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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Healthy Hearts in Tots

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a new report recommending cholesterol screening in children and adolescents with a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease. Previously, most doctors did not start screening for cholesterol until adulthood. With the increase in childhood overweight and obesity rates, we have also seen increases in heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems that were previously rare in children.

The report also recommended specific changes in the diets of children, and dairy was one food specifically highlighted. For many years we have heard that children should go from formula at their first birthday to whole milk at least until their second birthday. Once they are past the age of 2, they can switch to reduced fat or fat free milk. The report recommends changing these guidelines.

Children who are at risk of obesity, high cholesterol, or heart disease are encouraged to drink reduced fat milk (2%) instead of whole milk between 1 and 2 years, and continue on reduced fat (2%), low fat (1%), or skim (fat free) milk the rest of their lives.

Milk provides numerous vitamins and minerals essential for growth such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin D, and riboflavin.

The Dietary Guidelines encourage the following intakes:
  • Age 2-8: 2 cups (16 oz) per day of dairy
  • Age 9+: 3 cups 24 oz) per day of dairy

All milks (whole, reduced fat, low fat, skim) provide the same vitamins and minerals, and the only difference is the fat and calories.
  • Whole milk: 8 grams of fat, 150 calories
  • Reduced fat milk (2%): 5 grams of fat, 120 calories
  • Low fat milk (1%): 2 grams of fat, 100 calories
  • Skim milk (nonfat or fat free): 0 grams of fat, 80 calories

Flavored milks are also nutritious, but of course contain more calories due to the added sugars. Milk straws are a great way to provide flavor without the added calories.

Image courtesy of jbiverson
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About the Author


Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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