Dietitians Urge Parents To Serve 'Milk With Meals'

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As families gather around the dinner table, what was once a staple of the meal -- milk -- might be hard to find.

Over the past decade, milk at dinner has steadily declined, and today nearly 60 percent of children's dinners do not include milk, according to findings from The NPD Group(1). Conversely, nearly one-third of all kids' meals are served with a soft drink or fruit drink-beverages that are often loaded with sugar and missing important nutrients.

The percentage of overweight American children and teens has tripled in the last two decades and a recent report called What America Drinks(2) suggests that beverage choices may impact weight and the overall quality of the diet. With children consuming two to three times the amount of sweetened beverages as they do milk, mealtime presents the perfect opportunity for parents to control what their kids are drinking.

The New York State Dietetic Association and the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council, Inc. are urging parents to think about what's filling their children's glasses and to make milk the official drink of family meals.

"Choosing milk for family meals can have a real nutrition impact," says Beth Smythe, RD, a spokesperson and president-elect of the New York State Dietetic Association. "Each time you swap your child's soft drink for a glass of milk, you boost their intake of nine essential nutrients and they skip six teaspoons of sugar."

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Local Survey Shows New York Moms Making Major Beverage Blunders

A survey of 1000 New York moms sponsored by the New York State Dietetic Association and the American Dairy Association found that only 28 percent said they served milk with dinner. Just as startling was the fact that only 37 percent of moms said their children drank milk with lunch.

Meanwhile, the majority of moms said they drank milk with meals when they were growing up, but now that they have their own families, only 14% said that "milk with meals" is the rule in their house. Studies on mothers and daughters show that moms' own food choices may be more influential than any other attempt to control their daughters' food intake. A mother's decision to drink milk more frequently and to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is likely to influence her daughter's choices.

"Moms need to take advantage of all the milk options available today," says Smythe. "Today's dairy case is stocked with low-fat, flavored and single-serve milks -- even fast food restaurants offer single-serve milk chugs with Happy Meals -- and they all offer the same great package of nutrients."

Milk with Meals Pledge

To urge parents to make milk the official beverage of family meals, the New York State Dietetic Association and the American Dairy Association are asking moms to sign a pledge at www.milkwithmeals.com. Those who sign the pledge will become part of the 3-A-Day of Dairy network and will receive healthy meal recipes, tips, suggestions, and offers. Those who sign up by February 15, 2008, will be entered into a drawing for a new refrigerator stocked with healthy foods and beverages selected by the New York State Dietetic Association. Three second-place prizes will be awarded for a free year's supply of milk.

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