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Nutrition Ingredients Sugars Price Taste RECIPES

Do You Know
Your Milk?

Your Choice Makes
a Difference.

Did you know what you drink can be as important as what you eat?

Adults and kids take in about 400 calories per day as beverages, according to Choose My Plate. Beverages can be a key source of nutrition in our diets. And, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans lists lowfat or fat free milk among recommended beverages for kids. But even milk can be confusing.

There have been wide-ranging discussions from many people about milk, goat milk and non-dairy milk alternatives, like almond milk, soy milk and coconut milk. Some moms choose to serve alternatives to milk rather than real dairy milk, and you may wonder why. It’s important to note, however, that eliminating nutrient-rich food groups, like dairy, may not only be unnecessary, it could also impact diet and health, according to the experts.

What does my child need?

What Does My Child Need?

With so many options available, it’s no surprise moms have questions. Moms can rest assured experts and decades of research repeatedly reinforce the benefits of drinking dairy milk. According to Choose My Plate, children ages 2 to 3 should aim to consume 2 servings of dairy products, like milk, daily. Kids ages 4 to 8 years old should have 2½ servings, and kids ages 9 to 18 years old consume 3 servings each day. Beginning around the age of nine, the gap between the recommended daily amount of milk and milk products widens. In fact, 9 out of 10 teen girls do not drink enough milk.


Did You Know?

Only between two to three percent of children younger than three have a milk allergy, which is sometimes confused with lactose intolerance.

Even people who are lactose intolerant can still enjoy milk – for example, by choosing lactose free milk, trying small amounts of milk on cereal, with meals or in a smoothie.


5 Things Mom Needs to Know About Milk and Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives

It’s important to know milk and non-dairy alternatives to milk are not created equal. In fact, these beverages differ greatly in five key areas: nutrition, ingredient list, added sugars, price and taste.

Find out more about milk’s protein

Milk is an important source in the American diet of additional nutrients, including thiamin (vitamin B1), vitamin B6 and zinc that work in concert with other B vitamins like pantothenic acid to help convert your food into energy and magnesium, which also helps to build strong bones. Plus, milk has selenium, which works with vitamin A to help maintain a healthy immune system.

Non-dairy milk alternatives vary in their nutritional profiles and are often fortified, and their nutritional impact has not been thoroughly studied , so it’s important for moms to understand there are key differences between the beverages.

Find out more about milk’s protein

Why Is Protein Important?

One difference to consider is protein, because it plays an important role for your kids. From muscles to hair, bones to teeth, your kids’ bodies need protein and protein foods to grow healthy and strong — from helping to build lean muscle, keeping them fuller longer and helping them to maintain bone health.

Milk is a complete protein, which means that every glass contains a full mix of the essential amino acids our bodies need. Most plant-based protein sources are not considered complete proteins, and many milk alternatives do not naturally contain protein, or have varying amounts of protein, so manufacturers may add additional plant protein.

In addition to the mix of amino acids a protein provides, researchers also rank the overall quality of a protein source. These rankings consider how much of the protein your body can digest. Milk proteins are considered higher-quality proteins than plant-based proteins like soy, rice and pea protein, according to new gold standard methods.


What Is a
Complete Protein?

A complete protein is one that contains the full mix of the essential amino acids our bodies need. Most plant-based protein sources are incomplete proteins. This means you may miss some of the building blocks our bodies require.


Protein 8g 1g 7g <1g 1g 8g 0g
Type Complete Incomplete Complete Incomplete Incomplete Incomplete Incomplete
USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28 and nutrition information from nationally available brands.

Beyond protein, milk is the top food source for calcium, potassium and vitamin D, three of the four "nutrients of public health concern" — nutrients that many Americans, including children, are most lacking in their diets.

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE ON NUTRITION

Which of these nutrients are naturally occuring in dairy milk?

CALCIUM POTASSIUM
PROTEIN B VITAMINS
ALL

Correct

Milk naturally contains many nutrients like calcium, potassium, protein and B vitamins. Many of the nutrients found in non-dairy milk alternatives are fortified.

Correct, but that’s not all

Milk naturally contains calcium as well as nutrients like potassium, protein, B vitamins and more. Many of the nutrients found in non-dairy milk alternatives are fortified.

Correct, but that’s not all

Milk naturally contains potassium as well as nutrients like calcium, protein, B vitamins and more. Many of the nutrients found in non-dairy milk alternatives are fortified.

Correct, but that’s not all

Milk naturally contains protein as well as nutrients like calcium, potassium, B vitamins and more. Many of the nutrients found in non-dairy milk alternatives are fortified.

Correct, but that’s not all

Milk naturally contains B vitamins as well as nutrients like calcium, potassium, protein and more. Many of the nutrients found in non-dairy milk alternatives are fortified.

Why Are Nutrients Added?

The nutrients in many non-dairy milk alternatives, like almond milk, soy milk and coconut milk, are not the same as cow’s milk. In fact, few can match the full nutrient package found naturally in milk, that contains calcium, potassium and B vitamins. This means that many non-dairy milk alternatives often fortify their products with these nutrients.

What does this mean for kids?

How Do These Drinks Stack Up?

There are real differences for you to consider between milk and non-dairy milk alternatives. For the complete picture — from calories and added sugar, to nutrients and ingredient list, as well as the amount of protein and price — here’s how each drink compares when you read the product label.

Calories 150
Protein (g) 8
Total Sugar (g)
Added Sugar
12
0
Nutrients
See More
calcium (30%)
vitamin D (30%)*
riboflavin (25%)
phosphorus (20%)
vitamin B12 (20%)
protein (16%)
potassium (10%)
niacin (10%)**
Ingredients††
See More
Milk, vitamin D
Price per Serving $0.23

What Does this Mean for Kids?

Milk only adds vitamins A and D. Vitamin A, which is removed with the milk fat during standardization, and is added back into 2% reduced fat, 1% lowfat and fat free milks. Vitamin D, the nutrient that your body also makes naturally from sun exposure, is also added to milk. Before 1933, there wasn’t much vitamin D in milk. To address a potential health crisis, three prominent U.S. advisory groups – the American Medical Association, the Council on Food and Nutrition and the National Committee on Food and Nutrition – recommended milk producers add vitamin D to milk to help combat rickets, which is caused by vitamin D deficiency. Since the 1930s, the standard is to fortify all milk to provide 25 percent of the daily value of vitamin D in each 8-ounce glass. Many non-dairy milk alternatives are also fortified with vitamin D.

Non-dairy milk alternatives — including almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, pea milk, flax milk and soy milk — have different nutrient combination because there is no standard practice for fortifying with these nutrients. For example, while soy and almond beverages do contain minimal amounts of natural calcium, they are typically fortified to increase the amount.


Why Does My Child Need Calcium?

Calcium is a key nutrient to help your kids build strong bones, and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, milk is a great way for your kids to get their bone-building nutrients — even more so than non-dairy alternatives fortified with calcium. In addition, substituting milk with other non-dairy calcium sources like fortified soy milk and leafy greens that don’t provide the same nutrients as milk can lead to gaps in other key nutrients like protein, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, riboflavin, vitamin B12, vitamin A and vitamin D. Although it is possible to meet calcium intake recommendations without consuming dairy foods, calcium replacement foods are not a nutritionally equivalent substitute for dairy foods.


Research suggests non-dairy milks “should not be considered substitutes for cow’s milk” until more research is done to study these drinks. And substituting these products for real dairy milk may negatively affect diet quality and potentially increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies of key essential nutrients.

Further research shows that non-dairy milk alternatives might not give kids enough vitamin D when they replace dairy milk in the diet. Young children who drank only soy milk, almond milk or rice milk were more than twice as likely to be deficient in vitamin D as kids who drank only dairy milk. In fact, for every cup of non-dairy milk in the kids’ diets, their blood levels of vitamin D decreased by 5 percent, according to a recent study.


What Impact Do Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives Have on Your Kids’ Health?

Childhood nutrition is essential for healthy growth and development – especially during your kids’ important bone-building years. Decades of research support the role of milk for bone health. One recent study of more than 5,000 kids cautions that replacing real dairy milk with non-dairy milk alternatives is associated with differences in a child’s height. Researchers found kids at age 3 who drank non-dairy milk alternatives were 1.5 cm shorter, on average, than their milk-drinking peers.


Now you know what naturally occurring nutrients are provided, but that’s only one part of the nutrition puzzle. It’s important to know that some beverages add other ingredients, which may influence which milk you choose.

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE ON INGREDIENTS

True or False, the following ingredients are commonly added to leading vanilla almond milks? Salt, cane sugar, calcium carbonate, sunflower lecithin, locust bean gum, gellan gum.

True
False

Correct

Take a look at how the ingredients in milk compare to vanilla almond milk.

Incorrect

All vanilla almond milk contains almonds and water, and many brands have other added ingredients including salt, sugar or thickeners like gums. Many nationally-available brands have 10 or more added ingredients. Take a look at how the ingredients in milk compare to vanilla almond milk (one of the most commonly purchased varieties of almond milks).

How Many Almonds Are in a Glass of Almond Milk?

Many brands of almond milk may contain as little as two percent almonds. This means that there is the equivalent of approximately three to four whole almonds in each 8-ounce glass, as calculated from data from the USDA Nutrient Database. This is determined by the amount of protein almonds contain — which explains the percentage of almonds to other ingredients in almond milk.

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE ON SUGARS

Which of these beverages does not contain added sugar?

Correct

Dairy milk does contain lactose, which is a naturally-occurring sugar, but it does not contain added sugar. Remember to check the nutrition facts panel to understand how much nutrition each drink delivers too.

Incorrect

All of these beverages except dairy milk contain added sugar. Remember to check the nutrition facts panel to understand how much nutrition each drink delivers too.

Incorrect

Chocolate dairy milk does contain added sugar. Remember to check the nutrition facts panel to understand how much nutrition each drink delivers. Chocolate milk is naturally nutrient-rich, providing the same 9 essential nutrients as non-flavored dairy milk.

What About Natural Sugar?

Ultimately, there are reasons to include sugar in the diet, but you may be surprised where you find it. When you look at the nutrition label on a gallon of milk, you will find sugar listed. But that sugar is not added, it’s lactose.

What is lactose?

test your knowledge on price

According to cost per 8-ounce serving, which of these beverages is most affordable?

Correct

Penny for penny, ounce for ounce, milk delivers more nutritional value than just about any drink you can provide for just about a quarter per serving.

Incorrect

Almond milk is $0.45 per 8-ounce serving. Penny for penny, ounce for ounce, at just about a quarter per serving, milk delivers more nutritional value than just about any drink you can provide.

Incorrect

Coconut milk is $0.56 per 8-ounce serving. Penny for penny, ounce for ounce, at just about a quarter per serving, milk delivers more nutritional value than just about any drink you can provide.

Incorrect

Soy milk is $0.44 per 8-ounce serving. Penny for penny, ounce for ounce, at just about a quarter per serving, milk delivers more nutritional value than just about any drink you can provide.

Incorrect

Flax milk is $0.61 per 8-ounce serving. Penny for penny, ounce for ounce, at just about a quarter per serving, milk delivers more nutritional value than just about any drink you can provide.

Incorrect

Rice milk is $0.79 per 8-ounce serving. Penny for penny, ounce for ounce, at just about a quarter per serving, milk delivers more nutrition than just about any drink you can provide.

Savings: $ 594 per family per year

What Is Lactose?

Lactose is the naturally occurring sugar in milk — and all milk has the same amount of lactose, about 12 grams per 8-ounce serving. This is the same amount of naturally occurring sugar, called fructose, you will find in a small banana. It is not an added sugar.

All types of milk – including fat free and flavored – provide the same essential nutrients. While flavored milk does contain added sugar, many leading health and nutrition organizations, including the AAP, agree that flavored milk is a positive trade-off for soft drinks, which are the primary source of added sugars in children’s diets. Flavored milk contributes only 3 percent of total added sugars in the diets of children from 2 to 18 years old.

How Does Chocolate Milk Help Adult Athletes?

More than 20 studies on real, lowfat dairy chocolate milk support the benefits of recovering with the high-quality protein and nutrients in chocolate milk after a tough workout. In fact, lowfat chocolate milk:

  • Is a natural source of high-quality protein to help build lean muscle.
  • Contains the right mix of protein and carbohydrates scientifically shown to refuel exhausted muscles and help return to peak potential.
  • Provides fluids and electrolytes – like calcium, potassium, magnesium and sodium – to rehydrate and help replenish critical nutrients lost in sweat.

How Can Milk Enhance Your Favorite Foods?

Milk is the foundation for many American favorites and tastes from around the world, and has been for centuries. From creamy macaroni and cheese to a classic alfredo sauce to a delectable crème brulée, milk adds dimension, accentuates the flavor and serves as a decadent base to many of your favorite dishes.

Why do chefs use milk?

Why Use Dairy Milk

Whether baking, braising or mixing in your batter, cooking with milk complements your culinary ambitions. Making homemade versions of fresh ricotta cheese, thick yogurt and rich ice cream is a simple way to tap your inner gourmet. If you want to swap real dairy milk for another ingredient, remember that each non-dairy milk alternative has a different flavor, which can change the flavor profile or the consistency of your dishes, even for pancakes, oatmeal and smoothies.


Professional chefs, who helped to inspire the rise of the farm-to-table movement, choose fresh, local foods, like milk, to elevate their cuisine and define their menus. James Beard Award semi-finalist and “Chopped” champion Chef Giorgio Rapicavoli uses milk for his inventive, award-winning dishes at Miami’s Eating House, not only because it is a wholesome, simple ingredient, but also to create a fusion of flavors.


“I love cooking with milk because it’s farm fresh. And it reminds me how much I loved milk as a kid. Even today, nothing tastes better than a glass of milk. Get inspired by the many different ways milk can elevate your next meal.”

– Chef Giorgio Rapicavoli

RECIPES

Your Main Ingredient: Milk

To save money and make meals your family loves, check out these smoothies and other recipes made with real milk.

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22 grams of protein

Ingredients

Directions

Nutrition

FOOTNOTES:

1USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28

2Sales data from IRI, calendar year 2017, and average online grocery prices for top markets.

† Nutrients signify food provides 10% or greater of the Daily Value of labeled nutrients. Nutrients will differ by brand, flavor and fat content as nutrient fortification varies.

†† Product formulation will differ by brand, flavor and fat content, so ingredients may vary.

* Indicates nutrient is fortified

** As niacin equivalents