Got Milk?

By Emily Hulse, MS

Earlier this month we made a visit to Hy-vee to see this new baby calf pictured below.  Isn’t it cute and can you believe it’s only one day old?!  (Mya is sporting a pink “milk mustache” in this picture if you’re wondering what that band-aid looking thing is above her lip.)

girls and cow

My girls are quite the animal lovers to say the least!  (If it was up to them we would be living on a farm.)  Me on the other hand – not so much.  I guess it would help if I wasn’t allergic to most animals.  However, I can’t see a dairy cow without it making me smile and feel so happy.  See, my Grandma Ada McConnell was a dairy farmer for 40+ years and an amazing one to say the least!  Growing up we spent a lot of time on her farm.  I remember sitting on the step in the milk barn watching her milk cows and having the greatest conversations with her and admiring everything she did.  I remember feeding the new baby cows with big bottles and being in awe of how fast they would guzzle that thing down and how strong they were already.

dog and cowsmilk maid

June is National Dairy month if you haven’t yet heard.  Hence, the event at Hy-vee that I took my girls to and why it has me reminiscing about my wonderful Grandma Ada and her dairy farm.  So I thought a little Dairy 101 might be in order for a blog post this month:

Dairy is one of the five food groups (pictured below on MyPlate), which is the current nutrition guide.  All fluid milk products and many foods made from milk are part of this food group.  Foods made from milk that retain or keep their calcium content are part of the group.  Foods made from milk that have little to no calcium, such as cream cheese, butter, and cream, are not part of the group.

Some examples of foods in the Dairy Group include the following:  Milk, Yogurt, Cheese, Cottage Cheese, Milk-based desserts (frozen yogurt, ice cream, pudding made with milk), and calcium-fortified soymilk.


Foods from the Dairy Group provide calcium, vitamin D, potassium, protein, vitamin A, and other nutrients needed for good health throughout life.


Do you know that there are 206 bones in the human body?  That’s a lot of bones that we need to take good care of!  Bones are living tissue -meaning they are always changing.  Since childhood and adolescence are a time of very, very fast growth, as parents we need to remember it’s an especially important time where peak bone mass can be increased in our children (peak bone mass refers to the maximum bone size and strength).

How do we increase the peak bone mass and help bones to be strong so they don’t break easily?  By eating foods from the dairy group because they have calcium in them and also by doing bone strengthening physical activities, such as running, skipping, jumping, walking, or playing sports like basketball or gymnastics.

Some TIPS and TRICKS to remember in regards to dairy:

  • Remember as a parent, it’s your job to decide what, when, and where your child eats. Offer milk only with meals and snacks, while seated at the table. If your child is thirsty between meals and snacks, offer water.
  • Foods from the Dairy Group can add protein to snacks. Offer cheese or yogurt with fruits and veggies for a healthy boost between meals.
  • Your child CAN drink too much milk; more than 3 cups or 24 oz. would be considered too much. In addition to the extra calories, too much milk can fill kids up, increasing the chance that they give up on other nutrient-rich foods.  So, limit your child to the recommended amount per day (see the chart at for how much food from the dairy group is needed daily and also for what counts as a cup) and make sure they get a wide variety of nutritious foods.                                                                                          *If they are getting more than the recommended amount, gradually reduce the frequency and amount of milk given.
  • Which milk should I choose? After age two, most children can switch to low-fat (1%) or fat-free (skim) milk.  The good news is that all milk, from skim to whole, contains about the same amount of calcium and other important nutrients per serving.  Calcium helps to build strong bones, teeth, and muscles and also helps you to keep a regular heartbeat and a healthy blood pressure.  Choosing low-fat or fat-free milk helps to decrease the amount of calories, total fat, and saturated fat consumed.
  • One of my girls is a milk drinker and the other not so much. Here’s some ways we add milk into her diet since she’s not a fan of drinking it straight:
    • Make oatmeal with milk instead of water (and she is excited that now she can make it all by herself).
    • When we make hot chocolate we use milk instead of water.
    • Instead of buying the ready to go pudding cups, we usually try to buy the box of instant pudding and make it that way (and they love to stir it).
    • We make tomato soup with milk instead of water.
    • We make fruit smoothies, just using some milk, yogurt, fruit, and ice. Then whatever smoothie mix I have left, I pour into popsicle molds and freeze them.  This helps so that the leftover mix isn’t wasted and then the girls have a cold, healthy treat on a hot day.
    • yogurt pops
    • And of course, remembering to eat other foods in the dairy group that are made out of milk, such as:
      • Low-fat yogurt (She loves yogurt and fruit, especially strawberries and enjoys making her own yogurt parfait by choosing the fruit, cereal or granola, and yogurt and then layering it herself.)
      • Cheese
      • Cottage cheese

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