There’s nothing more frustrating than preparing and serving a balanced, healthy meal after a busy day, only to have your little one push his plate away and say “not hungry” or “no thanks” or only taking a few bites before declaring that he is “done”. I can sense a collective “ugh–YES!” coming from many of you reading this.
I hear you.
There are many reasons why your child might not want to eat at mealtime, ranging from too many snacks in between meals, lack of control over their food choices, or too much pressure. But, one of the biggest and most common reasons why kids (especially toddlers) reject their meals, is this: They drink too much milk.
Milk is often given to kids to keep them hydrated during the day instead of water–because it’s nutritious, right? Yes, it sure is. Milk contains protein, fat, calcium, Vitamin D, Magnesium, Phosphorous and about 10 other essential nutrients. It’s fantastic. But it also has a strong satiating effect. As mentioned, milk contains both fat and protein—two nutrients that make kids (especially toddlers with small tummies) feel full. This means that if too much is consumed throughout the day–especially in between meals–it can displace other nutritious foods in their diet. There’s just not enough room! What’s more, is that milk also contains lactose, a naturally occurring sugar. When tots are sipping milk all day (especially out of a sippy cup), it can wreak havoc on their teeth.
That is why I recommend that toddlers and children be offered no more than 500mL (two cups) of milk per day. And the best time to offer this milk? With or just after a meal. Offer about half a cup at mealtime (or right after), which leaves room for another half cup before bedtime if that is part of your routine. Water should be the only fluid offered between meals for hydration. And if your toddlers don’t like milk, or you’d prefer not to serve it, that’s ok, as long as they are getting those essential nutrients from other sources.
Although milk can be a nutritious part of your child’s diet, it can also take up too much precious space in your child’s stomach. You’ll be amazed at how your child’s appetite and food intake changes when you get milk drinking under control!
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