What kind of milk should my toddler be drinking?

Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday that Baby was about to be born, and you were debating between whether you would use breastmilk or formula to keep them fed? While those days are gone, toddlerhood comes with its own milk debate. Typically, the question parents have is whether they should continue to feed their children whole milk, or switch to a low-fat option.

Until age two, it’s recommended that toddlers drink whole milk. This is because many toddlers remain picky eaters up until this stage, and benefit from the extra fat and calories whole milk offers. As Baby grows and (hopefully) develops a more balanced diet, they can switch over to a lower-fat milk, like two percent.

Nutritionally, low-fat milk packs just as much of the good stuff as whole milk, without the extra calories and fat. Both options contain equal amounts of vitamins and minerals per serving. While fats are necessary for your toddler’s diet, you’ll want to be sure they are consuming the right type of fat. Whole milk, for example, primarily contains saturated fat, which is the type of fat they shouldn’t get too much of.

When you transition over to low-fat milk, you’ll want to be sure Baby is getting plenty of healthy fats. The best fats for little ones are omega-3 fatty acids, found in foods like fish and nuts. Other healthy fats can be found in foods like olive oil and nut butters. These healthy fats are necessary for the brain and central nervous system, and Baby’s brain and nervous system are both developing rapidly.

Milk offers many key vitamins and nutrients, including the big one: calcium. If Baby protests milk, be sure you’re offering other calcium-packed options, such as yogurt and cheese. Resist the urge to replace milk with sugary options like juice and soda. Sweetened beverages contain very little nutritional value, and should not be considered a substitute for what they need in their diet.

  • Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph. “Question & Answer: When Should Kids Switch to Skim Milk?” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation, July 2013. Retrieved October 4 2017. http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/start-skim-milk.html.
  • “Feeding & Nutrition Tips: Your 2-Year-Old.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, March 16 2017. Retrieved October 4 2017. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/nutrition/Pages/Feeding-and-Nutrition-Your-Two-Year-Old.aspx.
  • “Sample Menu for a One-Year-Old.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, January 21 2015. Retrieved October 4 2017. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Sample-One-Day-Menu-for-a-One-Year-Old.aspx. 
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