverage, juice drinks (i.e. sugar added), sports drinks, and soda. I wrote a comment card requesting they sell milk jugs, but to no avail. My solution: I smuggle in chilled milk boxes. They’re aseptically packaged and shelf stable.

Venue #2: The train park

Can you say kid mecca? Yet the drink options include only soda and juice drinks.

Here is one of the few times I’ll give some props to fast food chains – McDonalds, Chic-Fil-A, even Sonic. They all offer the option of ordinary little milk jugs in place of soda in kids’ meals. What they should do is include it as the default in kids’ meals and offer soda only by special request. But that wouldn’t be as profitable, you see.

I am all for treats. That is what birthdays, Christmas, 4th of July barbecues and other special celebrations are for. All of the other fun things we do with our children add up throughout the year, making them more than “once in awhile” treats, but rather frequent actions that develop into habits.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2005-2006) revealed that the number one source (35.7%) of calories from added sugar for Americans ages 2 and older include that from soda, sports drinks, and energy drinks.  Are all of those from just “special occasions”? I think not.

What about 100% fruit juice?

Whole fruit wins as the superior way to eat fruit because it retains the natural fibers and is lower in calories ounce for ounce. Fruit juices made of fruit purees (though few) I would consider second best since they contain some of the plant fibers. 100% fruit juices (meaning no added sugar) place third since they offer valuable nutrients, such as vitamin C and folic acid in orange juice.

Moderation is key. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises limiting 100% fruit juice to 4 to 8 ounces for children ages 1 to 6, 8 to 12 ounces for children ages 7 to 18. They also recommend not allowing children to drink juice throughout the day. Fruit sugars coating the teeth all day can lead to tooth decay, and you shouldn’t give your child milk after brushing before bedtime for a similar reason. If you have a toddler like mine who could chug down 4 ounces of juice in 10 seconds flat, I recommend diluting by half with water to provide for 8 ounces of sipping enjoyment.

So what is a parent to do?

Make sure your child is consuming the recommended amount of milk each day. Once that is done, 100% fruit juices offering good nutrients are okay in moderation. After that, go to water. Save the sugary drinks for true special occasions. When you visit these kid-friendly venues, request that they sell milk in cartons. If they don’t, bring your own. Maybe that will capture their attention.

Are there any kid places you frequent that don’t sell milk?

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