An analysis of the diets of more than 3,000 children published in the January 2004 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health shows a positive effect on children's diets when kids choose flavored milks and yogurts instead of sodas and sweetened drinks.

The study showed that children ages 6 to17 who consumed more than 6 to 8 ounces of flavored dairy products, such as milks, yogurts, ice creams and puddings, each day had a better diet than those who regularly drank sodas and sweetened fruit drinks. Kids who consumed more flavored dairy products got more than two servings of dairy foods and took in more calcium, folate and iron, with fewer added sugars and less saturated fat than kids who drank 16 to 25 ounces of sodas and sweetened fruit drinks every day. The analysis also showed that children ages 6 to 11 who did not consume sodas and sweetened drinks got the recommended amount of calcium each day.

"When sodas and fruit drinks replace dairy foods in the diet, it's hard for children to get the key nutrients they need for growth and development," says Rachel Johnson, professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont, and one of the study's authors. "Our analysis shows that flavored dairy products like milks and yogurts are a great addition to a child's diet because they are packed with important nutrients and have fewer added sugars than the soft drinks they replace."

This study coincides with the American Academy of Pediatrics' newest policy statement which recommends that health professionals work to restrict the sale of sweetened drinks in schools in order to help prevent some of the health problems associated with too many sodas and sweetened beverages. The AAP recommends replacing sweetened drinks with real fruit and vegetable juices, water and lowfat white or flavored milk.

Terri Verason, registered dietitian, National Dairy Council recommends the following tips to help boost dairy and calcium intake in kids:

  • Convenience counts: Single-serve, re-sealable plastic bottles are great for today's busy lifestyles.
  • Serve it cold: Results from a 2002 School Milk Pilot Test showed that kids were more likely to choose regular and flavored milks if the milks were served at colder temperatures and in plastic packaging.
  • Look for the logo: Milk, cheese and yogurt products with the 3-A-Day of Dairy logo are guaranteed to contain at least 20 percent of the daily calcium requirement.

For more information on the nutritional benefits of dairy foods, visit www.nationaldairycouncil.org . In addition, parents and educators can get fun recipes and tips on how to get 3-A-Day of Dairy at www.3aday.org .

National Dairy Council press release