Aside from a well-balanced, nutritious diet, giving your child a glass of milk has been shown to help support your child’s well-being. Aside from being a source of calcium, a glass of milk can also provide essential and important nutrients for growth and mental development.
As parents, however, it is important to take a closer look—beyond the promises—at the nutritional values, ingredients, calorie counts, and even the sugar content of your child’s milk to better understand how it factors into his or her 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 you to check and balance the ingredients and other nutritional facts of the milk.
“By taking time in reading and understanding the label, it helps you make smart choices in identifying the best milk for your child,” added Dr. Francisco.
What’s on milk labels?
Dr. Francisco said that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires labels on all prepackaged food, like milk. These labels must provide a complete list of ingredients, as well as its nutrition information in readable type. Usually, these are located at the back or side of the packaging under the “Ingredients” and “Nutrition Facts” headings.
When reading the Ingredients label, you 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 their first listed ingredient, and thus is their first component. Dr. Francisco noted that this component is preferred for children over 3 years old since it eliminated 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, your child’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 (RENI) of children, based on the guidelines of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI),” 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 your child’s milk. For your child’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 your 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, your child’s milk per serving should have Protein within 6-15% of total energy, Fat within 15-30% of total energy, and Carbohydrates within 55-79% of total energy to be within the acceptable macronutrient distribution range (AMDR).
Below recommended range may stuntchild’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. For PROMIL®FOUR, it gives 15% total energy from its protein content, 30% total energy from fats, and 55% 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.