Fluid milk consumption among children is vital, as adequate consumption of dairy products, especially during childhood, has beneficial health outcomes later in life. These benefits include reduced risk of osteoporosis, hypertension, obesity, and cancer in adulthood. Milk consumption among children has been declining for decades, so understanding and fulfilling the needs of children is crucial to reverse the decline. In an article appearing in the Journal of Dairy Science, scientists from North Carolina State University and Cornell University studied key contributors to increasing milk consumption among children.
Factors evaluated in the study included food trends, nutritional and school meal program requirements, children’s perceptions and preferences, and environmental influences. Among these influences, flavor and habit were the primary drivers for long-term milk consumption. Intrinsic factors ranged in influence over milk preference in the examination, showing that flavoring, heat treatment, and sweeteners positively correlated with higher milk consumption. Extrinsic factors, such as social influence (i.e., peers, parents or caregivers, and school staff), packaging, and health benefits, all affected children’s attitudes toward milk as well.
“Making milk more appealing to children, having schools include milk in their meal plans, and increasing the types of milk available in schools are all positive options to encourage children consume fluid milk and receive those health benefits,” said senior author MaryAnne Drake, Ph.D., Department of Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutrition Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA. “The findings in this study, however, reveal critical insights that will aid in efforts to increase milk consumption among children.”
Understanding how to create milk products that are appealing to children without compromising the health benefits and taking note of the various factors that influence a child’s choice are necessary to encourage and increase lifelong milk consumption.