By virtual show of hands, how many of you have read something or been in a conversation about whether or not you or your kids should be drinking milk? And I’m talking about good, old-fashioned milk from a cow. I was getting my eyebrows done a few weeks ago and the aesthetician chatted my ear off about all sorts of utterly uninformed and nonsensical things she had recently heard about drinking milk and then not 48 hours later I found myself in a similar conversation with the cashier at the grocery store.

More Milk Please

Before the alarm bells go off (am I too late for that?), I am sensitive to the fact that some dairy allergies exist and that there are also people who choose to not consume cow’s milk for other personal reasons. I’m not arguing against anyone’s (professionally diagnosed) medical issues or personal beliefs, but given all the chatter, I thought it was the perfect time to shed some light on a couple topics that are fraught with misinformation and hopefully give dairy-loving parents like me some peace of mind when it comes to this cluttered topic.

It was absolutely unplanned, but my career has never strayed far from the topics of dairy and calcium. I went to Purdue University for undergrad where I both participated as a research subject in and a research assistant for studies investigating dairy and calcium. Upon graduation I worked as a research coordinator on a project that developed a school curriculum and computer games to teach kids about the importance of drinking milk. And, as time has gone on, dairy has come in and out of my life through my PR career and other professional opportunities. In fact, I recently had the privilege of touring the Heins Family dairy farm as an invited guest of the Midwest Dairy Council. I don’t claim to be a dairy know-it-all, but I’ve read many a study on the topic and that is why I didn’t second guess introducing Hailey to cow’s milk when the time came and why milk is one of two default beverages in our home. (hint: the other one is water)

More Milk Please 2

Take, for example, the issue of antibiotics. On my tour with the Heins Family I learned that ANY milk you’ll find in the store is antibiotic free. Some containers may put it on the label as a way to grab your attention, but milk, by standard CAN NOT contain antibiotics. The milk is tested before it ever leaves the farm and again before the truck is offloaded at the bottling plant. If any antibiotics are detected whatsoever, the entire load of milk is dumped and the farmer is fined.

Another dairy hot topic is lactose intolerance. I don’t have a statistic to share, but by personal observation I’d guess that lactose intolerance is one of the most self-diagnosed conditions out there (perhaps second only to the self-proclaimed need for a gluten free diet). The bottom line is that there is a fairly simple breath test that can be done to determine if you or your child really is a lactose maldigester. My advise is to be really careful what you say around your kids when it comes to self-diagnosing any sort of intolerance. You could set a precedent for their entire life. Trust me, I saw it in action in my research work. Milk is a good source of protein and it is also high in calcium and vitamin D. Drinking milk and eating dairy foods helps kids get the calcium they need to grow strong bones. Cow milk alternatives do exist, but their nutrient profile is not the same and many flavored options contain a lot of added sugar. So, please think twice before you rule out good, old-fashioned milk.

Disclosure: I attended a dairy farm tour and educational program sponsored by the Midwest Dairy Council. I wholeheartedly stand behind all thoughts in this post and was not compensated for writing it.

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  • Jen

    Great post, I face these questions from customers frequently!

    • Kate G. Byers, MS, RDN

      Thanks, Jen! I bet the “girls” at the farm would be pretty amused if they understood how much conflict there is over good old-fashioned milk!

  • Look at her with that big girl cup!!

    Like you we are a milk or water family. Lilly won’t even go near flavor milk or juice, which is fine with me. I usually buy organic but that’s just a personal preference. Totally agree that milk and dairy foods are some of the best things you can give your family. It’s a shame so much misinformation exists.

    • Kate G. Byers, MS, RDN

      I have a love hate relationships with big girl cups! I love that she’s gaining independence, but I hate the sound of my voice saying “two hand, two hands” by the end of a meal!

  • I happened across your article and I couldn’t agree more. So many people have their opinions about milk, and it’s really interesting to hear your experience at the farm and what actually happens there. I didn’t know antibiotics cannot exist (legally) in milk. I’ve seen the labels for organic, blah blah blah (though I still buy the normal stuff).

    I actually had an experience on the weekend with my brother-in-law, who practically forces milk down his kid’s throats (one is 8 and one is 5). I thought this is an unreasonable expectation. I didn’t like milk plain when I was a kid and there are so many other ways to get dairy. In any case, my husband (who is nauseated by the thought of drinking plain milk) asked the dad (my husband’s brother) why he isn’t drinking his milk too? After narrowly avoiding an argument, I found some new research about this exact thing – milk drinking in kids, calcium, dairy and getting kids to accept it… I couldn’t help but publish it yesterday on my blog. If you’re interested, it’s at: http://www.pieholeblogger.com/2013/06/udder-confusion-are-your-kids-having.html

    • Kate G. Byers, MS, RDN

      Thanks for your comment. Force feeding any food is usually a sure-fire way to get the complete opposite reaction that what you are going for! Great point that it doesn’t have to be plain milk to the the great nutrient package that dairy foods have to offer.

  • I too believe in milk and water. Self made juices can be good also. I get the good old blender out and start mixing for the kids, except I add in the vegetables.

    I have 2 comments in one really and wanted to share it.

    1) When we go to the doctor and every doctor we see we get blasted with, ‘Your kids should be drinking 2% milk instead of whole milk.’ I believe that 2% is not a valuable as whole for one MAJOR reason. When they are pasteurizing and processing, the are taking out the vitamins and minerals out of the milk. In many studies the vitamins and minerals are found in the fat of the milk. After the processing they reintroduce vitamins and minerals (man made) into the milk. To me this can not be as good as the real thing.

    2) In the past our beef has been altered by the industry to be feed corn products. Corn does not get digested and has no real value to it so how can the milk have value. This goes beyond what our doctors are researching.

    So my point is… No juices, teas now milk? Are our kids going to a strict water diet now?

    Thanks for letting me share my 2 cents.

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