Toddlers, or children aged between one and three years of age, are embarking on a busy and exciting stage in their life, as this is when they begin to explore life independently. During this time, they learn eating behaviours and develop their skills, knowledge and attitudes relating to food.1
During this stage of life, it is important for children to be taught healthy eating habits. A healthy diet provides the necessary energy and nutrients for growth and development. It also helps children develop a sense of taste as well as the acceptance and enjoyment of different foods.2
According to the Malaysian Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents, milk is recommended as part of a healthy diet as it provides essential nutrients such as protein and calcium.3
Parents should be aware that milk comes in different forms. For example, whole milk or full cream milk contains all its original fat content, which children need. In contrast, skimmed milk has less fat hence it contains fewer calories. Skimmed milk also contains lower levels of fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin A so it's not advisable for children unless recommended by a doctor.4
Also available are fortified milk powder formulas for children, which are also known as 'growing up milk', for children above one year of age. Growing up milk is specially formulated to help meet the nutrient needs of toddlers by offering a balanced diet for young children. While cow's milk is high in protein and low in vitamins and minerals, growing up milk has a lower level of protein and sodium to provide more balanced nutrition. These formulas also nurture the specific needs of a toddler with fortified content such as vitamin C and D, iron and zinc.5
As a result, growing up milk formulas offers children varied benefits by:
Providing balanced nutrition not just for the present but also for the future.
Growing up milk contains lower levels of protein, providing 36% of the recommended daily intake as compared to cow's milk which contains 83% of the recommended daily intake.6 Consuming too much protein is linked to a higher risk for obesity later in life; to help reduce this risk, growing up milk contains lower levels of protein.7,8
Preventing iron deficiency and anaemia,
which affects three out of ten children in Malaysia.9 Lack of iron can affect motor and mental development5,6,7 and increase the risk for infectious diseases8,14,15. Growing up milk helps to provide toddlers with up to 53% of the recommended daily intake of iron. In contrast, cow's milk only provides 2% of the recommended daily intake.6
Supporting a healthy digestive environment with prebiotics and probiotics.
This promotes the growth of healthy bacteria to help prevent common digestive troubles such as constipation and diarrhoea. It also helps to reduce uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating and flatulence. In addition, a healthy digestive system also absorbs nutrients more effectively and helps support the immune system,16 resulting in fewer infections.17
Of course, growing up milk does not replace the need for children to consume a variety of foods daily, which includes carbohydrates such as rice and potatoes, protein such as fish, meat and poultry as well as fruits, vegetables and dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt. A balanced diet, together with lots of water and physical activity, is essential for the healthy growth and development of children.3 However, growing up milk is an acceptable solution to fill the nutritional gaps in a child's diet.5
1Queensland Public Health 1. Forum (2002). Eat Well Queensland 2002–2012: Smart Eating for a Healthier State. Brisbane, Queensland Public Health Forum.
2Queensland Health; Fun not Fuss with Food. Brisbane 2004.
3Malaysian Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents – Summary. Ministry of Health Malaysia (2013).
4Looking for Milk? Positive Parenting, http://mypositiveparenting.org/2014/01/21/looking-for-milk/ Last accessed 20 May 2014.
5Przyrembel H and Agostoni C. Growing-Up Milk: A Necessity or Marketing?,World Rev Nutr Diet. Basel, 2013,108:49-55.
6Scientific Committee for Food (SCF). 31st series. Nutrient and energy intakes for the European Community. Commission of the European Communities, 1993.
7Koletzko et al. Can infant feeding choices modulate later obesity risk? Am J Clin Nutr 2009; 89(5):1502S-1508S. Epub 2009 Mar 25.
8Koletzko et al. Lower protein in infant formula is associated with lower weight up to age 2 y: a randomized clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2009; B9(6):1836-45. Epub 2009 Apr 22.
9WHO Global database on anemia. Worldwide prevalence of anemia 1993-2005. Edited by deBenoist, McLean E, Egli I, Cogswell M. WHO 2008.
10Black, M.M., Quigg, A.M., Hurley, K.M., Pepper, M.R. Iron deficiency and iron-deficincy anemia in the first two years of life: Strategies to prevent loss of developmental potential 2011 Nutrition Reviews 69 (SUPPL 1), pp. S64-S70.
11Lozoff B, Iron deficiency and child development, Food Nutr Bull 2007;28: S560-S571.
12Grantham-McGregor, S., Baker-Henningham, H, Iron deficiency in childhood: Causes and consuqeunces for child development. 2010 Annales Nestle 68(3), pp. 105-119.
13WHO/UNICEF/UNU: Irondeficiency Anaemia. Assessment, prevention and control. A guide for programme managers. WHO/NHD/01.3; WHO 2001.
14Institute of Medicine (IOM) Food and Nutrition board, Dietary reference intakes of Vitamin A, Vitamin K, arsenic, boron, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel silicon, vanadium and zinc, Washington DC, 2002.
15Yadav D, Chandra J. Iron deficiency: beyond anemia Indian Journal of Pediatrics. 2010: 1-8.
16Bischoff. BMC Medicine. 'Gut Health': a new objective in medicine?; 9:24 (2011).
17Chatchatee P et al. Effects of Growing-Up Milk Supplemented With Prebiotics and LCPUFAs on Infections in Young Children. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition. April 2014, Vol. 58-4, 428-437.