Making Healthier Meal Choices

Making Milk Mandatory

Shortly after she gave birth to her first child, Robin, now 6, Dorothy Teegarden, Ph.D., associate professor of foods and nutrition at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, finished a study showing that kids who drink three cups of milk daily have a peak bone mass 4% to 6% higher than children who drink just one glass. "That teeny bit of extra bone density reduces their risk of developing osteoporosis later in life by 40%," she marvels. But is milk-drinking as big a deal for boys as for girls? "No doubt," she says. "Osteoporosis isn't only a woman's disease anymore. Men are living longer and losing bone just like women."

After her second son, Heron, 4, was born, Dr. Teegarden found another reason kids need milk: It may help fight obesity. In a two-year study, young women getting 1,000 mg of calcium daily (the equivalent of 3 1/2 glasses of milk) lost six pounds of body fat compared to women on low-calcium diets, probably because being deficient in the mineral causes hormonal changes that lead to fat storage. "There is new evidence to show the same effect in kids," she says.

At home, the family drinks milk with almost every meal. Dr. Teegarden packs Heron and Robin milk and a box of 100% fruit juice in their school lunches. They drink soda only two or three times a year, as a treat. "Many parents bend too much," she says. "My kids ask for soda, and I tell them it's not good for little boys. You have to make milk with meals a rule -- and lead by example."

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