Drinking milk is an easy way to get many essential nutrients. Other dairy products like yogurt, and cheese, along with some milk alternatives have similar benefits and can also be included in your diet to add variety.
It is recommended that 14-year olds consume 3 servings of dairy each day. This would be equal to 3-cups of milk. If you do not like drinking milk, or if your body does not handle milk or dairy well, there are milk-alternatives and other options available to ensure your body gets the nutrients it needs.
Read on for more information on the benefits of milk, how much dairy to consume per day, ideas on how to include more dairy in your diet, and what milk alternatives are available.
How Many Glasses of Milk Should a 14-Year Old Drink in a Day?
14-year olds need 3 servings of dairy per day. That can come in the form of milk, other dairy products, milk alternatives, or a combination of all of the above.
One cup of milk is considered a serving of dairy. One cup of soy milk, 1 cup of yogurt, 1 ¼ cup of cottage cheese, ⅓ cup of shredded cheese, or 1 ½ ounces of hard cheese also count as a serving of dairy.
There are other foods that also contain the nutrients found in dairy, but if you are able to consume dairy, it is the best and easiest way to make sure you are getting enough.
What Kind of Milk Should I Drink?
Dairy products, including milk, do contain saturated fat. The US Department of Agriculture recommends consuming reduced-fat or fat-free dairy products when possible, to reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet.
Cheeses are naturally higher in fat and salt, so use these in moderation. Reduced-fat milk and yogurt are usually very easy to find and can be included more frequently. Look out for high amounts of added sugars in dairy products like yogurt.
Benefits of Dairy for Teenagers
Dairy foods are not only delicious, but they are also jam-packed with nutrients! Including dairy in your diet is an easy way to support your growing body.
Dairy is the main source of calcium for people in the United States. Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D and phosphorus are also found in many dairy products and help to regulate calcium levels in the body and contribute to the development of healthy bones.
Bone development is at its peak from the teenage years into your twenties. This is the most important time to be getting the proper nutrients for strong bones. As you age, bone mass naturally decreases and bones become weaker. Strengthening bones in the teenage years can decrease your risk for osteoporosis, or weak and brittle bones, in the future.
Dairy also contains good amounts of protein. Protein is essential for helping teenagers build muscle, and keep the body healthy and strong.
Appropriate dairy intake has also been correlated with maintaining a healthy blood pressure. Potassium is one of the nutrients in dairy that can greatly help with this.
Yogurt and other cultured dairy products provide probiotics that can help maintain a healthy gut microbiome.
That is a lot of good nutrition that can be easily consumed by drinking milk or consuming other dairy products. However, as the prevalence of milk allergies and intolerances continues to increase, it is important to know how to provide those essential nutrients if milk or dairy is not an option.
Sometimes lactose intolerance leads to bad reactions with dairy, specifically milk and ice cream. Your body still might be okay with small amounts of dairy, like cheese and yogurt.
In other cases, such as allergies to dairy, an intolerance to milk protein, or a vegan lifestyle, alternatives must be found that can provide similar nutrition.
Soy milk is one alternative that is nutritionally similar to cow’s milk. Other substitutes, such as almond milk or oat milk, are often missing out on protein and are not as nutritionally similar to cow’s milk. While these other alternatives may still be consumed, be aware of what you are missing out on.
Milk is one of the greatest sources of calcium. If you do not drink milk or consume dairy, consider some of these other foods and drinks to increase calcium content in your diet:
- Juices and milk alternatives fortified with calcium
- Canned fish with bones
- Tofu when made with calcium
- Leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale
Dairy is also a good source of potassium and vitamin D. Potassium can also be found in foods like bananas, potatoes, spinach, broccoli, fruit, lentils, chicken, salmon, and more. The best source of vitamin D is the sun, so make sure to get outside and soak up some sunlight regularly.
See also: Is it OK for Teens to be Dairy-Free?
Does Milk Count Towards Hydration for Teenagers?
Yes, milk does technically count toward hydration for teenagers. However, teenagers should still be getting most of their fluids from water. Drinking only milk to meet total fluid needs would do more harm than good!
Hydration needs can be estimated by looking at total calorie needs. For every calorie expended, 1 mL of fluid should be consumed. For a 14-year old boy that needs 2,000 calories per day, that would be 2,000 mL of water or 2 L.
Myplate.gov provides a quick, easy way of calculating energy needs based on age, sex, heigh, weight, and physical activity level. This information can also be used to estimate fluid needs.
Ideas for Including Milk in a Teenager’s Diet
If you can consume dairy but do not like drinking plain milk, try out some of these ideas:
- Adding milk and/or yogurt to smoothies
- Add milk to oatmeal
- Try adding Carnation Instant Breakfast to your plain milk for flavor
- Milk can be added to some soups
- Try adding reduced-fat cheese as a topping
- Make dressings and toppings with low-fat yogurt
Can Teenagers Drink Too Much Milk?
Yes, you can get too much of a good thing. For example, vegetables are really good for your body, but if you only ate broccoli, you would be missing out on so many other nutrients that your body needs. The same goes for milk and other dairy foods. They are important to consume in appropriate amounts.
Drinking too much milk could lead to excess calorie intake and weight gain. It could also cause teens to not feel full too quickly and therefore miss out on other nutrient dense foods. Find the balance that is right for you and your body. Evaluate how much and what kinds of foods you are consuming. If something is out of balance, work with a dietitian to make adjustments as needed!
The recommendation for 3 servings of dairy per day helps to make sure teens are getting enough of the essential nutrients from this food group, without going overboard. If calorie expenditure is very high, like it may be for a 14-year old athlete, consuming more dairy foods might be appropriate. Talk with a registered dietitian to figure out what is appropriate in your specific scenario.
What Should Teenagers Drink?
Sugary beverages like soda and sports drinks are often found in a 14-year old’s diet. While they may be tasty, many of them do not provide much extra nutrition besides carbohydrate and should therefore be consumed judiciously.
For example, sports drinks can be a very helpful source of quick carbohydrates for an active 14-year old in the middle of a game.
100% fruit juice does contain many vitamins and minerals that can be beneficial to the body but it is missing the fiber that is found in whole fruit. For this reason, most of your fruit intake should come from whole fruit rather than juice. Always look for “100% fruit juice” to ensure that the sugars are naturally occurring from fruit and not added sugars.
Teenagers should make sure that most of their fluids are coming from water, milk, and 100% fruit juice. Water does not have any caloric value, but it can help reach fluid needs without excess calories needing to be consumed.
Drinking milk is a great way to get in so many essential nutrients. However, if you don’t like milk or cannot drink milk, there are other ways to still get all the nutrients your body requires. Determine if you are consuming a proper amount of dairy per day and make adjustments to your dietary schedule as needed.
Regardless of whether or not you can consume dairy, aim to eat a balanced, varied diet. A doctor or registered dietitian can evaluate your calcium intake and determine if a supplement is needed. They can also give you more ideas on how to get more calcium through food!
Esther E. Calcium. Eatright.org. Published September 7, 2017.
Harvard. Potassium. Hsph.harvard.edu.
Johnson A. Dairy Alternatives for Kids Who Won’t – Or Can’t- Drink Milk. Eatright.org. Published November 26, 2019.
US Department of Agriculture. Dairy. Myplate.gov.
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