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Niche Topics (Pregnancy and Kids) is all about practical parenting advice and parenting skills to help you deal with common parenting challenges from toddlerhood to teen years. You’ll find tons of healthy food ideas and easy-to-make kids meals, fun activity ideas and creative crafts projects that kids love to do and play!

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I would be so grateful if you could tell me how to get my toddler to drink milk. I've tried almost everything from cute sippy cups to novelty drinking straws, but my picky daughter just won't drink milk! I'm really worried that without any milk in her diet, she might not get enough calcium. What foods can I give to my child to ensure adequate calcium intake? Thank you. – Kathleen, Oklahoma.


How to Get Kids to Drink Milk


how to get kids to drink milk

Hi Kathleen,

Your question speaks for many parents who are having a tough time getting their kids to drink milk, so you're definitely no alone in this.

Before you do anything, make sure your daughter doesn't have lactose intolerance. Some kids won't drink milk either because they simply dislike the taste of milk or it upsets their tummies  –  gas, cramps, diarrhea, and bloating. If you keep on forcing your girl to drink something she dislikes or makes her sick, it may well put her off of milk for good.

If she feels sick every time she drinks milk, I'd suggest you offer lactose-free milk instead of cow's milk and see if she likes it. You can also give her ⅓ cup chocolate or strawberry soy milk mixed with ⅔ cup real milk.

Aside from soymilk, rice milk is also a great alternative to cow's milk. Rice milk has a mild, sweet taste and is super yummy, according to my 5 year old picky eater. Try Rice Dream Enriched Original, which is enriched with Vitamins A, D and B12, and has the same calcium as milk.

If your child has no problem with lactose intolerance, you can serve small portions of milk with a meal or a light snack. For example, ¼ cup milk and a piece of whole wheat chocolate chip cookie for the first few days. Then gradually increase the amount of milk you serve her day after day, and hopefully she'll learn to enjoy the taste of milk.

Smoothies and milkshakes are a great way to get calcium into your child's diet if she hates the taste of milk. You can add fresh or frozen fruits like strawberries and raspberries to camouflage the taste of milk. Bananas, mangoes as well as peaches are some examples of sweeter-tasting fruits that kids love.

You can make your kid "drink" milk by adding milk to foods. Try pouring milk over cheerios, or let your little one dunk her donuts in milk, or incorporate milk into dishes such as macaroni and cheese, or make custard milk pudding.


What Foods Can You Offer to Make Sure Your Kid Gets Enough Calcium?

1. Calcium-fortified juice is also another option for picky kids who don't like the taste of milk, and as a bonus, they get extra Vitamin C too. Many manufacturers are now adding extra calcium to some juices (for example, ½ cup calcium fortified orange juice contains up to 80mg calcium), and you can find calcium-enriched of everything from breakfast cereal to bread. If you want to ensure adequate calcium intake in your child's diet, this may be one smart way to do it.


2. Your child will also consume calcium when you serve cheese, yogurt, or frozen yogurt for snacks. Cheeses can be enjoyed in a variety of ways – tuck a slice of cheese into a sandwich or sprinkle grated cheese over a salad. Hard or aged cheeses such as cheddar, Colby, Swiss, and Parmesan are usually lower in lactose than milk.

You can further boost your kid's nutrition by adding fruits (fiber and Vit C) , flaxseeds (omega 3 fatty acids), or sunflower seeds (Vitamin E) to yogurt.


3. Almonds, Brazil nuts, and sesame seed paste (tahini) are good non milk sources of calcium. A small handful of almonds (about 15 nuts) have about 40mg calcium, and they can be crushed and used as a topping for yogurt or pudding.

My son loves it when I make these crunchy honey roasted almonds. Roast 1 cup whole almonds in the oven at 350˚F for 10 minutes, remove and let cool completely. Heat ½ tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon of each pure honey and water in a small saucepan. When it starts to bubble, add almonds and stir to combine well. Continue to cook for another 2 minutes or until the liquid is completely absorbed by the almonds. Remove from heat. Add 4 tablespoons brown sugar and mix, making sure almonds are well coated.


4. Vegetables such as broccoli, turnip greens, spinach bok choy and cabbage also have some calcium in them. One cup of cooked broccoli contains about 45mg calcium. If your kid hates veggies, you can always hide them in frittatas, pizzas and meat loaves.


5. Other calcium-rich foods include soy products like tofu (particularly those processed with calcium sulphate) and tempeh, and fish such as sardines, mackerel and salmon (with bones). A ¼ cup canned salmon provides your child with about 200mg calcium.


6. Beans are also a good source of calcium for fussy children who hate drinking milk. You can give your child enough calcium with a hearty bowl of calcium-rich soup made from pinto beans, garbanzo beans (chick peas), small red beans, and don't forget to throw in some vegetables like carrot, celery, diced tomato, and onion for extra fiber and taste.


Having said all that about calcium-rich foods, you should keep in mind that Vitamin D, a fat-soluble Vitamin, plays a critical role in overall teeth and bone health. If your child doesn't get enough Vit D, her body can't properly absorb calcium from the intestines. So go outdoors with your daughter and spend time playing in the sun each day. The body makes Vitamin D when exposed to sun light. Vit D is also found in organ meat and oily fish such as sardines and herring.


By Martha Sanders


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