Is your teen fussy about drinking milk? Are you worried your fast-growing teenager might not be getting a sufficient amount of calcium and dairy intake? Being a mom of 2 picky eaters, I feel your struggle.
Keeping tabs on ways to squeeze more dairy into your child’s diet with every meal is as challenging as hiding that elusive nutrient in their meal. I initially started to rely more on store-bought instant fixes for dairy intake. Also, I increased their consumption of packaged food like flavored yogurt and processed cheese. But with the high sodium and sugar quantities found in most processed dairy options, I knew making that healthy choice needed more than just awareness. I could sense I was feeding empty calories to my kids in the name of dairy products.
If you’re one of those parents who face a real challenge making milk/dairy interesting for their kid, you are not alone. According to the 2020-2025 US Dietary Guidelines, Americans have failed to meet the recommended nutrition needs since 1980. This has led to a subsequent increase in diet-related diseases, including cardiovascular problems and type 2 diabetes, in adults and kids alike.
The same research reveals some shocking data; almost 90% of US citizens do not meet their required dairy intake. Even for those who consume dairy regularly, consumption is mainly in low nutritional options like:
- processed cheese (high in sodium)
- flavored or sweetened milk/yogurt (has added sugar)
- sour cream or cream cheese (heavy on trans fats)
Why do you need to improve your teen’s dairy intake?
When I dug deeper, figures reveal appalling data for our kids, especially the teens, as they fall in the age bracket where the body grows and changes fast. The role of milk and dairy milk products in the growth of a child cannot be understated. It is essential to fuel their body’s nutritional demands with the right amount of balanced diet and dairy intake.
- As per the US dietary guidelines, the average consumption of dairy/milk for kids ranging from 9-18 years is 2 cups or less against the recommended 3 cups per day.
- Only 34% of adolescents drink milk every day, missing out on the benefits of dairy products in children.
- 41% of kids in the US are overweight or obese. Yet, most of them fall short in meeting essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B, etc.
- Teen girls are even more likely to be calcium-deficient than boys, even though their nutritional needs are the same with regards to calcium.
- Meeting the recommended dairy intake is crucial, especially in kids and teens, as most of the bone mass development happens by the age of 14-15 years.
- Switching to unhealthy substitutes high in sodium, sugar, and trans-fat values is a significant factor that causes an increased number of type 2 diabetes cases in children.
- Developing an early habit of providing a healthy diet and clean eating dairy will help build a stronger bone mass and help prevent early-onset osteoporosis and other bone-related chronic diseases.
How you can get your child to consume more milk and dairy products
Age-appropriate diet is the core factor in improving the overall nutritional intake for kids and teens. As adolescents start making their food choices independently, it is all the more important to make healthy diet choices an early habit. You might be trying to include a variety of dairy products in your teens’ menu, but chances are most of them are filling your child with empty calories or low nutrition benefits.
Some of the ways that work for my family and me is to tweak the daily dairy consumption and make it more effective and nutrition-dense:
- Always go for fresh milk, yogurt, or cheese over packed or processed ones.
- It would be best if you opt for low-fat or fat-free options to avoid excess fat intake.
- Avoid using cream, sour cream, or cream cheese to cover your teen’s dairy consumption as these are high in fat and low in calcium.
- When buying cheese for your family, make sure you choose fresh cheese such as mozzarella, ricotta, or goat cheese as the processed ones are high in sodium and fat and leaner in calcium and lactose.
Recipes to increase the dairy intake for teens
I am sharing some of my go-to recipes with my family. These are dairy rich, nutritionally balanced, and do not ask for an expert culinary skill to turn around. To ease your mommy troubles of feeding your teens a balanced and nutrition-rich diet, here’s a sample meal plan with recipe options rich in calcium and dairy.
- All the recipes are easy and quick to fix with nutrient-dense and straightforward ingredients, so you don’t have to serve your dish with a side of guilt.
- Recipes are full of fresh vegetables, fruits, healthy protein, and carbohydrate ingredients to make sure it ticks all the nutrition boxes.
- You can prepare most of the dishes in advance, which means you don’t have to rush to the kitchen every time your teen screams from hunger.
- If you or your kids are vegetarian, replace chicken with tempeh or cottage cheese.
Essential points to keep in mind:
- You can replace milk and milk products in these recipes with fortified soy products such as soy milk or soy yogurt. Ensure you are using the fortified substitutes/products that guarantee the nutrition won’t get compromised in the replacement.
- Replacing with any other plant-based milk such as almond milk or oat milk does not guarantee the same nutrition and core elements.
- Lactose intolerant children can opt for lactose-free beverage choices.
Mornings are the real stress test for any family. The last thing you want to add would be the task of planning, cooking, and packing breakfast for each one of you. Here is a power-packed breakfast you can whip up in few minutes the night before that will fuel your mornings without stuffing your teen with empty calories.
After school snacks
There can be a lot of overlapping in the breakfast and after-school snack sections of a menu. A smoothie bowl and fruit and yogurt smoothie would go perfectly well both in the mornings and as an after-school snack. If you’re looking for something beyond the regulars, here are some healthy between-the-meal snacks for an after-school or 4 pm hunger call.