Milk and Milk Alternatives
Milk: Is it really necessary?
Current recommendations for milk:
Until infants are 12 months old, their primary nutrition source comes from breast milk and/or formula with the addition of solids typically at 4-6 months. Once the 12-month birthday comes around, and the rate at which children grow decreases, the nutritional needs for toddlers change as they no longer require the dense nutrition provided in formula. Breastfeeding, however, may continue beyond the first birthday for as long as a mother desires. When any toddler is weaned from breastfeeding, or it’s time to discontinue formula, it is generally recommended to transition to drinking organically produced whole milk dairy because it provides protein, vitamins, fats, calcium and other minerals that support brain development and help increase bone density. The daily recommended serving size for whole milk is up to 2 cups (16 ounces) per day.
Does my child have to drink cow’s milk?
No. There are many GetzWell families that do not offer their children cow’s milk for a variety of reasons including personal preference, issues of tolerance/allergy, or simply because their children do not like the taste. Similar nutritional benefits are available through yogurt, cheese, as well as non-dairy sources.
What about milk alternatives?
There are many different cow’s milk alternatives that help support a child’s growth and development. Some options include plant-based nut milks and pea milk. Nut milks are ubiquitous in grocery stores and the majority are fortified in calcium and vitamin D to create a nutrient profile that is comparable to cow’s milk. (We recommend making nut milk, particularly from cashews, which is easy and delicious. See below for a recipe we love.) The main difference in nutrient makeup between nut milk and pea milk is protein quantity. Nut milks often lack protein, making it important for children who drink nut milks to have other sources of dietary protein. While pea milk contains higher levels of protein, like many nut milks, it doesn’t contain an adequate amount of fat that is important for brain development in young children. Therefore, children drinking milk alternatives should eat plenty of healthy fats as part of their daily diet (think avocado, olive and coconut oil, butter!). As always, it’s best to avoid the flavored or sweetened variations of milk alternatives as they likely contain additives and sugars.
My child doesn’t like any kind of milk or milk alternative, what can I do?
If your child refuses all forms of milk and milk alternatives it’s time to get creative! No need to stress out. Your child can still get adequate calcium, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals through more careful and diverse selection of solid foods and fluids like bone broth. Finding the right balance of nutrition can be challenging, so if you have questions about milk alternatives and your child’s specific nutritional needs, don’t hesitate to ask us!
Cashew milk recipe
- 3/4 cup raw unsalted cashews
- 3-4 cups filtered water, plus more for soaking cashews
- 1 1/2 tsp honey or maple syrup, or one whole pitted date (optional)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)
- Dash salt (optional)
- Place raw cashews (or cashew pieces – Rainbow Grocery has them in bulk and they’re organic!), or whatever nut or seed you choose, in a bowl and cover with cold water. Allow to soak for at least one hour up to overnight, then drain and rinse in a sieve.
- Combine soaked cashews and filtered water in a blender, preferably a Vitamix or similar.
- For a whole milk texture, I use 3 cups of water to 1 cup cashews. For a thicker texture, feel free to add less water– you can adjust the texture to taste. The more water you add, the lower in fat the milk will be per serving; however, you don’t want to add too much liquid or it will turn watery. Best to add water in small batches till the texture seems right to you. Blend on low, then slowly raise the speed to max for 1-2 minutes till the milk is completely smooth and no chunks of nuts remain. If desired, add sweetener, vanilla and/or salt to taste, then blend again to combine (if using a date, make sure you blend till it’s completely pulverized). Feel free to adjust the sweetness to taste.
- You may want to strain milk through a fine mesh strainer, tea towel, cheesecloth or nut bag into a storage container. However, with cashews, this step isn’t necessary to get a smooth yummy texture. A nut bag will work best for keeping your milk smooth and chunk-free. I usually strain the milk into a quart mason jar, which works perfectly with the 3 cup to 3/4 cup ratio of water to cashews.
- If using a mesh strainer, you will need to agitate the solids a bit to let all the milk drip through. I don’t scrape them (this can push the solids through the strainer), but I do gently stir and move the solids around to make room for the liquid to come through. Similarly, if using a nut bag, you will need to gently squeeze the bag till all of the milk seeps through.
- Once you’re finished straining the milk, you will have a small quantity of solids left. I like to mix this light cashew paste with sweetener and a little cinnamon– and eat it like a pudding. You can also spread it on a piece of toast. It’s delish!
- Transfer milk to the refrigerator and chill thoroughly. It should keep for 3 – 4 days if refrigerated. I usually shake mine a bit before pouring to make sure it’s well blended.