Milk provides nutrients that are important for children’s growth and development. Too much milk, however, can be harmful. Keep reading to learn more.

When kids drink large amounts of milk, they often do so at the expense of other foods and drinks. In other words, they “fill-up” on milk, refuse other healthy options, and miss out on the benefits of a well-balanced diet. The longer this goes on, the greater the risk to their overall health.

One potential result of too much milk is “milk anemia”, also known as iron-deficiency anemia. If a child develops anemia, an iron supplement may be prescribed. It’s important not to give your child supplements without talking to the doctor first. This problem can be prevented by limiting milk and providing your child a variety of iron-rich foods. Lean beef, pork, and poultry; leafy dark green vegetables; legumes; and iron-fortified cereals are great choices.

Constipation can also result from too much milk. Bowel movements become irregular and/or painful.  This can be prevented by limiting milk and providing your child a variety of fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grain breads and cereals. It’s also important to offer kids plain water to drink throughout the day.

So how much milk is too much?

To answer this question, keep in mind that milk is part of the dairy group. This food group also includes yogurt, cheese and soy milk. The amount of dairy foods children need each day depends on their age. MyPlate recommends 1 ¾ to 2 cups for toddlers age 1 to 2, 2 to 2 ½ cups for children 2-8, and 3 cups for children 9-18 years-old. Look here for information about what counts as a cup of dairy. Help your child meet, but not greatly exceed the recommended amount by offering a variety of low-fat, unsweetened dairy choices, and gradually reducing the amount of milk served as necessary. As a reminder, infants less than one year old should not be given cow’s milk and whole milk is recommended for toddlers age 1-2 years.

You can find more information about healthy eating for young children at MyPlate. Your child’s pediatrician is another great resource.

Look for ways to identify nutrition misinformation in next month’s issue of the Healthy Drinks Insider!

This issue was written by Justine Habibian, Ph.D., R.D.N. If you have a suggestion for a topic for the Insider, write to and receive a free, healthy drink recipe book.

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