Do Not Give Young Children Plant-Based Milk, As It Lacks Important Nutrients, Pediatricians Warn

Several childhood health organizations are warning that plant-based milk alternatives should not be consumed by children, as they lack key nutrients.

Young children under the age of five should only drink cows’ milk, water, and a minimal amount of juice each day, according to pediatric experts, who warn that children should avoid plant-based milk and other beverages that do not provide growing children with the nutrients they need for proper development.

These recommendations were made in the “Healthy Beverage Consumption in Early Childhood” September 2019 consensus statement, issued Wednesday as part of the Healthy Eating Research guidelines.

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The statement was developed by a committee of leading health organizations, including a panel of experts with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Heart Association.

The recommendations also indicate infants should only drink breast milk or infant formula. At six months of age, they can have small amounts of water, and after one year, they should only drink cows milk daily and occasionally juice.

The key change in this year’s guidelines was the call for young children to avoid plant-based milk. This includes milk made from rice, coconut, oats, almonds, or other blends, with the exception of fortified soy milk. Plant-based milks do not have the proper nutrition for early development, like vitamin D and calcium the experts said.

In the last 5-10 years there has been an increase in interest in plant-based milk. Some parents have turned to plant-based milk for different reasons, including allergies and misconceptions they are equal to dairy milk.

The guidelines offer exceptions if a child has a dairy allergy, is lactose intolerant, or has religious restrictions. In those cases, parents should consult their pediatrician or dietician to fill the gaps.

Additionally, the groups said children should also avoid diet drinks, flavored milks, sugary beverages, toddler milks, drinks with caffeine, and said juice should be limited.

Children under one year old should not have any juice. Children ages one to three should have no more than half a cup a day and children ages four to five no more than half to 3/4 cup a day.

Young children should also not be given low-calorie or zero-calorie drinks. There is no evidence to show these products cause harm, but there is also no evidence to show they are safe, especially for young children.

Other changes also include the restriction for chocolate milk. In the past, chocolate milk was allowed because experts felt having chocolate milk was better than a child having no milk. However, the committee changed the guideline since this is the time children develop taste preference, saying it was important to create healthy habits early.


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