The importance of dairy in a child’s diet has been well-established by nutritionists over the years, and for good reason. Dairy is an important source of calcium, vitamin D, protein, and other nutrients necessary for growing bodies. However, not everyone is able to tolerate dairy products for one reason or another, including being lactose intolerant. This article will discuss how to identify a lactose intolerance, if necessary, and how to ensure a child with lactose intolerance is properly nourished.
Lactose is the main sugar in dairy and milk products, and it is what gives milk its characteristic sweet taste. When someone is lactose intolerant, they do not produce enough lactase, which is the enzyme that breaks down lactose for digestion. This results in an excess of lactase in the gut after consuming dairy or dairy products. Within a couple of hours, symptoms arise, which can range from mild gas and discomfort to severe cramping and diarrhea. It is also possible to be able to tolerate some dairy products, like cheese, and not others, like milk and ice cream, or to have no symptoms when consuming dairy with a meal containing other food groups. It comes down to trial and error for your child’s specific situation.
In the case of having a child with lactose intolerance, it is useful to know how to fill nutritional gaps in their diet. Nondairy milks, such as almond and rice milk, are often fortified with calcium and vitamin D and can be just as enjoyable. Soy milk is not recommended unless it is organic, as soybeans are at the top of the GMO list of foods to avoid. Lactose-free milk and dairy products are also readily available, which may be helpful especially when replacing dairy in a recipe. Finally, lactase enzyme supplements can help the gut break down lactose properly when taken with dairy. While this can be inconvenient, it does allow your child to drink regular milk and obtain all the benefits of dairy in its true form.
While dairy is established as a great source of calcium, especially in the American diet, it is important to note that dark, leafy greens can be an even more excellent source of calcium. If your child is having difficulty with nondairy milk alternatives, then consider incorporating spinach, kale, or broccoli into mealtime to ensure adequate intake. In addition, mushrooms have an excellent vitamin D profile and can make dishes more meaty and satisfying for your child while providing a great source of this necessary vitamin. Finally, beans are a wonderful source of protein, and when combined with rice, provide all 9 essential amino acids necessary for muscle development. Eating a colorful and varied diet will ensure that your child continually meets his or her body’s growing nutritional demands, in spite of an allergy or sensitivity.