Should a 5-year-old, solidly built boy still be drinking whole milk? Should I be happy that my kids are getting nutrients from the fat, or concerned about high cholesterol? Is there a need to test average kids that age for high cholesterol?
During the first two years, children’s brains are still developing and require essential fats that are found almost exclusively in breast milk, formula and whole or 2% milk. After two years, the main benefit children receive from milk is the calcium. Calcium content is essentially the same in whole, 2% and skim milk.
I usually suggest that children over age two drink 2% milk or less. Although fat is not often a concern for children this young, more studies are showing that artery clogging fat and cholesterol begin to accumulate well before adulthood. I prefer that children don’t get too used to the taste of whole milk and other high fat foods so they don’t wind up with strong preferences when they try to cut out fat as adults.
If there is family history of high cholesterol, it is especially important to monitor fat intake. Children should never be put on a low fat diet without the advice of a physician, since limiting fat may limit other nutrients as well.
Routine cholesterol testing is recommended sometime during the teenage years. Your doctor may suggest checking your preschool children if there is family history of high cholesterol or if there are many family members with heart disease.