Aside from a well-balanced, nutritious diet, giving children a glass of milk has been shown to help support their well-being. It is however important for parents to take a closer look—beyond the promises—at the nutritional values, ingredients, calorie counts, and even the sugar content of their child’s milk to better understand how it factors into their nutrition.
One way of doing so is by getting accustomed to reading the labels.
According to Food Scientist Dr. Lotis Francisco, milk labels provide the necessary information that would allow parents to check and balance the ingredients and other nutritional facts of the milk.
“By taking time to read and understand the label, it helps you make smart choices in identifying the best milk for your child,” said Dr. Francisco.
What’s on milk labels
Dr. Francisco said the Food and Drug Administration requires labels on all pre-packaged food, like milk. These labels must provide a complete list of ingredients, as well as its nutrition information in readable type.
When reading the Ingredients label, moms and dads must take note that the items listed are in descending order of proportion: from most to least. This means that the first ingredient in the list is also the main component of the milk.
For instance, some formula milk, like Promil Four, have non-fat milk as its first listed ingredient, and thus is its first component. Dr. Francisco noted that this component is preferred for children over 3 years old since it eliminates unnecessary fatty acids and kept the other milk components like lactose.
Other milk brands, meanwhile, use other key ingredients like hydrolyzed cornstarch that serves as an agent to retain milk’s sensory properties, and functions as a source of carbohydrates with also its sucrose content. With these ingredients, children’s milk would look and feel like that of a regular one when consumed and is much sweeter than the recommended.
How do you read the Nutritional Facts
The Nutritional Facts label, on the other hand, appears in a tabulated form that declares the protein, carbohydrates (including dietary fibers and sugars), fats (including saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol), sodium, as well as the caloric content of the milk. Added vitamin A, iron, and iodine, as well as other vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids are also included in the tabulation.
“All of these nutrients are expressed through the Recommended Energy and Nutrient Intake of children, based on the guidelines of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute,” explained Dr. Francisco. “So, if the Protein Content in the milk indicates 30 percent, then, your child needs 70 percent more from other food sources to meet his or her daily RENI.
How do you know the sugar content
When it comes to formula milk’s sugar levels, most parents may find it confusing, especially that the Nutritional Facts label only indicates an aggregated sugar content. That is why high sugar levels do not necessarily imply poor quality.
Among the types of sugar added in formula milk include sucrose, also referred to as table sugar and starches. These are added to replace some or all of the lactose naturally found in milk. Given the case, Dr. Francisco noted that it is still better to check the type of sugar used in the milk. For children’s proper growth and mental development, Promil Four is predominantly lactose with its non-fat milk as the main ingredient.
What other nutrients should you look out for
To ensure that the child gets the essential and important nutrients for proper growth and mental development, it pays off to check if milk’s macronutrients—protein, fat, and carbohydrates—are at the right level for children over 3 years old.
Based on FNRI’s Philippine Dietary Reference Intakes, a children’s milk per serving should have protein within 6-15 percent of total energy, fat within 15-30 percent of total energy, and carbohydrates within 55-79 percent of total energy to be within the acceptable macronutrient distribution range.
A below-recommended range may stunt a child’s growth and drain energy, while above may cause the risk of obesity. To support proper growth and mental development, it is preferred for these nutrients to be within range. Promil Four gives 15 percent total energy from its protein content, 30 percent total energy from fats, and 55 percent total energy from carbohydrates.
Promil Four is also the only formula milk with Nutrissentials. It contains DHA, AA, lutein, iodine, and iron to help support brain and visual development. It also has vitamin A, which supports healthy eye development; zinc for normal growth and maintaining a healthy immune system; niacin, which aids in metabolism; biotin, which enhances energy for physical development; and potassium, which promotes healthy muscles.
“In some cases, it’s easy to identify the right formula milk for your child if you take time to read and understand the labels. It might seem complicated at first but, it can help you make good choices for your child’s growth and development,” said Dr. Francisco.
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