Canada’s dietitians and pediatricians are discouraging parents from relying on plant-based drinks — such as rice, coconut and almond milks — as the main beverage for babies and young kids.
Dr. Catherine Pound of the Canadian Paediatric Society says some plant-based beverages are not fortified with any minerals or vitamins and often contain sugar as the second ingredient after water.
Kids aged two to eight need 13 to 19 grams of protein per day, which can be met with two cups of cow milk or two cups of fortified soy beverage.
Meanwhile, almond, coconut or rice drinks contain little to no protein and would require kids to also eat two child-sized servings of meat or two half-cup servings of lentils.
Almond drinks only contain about four almonds per cup.
The experts warn that drinking too much of the plant-based beverages can displace hunger and cause children to eat less food.
“The challenge for parents is conflicting messages. They read that these drinks are considered ‘healthier’ on social media or hear misinformation about cow milk or fortified soy beverage,” Becky Blair of Dietitians of Canada said Wednesday in a release.
If possible, infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months, and continued for up to two years or longer with appropriate complementary feeding. Otherwise, babies can drink formula or pasteurized human milk from screened donors.
Cow milk is not recommended before nine to 12 months of age. Full fat homogenized cow milk is then recommended for kids until age two.
In the case of allergies or other concerns, Pound says parents should speak with a dietitian.
The Canadian Press