Dairy, dairy quite contrary | Wholesome Child

Dairy, dairy quite contrary

With ever-increasing dairy-free options, you may wonder, is dairy bad for us?

With so much noise and hype on the topic, it is no wonder there is so much confusion.

For children in a healthy weight range and with no known intolerances, the case for dairy and all food groups for that matter is clear – they’re an important part of a balanced diet.

Parents can be quick to latch onto the latest trends in ‘healthy’ eating such as paleo, pescaterian, plant-based and keto when feeding their families. It’s become the norm to eliminate a particular food or whole food groups on a whim - and this is something I caution against when it comes to growing bodies.

Dairy is a potent source of calcium, and for this reason it shouldn’t be shunned without good reason. Children require calcium rich foods for bone health, strong teeth, proper muscle contraction and hormone regulation to name a few. But just because it is calcium rich doesn’t mean it should take up too much space in a child’s diet.

 

With all the mixed messages and not to mention children who don’t always eat as we want them to, I see families struggling to get the proportions right.

 

Dairy is often over represented where a typical day can look like this;

  • Milk and cereal for breakfast
  • Yoghurt for mid-morning snack
  • Cheese sandwich or cheese sticks in the lunch box
  • Flavoured milk or ice-cream after school
  • Pasta with cheese for dinner
  • A glass of milk before bed. 

 

At the other end of the spectrum are those who aren’t getting the required serves per day. According to the latest Australian Health Survey, 8 out of 10 children and adolescents are under-consuming the dairy food group and over half of the Australian population don’t get enough calcium in their diet.

 

The problem can also be circumstantial. If someone in a family has lactose or casein intolerance, other family members can be overly cautious and follow the same regime.  In the case of young children, if dairy has been omitted due to a family lifestyle choice, they receive no exposure to dairy as it’s been cut out of the family’s diet.

My philosophy at Wholesome Child is founded on a back-to-basics, balanced approach, which involves 3 steps when choosing foods for your family:

  1. Seek the highest quality ingredients
  2. Offer the most appropriate choice within a particular food group (milk, cheese or yoghurt, for example)
  3. Ensure it’s served in the correct quantities.

So if it’s yoghurt you’re serving for a child under two, I recommend seeking an unsweetened full-cream variety that is preservative-free and contains gut-healing probiotics for an additional boost. Natural yoghurts can be made more palatable for little ones with a drizzle of raw honey, pureed fruit or a handful of berries.

If it’s cheese for the whole family, I advise clients to look for low-sodium options such as soft and semi-soft white cheeses, including goat’s cheese and ricotta.

Recommended dairy serves per day

 

  • Children under 3 - 1

 

  • In adolescence, 12-18 years,

 

What a serve looks like

Dairy

Serve

Calcium

Fresh milk

250ml (1 cup)

300mg

Whole milk yoghurt

200g tub

380mg

Yellow cheese such as gouda, swiss or cheddar

40g (2 slices)

200mg

White cheese such as ricotta, cream cheese or quark

½ cup

90-100mg

 

If you’re concerned your children aren’t receiving enough calcium here are some tips for boosting their diet with calcium-rich dairy:

  • Add yoghurt to fruit smoothies
  • Add grated cheese to omelettes
  • Serve scrolls or bread made with yoghurt in the batter
  • Offer savoury muffins or sauces with cheese or cream blended in

 

The good news is that even if dairy is not part of your daily diet, or you are struggling to ensure your family reaches their quota, you can still ensure that your children are receiving adequate amounts of calcium by including calcium rich foods such as canned sardines and salmon, almonds, basil, kale, poppy, sesame and chia seeds. There’s also tahini, tofu and broccoli to increase variety.

Even if your family enjoys dairy on a daily basis I still recommend mixing it up with non-dairy calcium sources to ensure balance.

I hope you enjoy this recipe from my book, The Wholesome Child Nutrition Guide and Cook Book. It’s perfect for a weekend treat and to get the kids busy in the kitchen with you.

 

Ricotta Pikelets

 

Ingredients

2 eggs, separated

1 cup (250g) ricotta

½ cup (125ml) milk of choice

1-2 tbs maple syrup (optional)

¾ cup (105g) wholemeal spelt flour)\

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp ground cinnamon

pinch sea salt

1 ½ cups strawberries, cubed

unsalted butter, ghee or coconut oil for frying

 

Instructions

In a small bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Set aside.

 

In another bowl, add egg yolks, ricotta cheese, milk and maple syrup and beat until well combined. Add flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and beat until well incorporated.

 

Gently fold egg whites into the batter. Do not over-mix.

 

Add strawberries and gently stir to combine.

 

Heat a teaspoon of ghee, butter or coconut oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Drop in heaped tablespoons of batter and cook for a minute on each side.

 

 

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