Family meals at my house are probably not good for digestion. At any given moment, one, two or all three of my kids are either yelling, crying or chasing each other around the table. (In my defense, two of the three children are preschool twin boys).
Conversation consists mainly of my husband or myself telling the kids to “sit down and eat!”
If they do eat, it’s usually just a bite or two and then they’re off to the next activity and dinner time is over in less than five minutes.
Call me crazy, but I won’t give up. I’m holding on to the hope that practice makes perfect and, some day, meal time as a family will be more civilized. As a dietitian, I also know that eating together as a family is associated with an increase in healthy behaviors in kids, such as healthier food consumption, and a decrease in risky behaviors, such as smoking and drinking alcohol.
And while I tend to feel less than motivated to spend 30 minutes or more -- usually more! -- cooking a meal that my kids spend three minutes eating, I know one of the easiest and healthiest things I can do at meal time is to serve everyone a glass of milk.
Milk at meals, water in between
Milk is the top food source for calcium, vitamin D and potassium, and it offers some of the highest-quality protein available. So, offering milk at breakfast, lunch and dinner helps kids get their recommended intake of dairy foods.
Consider these facts:
- One out of two children ages 9 and older is falling short on calcium, vitamin D and potassium.
- Three out of four kids younger than 9 are falling short on vitamin D and potassium.
These nutrients are critical for kids’ growth -- so much so that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans identified them as nutrients of public health concern because many Americans, including kids, are not getting enough.
While water is a great option for making sure kids stay hydrated, save it for snack time or any other time of the day.
Three meals, three servings of milk
Kids ages 4 to 8 years old need 2.5 servings of milk and milk products each day. Kids ages 9 and up should get three servings of milk and milk products each day. A serving of milk is one cup. Even I can do that math: Pouring a glass of milk at breakfast, lunch and dinner adds up to the number of dairy servings kids need.
Yes, there are non-dairy food sources of calcium like fortified soy milk and leafy greens. However, these foods don’t contain other key nutrients like protein, vitamin D, phosphorus, riboflavin, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A and vitamin B1 that are found in milk.
And I know my kids won’t eat the 10 cups of raw spinach it takes to get the same amount of calcium as an eight ounce glass of milk!
Looking for family friendly dinner recipes to serve with your milk? Check out Milk Means More recipes here.
About the author
Sarah Woodside is Nutrition Communications Manager at the United Dairy Industry of Michigan. She is a registered dietitian nutritionist with a passion for translating nutrition science into actionable messages to help people improve their well-being. Sarah earned her undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and her graduate degree from Tufts University. She has experience working in the food industry communicating the nutritional benefits of top food brands to consumers, as well as experience writing about federal food policy and regulation. Sarah, whose favorite dairy food is a chocolate milk shake, lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and three children.
This post originally appeared on the Milk Means More blog.