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Kids: Get Milk!

We know the mantra: Eating dinner together regularly not only promotes family bonding, but also allows parents to instill positive nutrition habits in their kids.

But according to a new study by The NPD Group, nearly 60 percent of children's dinners do not include milk. Instead, 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. Accordingly, the percentage of overweight American children and teens has tripled in the last two decades, and a recent report called What America Drinks suggests that beverage choice may impact weight and the overall quality of the diet.

In response to these findings, a new nationwide effort called the Think About Your Drink campaign urges parents to think about what's filling their children's glasses and to make milk the "official drink of the family".

It's important for parents to realize that beverage choice may play a part in the fight against raising overweight, yet undernourished kids. Family dinner is a great place to start. By swapping your child's soft drink for milk, you boost vital nutrients many kids are missing. At a typical meal, served with a regular soft drink that includes spaghetti with a side of broccoli, fruit and bread, you get only 120mg of the recommended 1,000mg of calcium a day. By swapping fat free milk for that soft drink, you boost calcium to 420mg, a 250 percent increase. Likewise, you increase vitamin D by 625 percent, and potassium and magnesium by around 30 percent. Plus, you skip six teaspoons of sugar.

While it's important for parents to monitor the beverages their children are drinking, they also need to be aware of their own beverage choices. Parents play an important role in keeping their family healthy and helping their children make nutritious choices. In fact, studies have shown that mom's own food choices may be more influential than any other attempt to control what her daughter eats and drinks. And it can all start at the dinner table.

For additional tools to help you and your loved ones make better beverage choices, visit There, you can also receive a free, personalized nutrition analysis of your daily drinks, and see how your beverage choice impacts the nutrition of a typical family dinner.

JODIE SHIELD, MED, RD, has been a consultant and spokesperson in the field of nutrition for over two decades. She is co-author of the "American Dietetic Association's Guide to Healthy Eating For Kids" and "Childhood and Adolescent Overweight: A Health Professional's Guide To Identification, Treatment, and Prevention".

Smart milk!
DHA Omega-3 fatty acid has been added to infant formula and eggs; now it is also in organic milk. Horizon Organic is fortifying its half-gallons of whole, 2 percent and 1 percent milk. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in breast milk, are essential for brain development. The flavor of the milk is not affected by the addition. Horizon Organic is found in supermarkets and natural food stores.

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