Parenting

Should schools ban milk?

A group of doctors in the US are petitioning the USDA to remove milk from school lunch requirements. Here's why.

Photo: Imgorthand/iStockphoto

You know how so many doctors, and probably your friends, your mother, your mother’s friends, say you should give your toddler full-fat milk every day?

Well, I didn’t do it. I myself enjoyed a plant-based diet (still do), and whenever my son drank milk or ate dairy, he’d start complaining of stomach aches, his nose would rival Niagara Falls, and his li’l chest would clog with mucus. My daughter had already decided she hated milk. So, despite my coffee-loving husband’s mild protests, I joyfully stopped buying milk altogether. Instead, I learned to make delicious almond milk (photo & recipe below), and started purchasing rice milk for nut-free school lunches and baked-goods.

Now it seems a group of doctors in the US, who specialize in preventative health through plant-based nutrition — The Physicians Committee of Responsible Medicine (PCRM) — think NO kids should be drinking milk. They’re petitioning the USDA to remove milk from the required components of the National School Lunch Program, claiming that it does not in fact improve bone health but, rather, contributes greatly to obesity, as a leading source of saturated fat in children’s diets. (You can read the full petition here.)

“Milk doesn’t make children grow taller and stronger, but it can make them heavier,” says the group’s nutrition education director, Susan Levin. “We are asking Congress and the USDA to put children’s interests above the interests of the dairy industry. Focusing on milk as the single most important source of calcium in children’s diets distracts schools and parents from foods that can actually build bones, like beans and leafy greens.”

In the petition, PCRM recommends calcium-enriched soy and rice milks as replacements for cow’s milk, since they contain bone-strengthening calcium without the “sodium and animal protein that can cause calcium to be excreted from the body.” They also stress that children should get their calcium primarily from such excellent sources as beans, tofu, broccoli, kale, collard greens, breads and cereals.

I know some people might argue that skim milk doesn’t contain saturated fat, but it can, according to a recent Harvard study, actually do a better job than full-fat milk at making you fatter. As Dr. Mehmet Oz has said, “If I take the fat out of milk, what’s left? Sugar. Crazily.”

So what do you think?

I myself am not one to preach about what other parents should or should not feed their kids. For my family, milk doesn’t work so well, and we’re turning out just fine. So I personally don’t think it needs to be a requirement in school lunches.

MY RECIPE FOR ALMOND MILK:

Ingredients:

1 cup almonds
5 cups water
Dates (to taste; my kids like it sweet, so I add up to six dates)
Vanilla (to taste; I add about 1 teaspoon)

Instructions:

1. Put all in blender, and blend until smooth.
2. Strain out the almond/date pulp in a “nut milk bag” or cheese cloth (trust me, it’s better to just splurge on a nut milk bag — it takes way less time). EASY!

It’s actually really easy to make the nut milk — plus, it’s kind of therapeutic, and it’s great for your kids to help out and make the yummy drink from scratch! Try replacing some of the nuts with hemp seeds, or experiment with other nuts, seeds or grains. My next project…rice milk. Better to make it than buy in the store, I say…!

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