This lesson helps young people understand the health benefits of low-fat milk by analyzing nutrition labels.
Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following information about low-fat milk products. These facts can be shared with kids and parents during your discussions.
- The 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommends Americans switch to fat-free or low-fat milk. According to researchers, fat-free and low-fat milk is essential to children and adolescents’ development and overall wellness. In fact, fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products provide four of the five “nutrients of concern” that children don’t get enough of: calcium, potassium, Vitamin D and magnesium.
- White milk comes in four varieties: whole (full fat), 2%, 1% (low-fat) and Skim (no fat). Flavored milk also comes in different varieties such as low-fat and fat-free.
- Who should drink whole milk? Answer: Children 12 months to 24 months (1-2 years old). After that, kids may switch to 2%, low-fat or skim milk. (As long as the child isn’t gaining weight quickly, they can drink 2% milk.)
- Babies (0-12 months) should drink breast milk or infant formula as cow’s milk isn’t digested well by babies under 12 months, and it lacks essential nutrients.
- Some children are allergic to some nutrients/items found in milk, like protein. A milk allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to the protein found in milk and can trigger a range of symptoms from mild (rash, hives, swelling, etc.) to severe symptoms (trouble breathing, wheezing, loss of consciousness, etc.) This means that they may need to choose a milk substitute. Make sure to choose a milk alternative that is fortified with 30% DV (Daily Value) of calcium. If you have young people in your class that fall into this category, ask them to complete the activity with the understanding that this may not specifically apply to them.
- Other children may have an intolerance to lactose found in milk, which means they are missing the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products. This results in the inability to digest milk or other dairy products which may cause symptoms such as nausea, cramps, gas, bloating and diarrhea. Lactose intolerance can cause great discomfort, but it is not life threatening.
- Ask the youth: What kind of milk do you drink? If they don’t know, show them examples of cartons of each type to see if that helps them identify the type of milk they usually drink.
- Let’s figure out which type of milk may be the healthiest for us to drink by looking at what’s on the Nutrition Facts labels of four different types of milk. Pass out the Milk Nutrition Facts Labels worksheet and the Compare Milk Activity worksheet you printed at the beginning of the lesson. Tell the youth to use the milk Nutrition Fact labels to fill in the chart and answer the questions on the worksheet.
- Ask young people to share what they learned about the type of milk they drink.
- Review answers to questions with the youth using the Instructors Answer Key.
Encourage kids and parents alike who don’t already drink 1% or skim milk to work towards that as a goal. Tell them if they don’t like it at first, try mixing 1/2 their milk with the lower fat milk, changing it gradually each week until you are drinking only the lower fat milk. Most people really do get used to the skim milk after awhile. The same idea works for flavored milk. If you are used to drinking flavored milk, try mixing 1/2 white skim or lower fat milk until you get used to not having the added sweetness.
Or you might want to try this approach: If you usually drink whole milk, switch to 2% by the end of one week, 1% by the end of two weeks, and skim by the end of three weeks. If you usually drink 2%, switch to 1% by the end of one week, and skim milk by the end of two weeks.
Continuing the Conversation
Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue discussing their milk choices at home.
Additional Instructor Resources