Finding Milk Alternatives for Your Kid

My child is rejecting milk. What else can I feed him?

Milk is widely considered to be a nutrient-rich food for growing children. It is not only a good calcium source, which is mandatory for strong teeth and bones, but also contains protein, which provides energy and builds muscle. So, if your kid is rejecting milk, you might want to figure out ways to introduce its alternatives in his diet.

Here are some alternatives to milk so that your child does not miss out on essential nutrients.

Importance of finding milk alternatives

Since milk is a storehouse of several nutrients, is easy to access, and has adequate satiety value, it contributes immensely to a child’s growth and development. Typically, consuming milk twice a day is advised in India for kids up to two years of age, particularly to meet the calcium and vitamin D requirements along with several other nutrient benefits. For kids between 2 and 4 years of age, 2 and half cups of milk per day is recommended every day.

If you are looking for milk substitutes for kids, soy milk is a common choice. Based on availability, coconut, almond, rice and seed milk can also be consumed as they do not contain lactose. In some cases, your child might reject milk but might not be averse to other milk products. For instance, other dairy products like curd, yoghurt, cheese, butter, etc. may be acceptable to your child.

Different kinds of foods need to be carefully introduced into a child’s diet, if milk has to be substituted. The best way to identify these foods and understand their significance is to classify them according to the individual nutrients they are fortified with.

Here a handy list –

  • Calcium: Ragi, dark green vegetables, calcium-enriched soy milk, and fruit juices are great alternatives to milk for calcium. Meeting calcium needs may not be as simple, however. Consult a nutritionist or paediatrician to understand whether you need to feed your child any additional calcium supplements.
  • Vitamin D: This goes hand-in-hand with calcium. This sunlight vitamin may demand adequate exposure to sunlight. So, if your child is not getting sufficiently exposed to sunlight, supplements might be needed, but only after consulting with a doctor.
  • Protein: Protein-rich foods have the most diverse and significant roles to play in the human body, especially in the early years. Protein helps in growth, tissue building, and formation of enzymes, hormones and antibodies. It aids in the repair and replacement of tissues too. For non-vegetarians, meeting protein requirements may not be much of a challenge. Fish, eggs, and chicken are great sources of this nutrient. For children, thin broths can be prepared. Several simple and soft egg-based preparations can also be introduced to the child’s diet. However, keep an eye out for any allergic reaction to eggs. On the other hand, vegetarians will have to opt for plant-based protein sources such as pulses, beans, lentils, tofu, etc. It must be noted that plant proteins are incomplete proteins. Each of them lacks a few essential amino acids which build the protein structure. Hence, including one or two sources repetitively may not be sufficient. A variety of sources need to become a part of the diet, by rotation, so that one source can complement the other for the missing amino acids.
  • Carbohydrates: While lactose is the type of carbohydrate that may lead to milk rejection, other types of carbohydrates must replace the milk sugar, as carbohydrates are a rich source of energy. Rice, potatoes, sweet-tasting fruits, fibrous vegetables, and honey are all healthy carbohydrate choices.
  • Fats: This one is the richest energy source. It has various other physiological functions such as forming the body’s adipose tissue, which helps regulate body temperature. Oils, avocados, nuts, and oilseeds, as well as dark chocolate, can be good substitutes on a rotational basis. Non-vegetarians can also pick from egg yolk, oily fish, and some meat preparations to meet their body fat requisites.
  • Minerals: Minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc and traces of iron are also present in milk. In addition, retinol, vitamin E, few types of B vitamins (such as folate, biotin, pantothenic acid, etc.), vitamin C and vitamin D (as discussed) also contribute to the composition of milk. Again, each of these is present in specific sources, but overall, fruits and vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals. Hence, including at least three servings of various fruits and vegetables in your child’s diet is essential. This can be done in the form of soups, juices, smoothies, salads, and curries. These will also add to the fibre in the diet, which milk does not contain!

So, it is important to read nutritional labels of products you pick from the market to ensure milk or its products are not a part of the preparation. Please note that the phrase “dairy-free” on the label means that there are no dairy product inclusions, while “lactose-free” implies no lactose, but may not mean that no dairy foods are included.

As mentioned already, by planning diets judiciously and including the right alternatives, you can handle the problem of milk rejection efficiently.