Got Milk? The Milk Drinking Cycle Begins With Parents

By Marsha N. Woolery, Healthy Eating & Diet

Growing up in the country, I remember the milkman on a donkey with pint bottles of milk delivering to families with small children and elderly. Do you remember as a child getting milk powder at school on a Friday to take home? Well, some of us would eat it on the road, while others hurriedly took home this precious item to put in the porridge and the Sunday soursop or carrot juice.

Milk is a fluid from the mammary glands or breast of animals, including humans. Cow’s milk should not be offered to a child before 12 months of age, because the baby is not able to digest and use all the nutrients present, hence the importance of the easily digested human breast milk for the first year of life.

Cow’s milk provides all the macronutrients and some micronutrients.

The main nutrients in cow’s milk are:

Carbohydrates in the form of lactose. Some persons are unable to tolerate lactose or, are lactose intolerant because after consuming milk they will become bloated, have diarrhoea and/or become nauseous. This occurs because they do not have the enzyme (lactase) that breaks down lactose in the intestines.

Protein in the form of casein and whey. Protein is needed for growth and development in children and teenagers. Protein is also needed to repair and make new cells, build immune system and make hormones and enzymes in adults. Milk contains all the essential amino acids that are needed by the body.

Fat in the saturated form and cholesterol. The fat in cow’s milk is removed to make low-fat and non-fat, but the carbohydrates, protein and minerals remain the same. Low-fat should be offered to a child or adolescent who is overweight. Low-fat and non-fat milk is usually thinner and less tasty because fat adds flavour and taste to foods.

Calcium, which is the main mineral found in cow’s milk, is needed to make bones and teeth during pregnancy, keep bones strong in growing children and teenagers, and helps with the clotting of blood. Adults need milk to maintain the strength of their bones, especially for women who are going through menopause or who are peri-menopausal (late 40’s to early 50’s).

Phosphorus, which is needed at all ages, to strengthen bones and teeth.

Cow’s milk is low in residue and drinking too much without a balanced diet may cause constipation. Milk contains very low amounts of iron and should not be consumed or offered with a meal because the calcium that is in the milk prevents the iron in the plant foods such as callaloo or dried peas and beans from going into the blood. This may result in anaemia or weak blood.

Here are some tips for persons who do not like the taste of plain milk:

  • Add a flavouring such as cocoa powder (unsweetened or lightly sweetened)
  • Add a favourite syrup
  • Serve with cereal or soaked crackers
  • Offer cheese, yogurt (lightly sweetened or fruit flavoured)
  • Offer egg custard
  • Add extra milk to dishes such as macaroni and cheese and pastry recipes instead of water
  • In the current health-conscious craze, there are some milk substitutes that are available, but are they really a substitute?
  • One cup cow’s milk provides 12 grams carbohydrates, eight grams protein and 0-7 grams of fat.
  • One cup soymilk provides five grams carbohydrates, seven grams protein and five grams of fat.
  • One cup almond milk provides approximately 10 grams carbohydrates and one gram protein.
  • One cup rice milk provides just under 30 grams carbohydrates, one gram protein and two grams of fat.
  • Cow’s milk is the best source of protein and calcium for the growth and development of our children and for the parents who need to take responsibility and start making healthy food choices. Let us break the cycle and start drinking low- or non-fat milk for a strong and healthy family.

Marsha N. Woolery, RD, is a registered dietitian/nutritionist at Fairview Medical and Dental Center, Montego Bay and adjunct lecturer at Northern Caribbean University; email:


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