Skim Milk vs. Whole Milk: What Should Your Kid Be Drinking?

While most moms know their kids should drink milk, many are torn about which type. Odds are you fed your baby whole milk, only as your little tyke shot up into toddlerhood, you may have considered making the switch to skim, 1%, or 2%. After all, we're in the midst of a childhood obesity epidemic. Once kids have graduated beyond the chunky baby phase, whole milk seems like a gratuitous amount of fat and calories that could lead kids down an unhealthy path.

For starters, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids drink whole milk up until the age of 2. After 2, they say parents can switch kids to skim or low-fat milk. They based these recommendations on studies that found that kids who drank low-fat milk had lower concentrations of LDL cholesterol -- and thus a lower risk of heart disease.

But health experts aren't unanimously behind the switch to low-fat milk at age 2. "Growing children absolutely need whole milk at all ages," says Sally Fallon Morell, President of the The Weston A. Price Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to disseminating nutrition research to the public. "Nature puts butterfat in milk -- including mother's milk -- for a reason. The vitamins in butterfat are needed to absorb all the minerals. The fats are also essential for development of the brain and nervous system. Plus, the fat in the milk keeps blood sugar stable."

As for parents who give their kids skim milk due to worries about weight gain, these efforts may actually backfire: A recent study by the University of Virginia School of Medicine actually found that kids who drink 1% or skim milk have higher Body Mass Indexes than those who drink 2% or whole. Researchers theorize this occurs because whole milk provides a greater sense of fullness, so kids don't get hungry and eat more later.

More from The Stir: Drinking Whole Milk May Actually Make You & Your Kids Thinner!

Bottom line: Although some interesting evidence has cropped up that should make moms consider sticking with whole milk, the jury is still out on whether skim, whole, or low-fat is best. So you're best off just choosing what your kid likes and what fits with your family (for instance, if the rest of you drink low-fat, maybe it's just easier to have Junior hop on the bandwagon).

Plus, experts also point out that milk probably isn't a big factor in unhealthy weight gain in kids anyway. A far bigger culprit is sugary drinks! So keep the juice and sodas to a minimum and just make sure your kids are drinking the recommended amount of dairy: 2 cups for children aged 2 to 3; 2.5 cups for 4- to 8-year-olds; and 3 cups for 9 and up, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Do you feed your kids skim, whole, or low-fat milk?


Image © Tomas Rodriguez/Corbis

toddler health, nutrition


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BiBi Frederick Waltslady

we drink 2% in my house- My kid isnt crazy about whole milk and before I dropped WIC (they would not supply the formula I needed for my child as an infant) they give you vouchers for 2% milk not whole milk

amazz... amazzonia

whole milk not ultra pasteurized if raw milk is not available!

nolan... noland72587

We drink 1% ONLY because my husband has high cholestrol and I do daycare and get reimbursed for food through a food program and they will only reimburse if I give 1% milk, not 2%.  I am required to offer milk at every meal and snack.

nonmember avatar Hannah Beth

My almost 2 year old has been on whole milk since she turned 1. She is far from being chunky. She Is a very slim and muscular toddler. She was also premature and only weighed 3lbs 12oz so her doctor wants her to drink whole so it will help gain some weight.

nonmember avatar krystian

We drink 2%.

And give my children lactose free milk.

nonmember avatar adrien

My dad always said milk is for baby cows! Humans get milk from their mom for the period of time which they need it and then it's done. Humans do not need so much dairy. Only modern humans (and the American Dairy Counsel) have tried to tell us otherwise. Our ability to digest and process dairy diminishes with age because we simply do not need it. So, whatever! Study schmudy.

nonmember avatar Jenn

Breast milk till weaned, then water. Humans are not baby cows!

stace... stacey541

Almond milk mainly. My daughter hates regular milk. When we do buy it it's 1%

Roche... RochesterGal

I gave my kids whole milk until age 3, then switched. 

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