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Eunice Kennedy Shriver
National Institute of Child Health & Human Development
What's the Problem?

What Can I Do?
What if milk is a problem for my kids?
What if milk is a problem for my kids?

For some tweens and teens, getting 1,300 mg of calcium a day isn't easy. Some people have lactose intolerance, which limits how much milk and milk products they can have. Others dislike the taste of milk or avoid it because they think it is fattening.

But, even kids with these concerns can still get the calcium they need each day to build strong bones for life.

Concerns about Lactose Intolerance

Someone with lactose intolerance has trouble digesting lactose, the natural sugar found in dairy foods. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include stomach pain, diarrhea, bloating, and gas.

The best way for someone with lactose intolerance to get the health benefits of milk is to choose lactose-free milk and milk products. There are also a variety of pills and drops, which are available without a prescription, that help people digest lactose.

And, even if your child has problems digesting lactose, he or she can probably still eat or drink:

  • 8 fluid ounces (1 cup) of low-fat or fat-free milk taken with meals
  • Low-fat or fat-free yogurt or cheese
  • Low-fat or fat-free milk poured on hot or cold cereal

People with lactose intolerance can also get some of their needed calcium from dark green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, and bok choy.

Calcium supplements also provide an alternative way of getting calcium.

Foods with calcium added are also an option. Check the ingredient list for added calcium in:

  • Tofu (with added calcium sulfate)
  • Calcium-fortified orange juice
  • Soy beverages with added calcium
  • Calcium-fortified breakfast cereals or breads

Lactose intolerance is not common among children. However, if your children have problems with lactose, talk to their health care provider.

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My child doesn't like the taste of milk.

Even if your tweens or teens don't like the taste of plain milk, there are still plenty of ways to get calcium in the diet:

  • Try a flavored low-fat or fat-free milk, such as chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry. Flavored milk has just as much calcium as plain.
  • Serve foods that go with milk, such as fruit bars and fig bars.
  • Drink low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt smoothies for breakfast or a snack. You can make these at home or try one of the ready-made versions now available at many grocery stores.
  • Keep portable, calcium-rich foods on hand for snacks on the run, such as low-fat or fat-free string cheese or individual pudding cups with calcium added.
  • In moderation, low-fat or fat-free ice cream and frozen yogurt are calcium-rich treats.
  • Serve non-milk sources of calcium, such as calcium-fortified soy beverages or orange juice with added calcium.
  • Try a spinach salad or have fresh or cooked broccoli.

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Concerns about Weight Control

Some tweens and teens avoid milk because they think it is fattening.

Low-fat and fat-free milk and milk products are healthy food choices that are not high in fat or calories. They can be included in a healthy diet without adding to overall fat.

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