By: Megan Holdaway, RDN
In this episode of Ask a Nutritionist, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Megan Holdaway answers the question, "Why is milk an important part of school meal programs?”
Every year in the U.S., federal school meal programs serve 4.9 billion lunches and 2.45 billion breakfasts—that equates to millions of nutritious meals for students every school day. Milk is an important part of these school meals, providing students with essential nutrients that are typically under-consumed in the American diet, including calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. In addition to these essential nutrients, milk is a whole food that provides health benefits even beyond the individual nutrients.
While there is more than one way to meet dietary needs for individual nutrients such as protein and calcium, the amount and variety of food that must be consumed to match the nutrient package and affordability provided by dairy milk may be difficult to achieve for many children.
Experts agree that school feeding programs have a positive effect on child and adolescent nutrition, academic success and health outcomes. For example, research suggests that eating school breakfast every day is associated with healthier dietary intake among US schoolchildren. In addition to improving overall nutrient intake, consuming vegetables, fruit and dairy foods through school meal programs is linked with improved academic success and health among children and adolescents.
Research also shows that what children drink can have a big impact on their health, as beverages make a significant contribution to overall dietary intake. Childhood is an optimal time to develop lifelong healthy eating and beverage habits, and consumption of milk during childhood and adolescence has lasting impacts on health. Forming milk consumption habits during school-age years is critical to promoting lifelong health.
Tune in to watch the full episode and learn more by visiting HealthyEating.org. Join the conversation by following us and subscribe to always stay up-to-date on the latest episodes!
Megan Holdaway, RDN
Megan Holdaway, RDN
Megan Holdaway is a registered dietitian nutritionist and the Nutrition Science Program Manager at Dairy Council of California.
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