Ex­perts weigh in on plant­based drinks for young kids

Medicine Hat News - - CUISINE -

Canada’s di­eti­tians and pe­di­a­tri­cians are dis­cour­ag­ing par­ents from re­ly­ing on plant­based drinks — such as rice, co­conut and al­mond milks — as the main bev­er­age for ba­bies and young kids.

Dr. Cather­ine Pound of the Cana­dian Pae­di­atric So­ci­ety said Wed­nes­day that some plant-based bev­er­ages are not for­ti­fied with any min­er­als or vi­ta­mins and of­ten con­tain sugar as the sec­ond in­gre­di­ent af­ter wa­ter.

“There’s a bit of a push from the health move­ment where peo­ple think or feel that plant­based nu­tri­tion is bet­ter than meat-based nu­tri­tion, which may be true in adult­hood where we are rec­om­mend­ing to move away from eat­ing meat very fre­quently, but the same doesn’t hold true for chil­dren who need the pro­tein,” says Pound.

“We see par­ents that are well-in­ten­tioned that are mov­ing to a plant-based bev­er­age for their chil­dren think­ing they are do­ing a good thing while ac­tu­ally they are with­hold­ing im­por­tant nu­tri­ents and pro­teins.”

Kids aged two to eight need 13 to 19 grams of pro­tein per day, which can be met with two cups of cow milk or two cups of for­ti­fied soy bev­er­age.

Mean­while, al­mond, co­conut or rice drinks con­tain lit­tle to no pro­tein and would re­quire kids to also eat two child-sized serv­ings of meat or two half-cup serv­ings of lentils. Al­mond drinks only con­tain about four al­monds per cup.

The ex­perts say the best foods for grow­ing chil­dren are whole, fresh and un­pro­cessed fruits and veg­eta­bles, as well as whole grains, dairy and meats.

And while fats are avoided by many adults, they are a valu­able nu­tri­ent for young chil­dren, says Pound.

“Fat is ex­tremely im­por­tant for a child or a tod­dler be­cause it cer­tainly con­trib­utes to brain growth,” she says.

“We do not want to re­strict fat at all for the first cou­ple years of life.”

In the case of al­ler­gies or other con­cerns, Pound says par­ents should con­sult a di­eti­tian.

The joint state­ment with the Di­eti­tians of Canada also warned that drink­ing too much of the plant-based bev­er­ages can dis­place hunger and cause chil­dren to eat less food.

If pos­si­ble, in­fants should be ex­clu­sively breast fed for the first six months, and con­tin­ued for up to two years or longer with ap­pro­pri­ate com­ple­men­tary feed­ing. Oth­er­wise, ba­bies can drink for­mula or pas­teur­ized hu­man milk from screened donors.

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