What's the Big Deal? Milk offers four nutrients -- calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin D -- that help kids' bodies and bones grow strong. Getting enough now means better bone mass in adulthood. Research from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center found that women who were milk avoiders as kids had 6 percent lower bone-mineral content and twice the risk of fractures as those who drank it during childhood. What's more, preliminary research suggests that drinking milk may help kids maintain a healthy weight.
Work Around It: You can meet your child's calcium needs with other foods and drinks. A 1- to 3-year-old can get her daily calcium allowance with 4 ounces of yogurt plus a slice of reduced-fat cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup of calcium-fortified orange juice. Kids ages 4 to 8 will meet theirs with a bowl of fortified oatmeal plus a piece of part-skim string cheese, 3/4 cup of fortified orange juice, 6 ounces of low-fat yogurt, and a whole-grain English muffin. Yogurt and cheese also contain potassium and magnesium, so those nutrients are covered. Vitamin D, which helps your child's body absorb calcium, is harder to come by because it's found only in a few other foods, such as fish and eggs. So if your child doesn't drink milk, consider giving her a kids' vitamin D supplement of 400 IU daily.