Whether for allergies or simply for taste, plant-based milks or dairy alternatives are a nourishing addition to your child’s diet.
As well as soy milk and almond milk, new comers like cashew milk and even oat milk are now readily available at supermarkets. But are all plant milks suitable for children? And which plant milks are more nutritious?
We’ve asked Sanitarium dietitian Trish Guy to cover off the most common questions when it comes to children and popular dairy milk alternatives.
Is soy milk a nutritious choice for my child?
Of all plant milks, soy milk comes out on top for providing similar nutritional benefits to dairy milk, without the lactose.
Made from soy beans or soy protein, soy milk is a source of natural plant proteins. Protein is an important part of a child’s diet and essential for normal growth and development*. Young children aged 1-3 years need 14g of protein a day, while those aged 4 to 8 years need 20 g of protein a day.
Just one glass of most soy milks will provide around 8g of protein, just like regular dairy milk. Other food sources of protein include plant foods like legumes, peas, nuts, seeds and wholegrain cereal. Animal sources of protein include dairy foods like cheese and yoghurt, eggs, fish and lean meats.
Many soy milks available at the supermarket contain good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) and are fortified with calcium, B vitamins, vitamin D, and phosphorus. Soy milk is a nutritious addition to a child’s diet and can be used as a complete dairy alternative if your child is lactose intolerant or has a milk allergy.
Can babies have soy milk?
There’s no doubt breast milk, or infant formula, is best for babies under a year old. However, from 7 months, bubs can have small amounts of soy milk in their food, such as adding a little soy milk to a puree or baby cereal or using in cooked dishes.
Once they turn 1, babies can drink full fat soy milk, whether it is in addition to dairy milk, or as a complete dairy milk alternative.
How to choose a soy milk for your child?
Always look for a soy milk that is full fat, and has been fortified with calcium, ideally at least 100mg per 100mL.
So Good suitability for kids
|Product||High in calcium (at least 100mg/100ml)||Protein (8g a serve)||High in vitamins B2 and B12||Suitable as a complete replacement for dairy milk from|
|So Good Regular||✓||✓||✓||12 months|
|So Good Lite||✓||✓||✓||2 years|
|So Good Essential||✓||✓||✓||2 years|
|So Good Almond Original||✓|| ||✓||5 years|
|So Good Almond Unsweetened||✓|| ||✓||5 years|
|So Good Cashew Original||✓|| ||✓||5 years|
|So Good Cashew Unsweetened||✓|| ||✓||5 years|
|So Good Oat No Added Sugar||✓|| ||✓||5 years|
Is almond milk a nutritious choice for my child?
Almond milks are popular for their nutty taste and are lactose free. They naturally contain vitamin E and can be fortified with a range of additional nutrients including calcium, B2 and B12 vitamins.
Getting enough calcium is one of the main benefits we associate with giving our child a glass of milk or a dairy alternative. As part of a balanced diet, calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth, as well as helping young bodies grow. A glass of So Good Almond Milk will give a child, aged up to 8 years, around 40% of their daily calcium needs. So, a big tick for calcium.
However, almond milks don’t contain as much protein as soy milk, or dairy milk, and for this reason are not recommended as a complete replacement for dairy milk, for children under 5.
That doesn’t rule them out altogether. You can include nut milks as a healthy addition to your child’s diet, as long as you’re including other sources of protein. For example, you could use nut milks in smoothies or cooking and make sure your little ones get dairy milk on their cereal or a yoghurt snack.
If your child has lactose intolerance your dietitian or GP will be able to help you work on an eating plan that ensures they can enjoy dairy-alternatives and still get the protein they need.
Can babies have almond milk?
Almond milks, and other nut milks, are not recommended as a complete replacement for dairy or soy milk for children under 5 years because they are low in protein. Many are also low in fat, meaning they have less kilojoules (energy) than full fat dairy or soy milk. Toddlers need both protein and fats to help keep up with the demands of their rapid growth and development.
How to choose an almond milk for your child?
If you are looking to include almond milk in your child’s diet, always look for a plain almond milk that has been fortified with calcium and B vitamins, like B2 and B12.
Is oat milk a nutritious choice for my child?
Oat milk is the new kid on the block and is rapidly rising in plant milk popularity because of its sweet, creamy taste. Lots of people think it tastes a lot like dairy milk.
As the milk is made from oats, oat milks are naturally low in saturated fat. They are often fortified with calcium, B2 and B12 vitamins. B2, or riboflavin helps unlock energy from food, giving children the fuel they need for their active little lives. B12 helps growth and development and can also help support a healthy immune system.
Like nut milks, oat milks are usually lower in protein and are therefore not recommended as a complete replacement for dairy milk for children that are younger than five. This means they are best enjoyed as a healthy addition to a balanced diet, which also includes other sources of protein. With its creamy taste, kids will love oat milk on cereal and it’s also good for baking up their favourite treats.
Can babies have oat milk?
As with nut milks, oat milks are not recommended as a complete replacement for dairy or soy milk for children under 5 years. Oat milks are low in fat and protein, which toddlers need for healthy growth and development.
How to choose an oat milk for your child?
Look for plain oat milk that’s been fortified with calcium and B vitamins.
Always speak to your GP or a dietitian if you have any concerns regarding your child’s health, nutrition, potential allergies or intolerances, or if you plan to make significant changes to their diet.
*As part of a healthy diet.