Estimated read time : 4 minutes
‘Child, drink your milk quickly. It will make you tall and strong.’ This was what was told to me repeatedly when I was a small child and I always believed it!
Today’s children are smarter and might flatly refuse to drink milk. Parents are at their wits end, trying to coax their little ones into drinking milk, telling him or her about the nutritional value of a glass of milk. Anyway, they don’t understand what you are talking about!
When Divya, my daughter, was a preschooler, I used to feel so happy when I saw the empty glass of Bournvita every morning. Years later, she informed me gleefully, that every day she would just empty the glass of milk through the window into the garden, while I had gone into the kitchen to pack her snack box! Zaara, my granddaughter is more amiable. She gulps down her milk, eager to finish before I count up to twenty and open my eyes!
Although milk might not be the irreplaceable superfood our grandmothers believed it was, the simple fact is that it does provide essential nutrients. We all know that the calcium in milk helps to build strong bones and teeth. Milk also has Vitamin D which is otherwise only available from direct sunlight and a few foods like eggs and some types of fish. If our children are picky about their food, how do we ensure that they get enough protein and calories in their diet? Milk is an easy, nutrient-rich way to deliver those calories.
Forcing a child to drink milk is not the wise way. The notion that a child needs very high levels of calcium for healthy bones may be oversold. Physical activity is the main factor in bone growth. And traces of Vitamin D can be found also in fortified foods such as cereals and orange juice. You can even give her a Vitamin D drop every day. The protein in milk can be substituted by having legumes and eggs too. If your child simply hates the taste of milk, parents shouldn’t push it too far. They can try sneaking milk into other foods such as mashed potatoes, soups, smoothies, pastas or bakes. Be innovative. You can give your child a custard with fruits, yogurt with bananas and a drizzle of honey, kheer or ice-cream. You can try letting her drink the milk out of pretty coloured straws or let her mix in strawberry or chocolate syrup into the milk. Surprisingly, this usually works. Parents need to know where nutrients are available in other foods: it requires a little effort, but is totally worth it.
Remember, milk does have its negative side too. If your child fills up on milk, he or she might not have room for healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and grains. Some children are lactose intolerant. If that is the case, do not despair. There are quite a few substitutes like soya, almond and coconut milk. And tofu and paneer which can be cooked in so many ways.
Let us remember that food should be an enjoyable experience and not a battleground between parents and children. Therefore, let’s not force our children to drink milk. Isn’t it more important for a child to enjoy eating delicious and different types of food and have a well-balanced diet during meals?