June is National Dairy Month, an opportunity to reflect on dairy’s role in the nutrition needs of children and adolescents. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) cite strong evidence that directly links dairy consumption with health benefits across the life span. The dairy category includes some of the most nutrient-rich foods, including yogurt.
Traditionally, the benefits of dairy have been associated with bone health. Along with consistent dietary calcium, strong bones require Vitamin D to help absorb calcium, quality dietary proteins to lay down a solid bone matrix and weight-bearing physical activity to strengthen new bone. Timing is also significant. Bone thickens dramatically during the rapid growth and maturation of adolescence. Ideally, by age 20, teens have accrued enough bone mass to last a lifetime. Yet, nearly all U.S. preteens, teens and young adults fail to consume adequate dairy levels and thus fail to optimize bone mass.
The benefits of dairy go well beyond bone health. As concluded by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, “consumption of dairy foods provides numerous health benefits, including lower risk for diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and obesity.” Yogurt’s live and active cultures can even allow individuals with lactose intolerance to achieve recommendations for dairy intake.
One critical factor supporting the diet quality of children and high-risk individuals is the federal nutrition safety net programs, including the Women Infants and Children Program (WIC), the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. As fluid milk consumption has fallen over the past few decades, the importance of alternate sources of dairy has risen. WIC, for example, established a new rule allowing yogurt in its food package, helping to encourage high-risk mothers and children to meet their daily dairy requirements.
Every five years, supported by the bipartisan Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) bills, the federal nutrition programs reestablish protections for children, one in five of whom is food insecure. This reauthorization is currently gaining a lot of attention in Congress. Additionally, the B-24 project to develop guidance for infants and toddlers from birth to 24 months of age is underway, and will provide necessary nutrition recommendations for this important age group. These recent food policy discussions surrounding children’s health, coupled with National Dairy Month, provide an opportunity for us all to resolve to help our nation’s children and families achieve an important nutrition goal: consuming three dairy servings every day, and making one of them yogurt.
Robert Murray, MD
One Yogurt Every Day Nutrition Advisor
Check out MyPlate for Older Adults, produced by the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University with support from the AARP Foundation — a useful tool for healthy eating across the life span. Among other things, it encourages fruits and vegetables, healthy oils, herbs and spices, as well as “fat-free and low-fat milk, cheeses and yogurts which provide protein calcium and other important nutrients.”
Click here to read more!
On May 20, the FDA finalized and announced the updated Nutrition Facts Panel design, the first major overhaul in more than 20 years. The new label will include a larger display of calories, a line specifically for added sugars and serving sizes more in line with how much people actually eat.
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