Comparing Key Nutrients in Milk and Milk Drinks
Updated: May 28
I am plunging into cow’s milk and alternative milk drinks. Yep, I am going to do it because it is one of the most common questions I get in my infant feeding classes.
There is a lot of debate around cow’s milk these days. I am not going to get into all the debates here but I will include links to peer reviewed articles that do get into all of the nitty gritty.
I don’t care what adults drink to meet their calcium and Vitamin D needs. Older infants and toddlers on the other hand, are a vulnerable population meaning they need a lot of nourishment, like right now, to meet their exponential growth and development needs. That means they need a lot of calories and what has the most calories per gram? FAT. It contains 9 calories per gram vs. 4 calories per gram for both carbohydrate and protein.
Health Canada recommends full fat or homogenized milk until the age of two years. When you look at the numbers in the infographic, full fat cow’s milk has the most fat, protein, calcium and Vitamin D which helps to better understand Health Canada’s stance. By the way, here is their exact statement, “Do not offer skim or partly skimmed milk (1% or 2% M.F.) before 2 years of age. If you are going to make fortified soy beverage your child’s main milk source, wait until they are 2 years of age. Rice or nut beverages should not be used as your child’s main milk source.” Important note, wait until your child is 9-12 months old to start transitioning to cow’s milk.
These infographics shows the nutrient differences between milk and common milk drinks on the market in Canada.
I do know parents that have chosen not to offer cow’s milk to their young ones but have taken a lot of care to offer a fortified milk drink in combination with a high fat diet.
Here is a new product on the market that is available in Canada.
Abby Sharp, another dietitian did a fantastic job describing vegan milks in more detail in this blog post.
If your child has a cow’s milk protein allergy or is anaphylaxis to dairy, there are options out there. Reach out to me to chat about those.
If you need help picking out healthier yogurt or quick foods like granola bars to offer your kids, CLICK HERE.
Abbey’s Kitchen (2019). Are vegan milk substitutes safe for plant based babies who don’t drink cow’s milk? Retrieved from: https://www.abbeyskitchen.com/are-vegan-milk-substitutes-safe-for-plant-based-babies-who-dont-drink-cows-milk/
Alberta Health Services (2016). Nutrition Guideline: Healthy Infants and Young Children, Plant-Based Beverages. Retrieved from: https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/info/Page8567.aspx
Government of Canada (2019). Canadian Nutrient File. Retrieved from: https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/index-eng.jsp
Government of Canada (2019). Nutrition Labelling – Table of Daily Values. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/technical-documents-labelling-requirements/table-daily-values/nutrition-labelling.html?fbclid=IwAR2xyIPbrb_caA_DPb8nhHaemuamC-o3nJHKl0RAYz26MskEI8IXKrPEnaQ#p2
Mangels, R., Driggers, J. (2012). The youngest vegetarians: vegetarian infants and toddlers. Infant, Child, and Adolescent Nutrition. 4(1), pp. 8-20.
Special thanks to Bavina Sivayogeswaran and Sabrina Mastrangelo, nutrition students at Ryerson University that completed the research for this post.