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What milk or milk alternative is suitable for children 1-2 years old? Find out: click to tweet Twitter
  • Whole cow’s milk and whole, pasteurized goat’s milk fortified with vitamin D and folic acid are the only suitable milks or milk alternatives for children less than two years old. Whole milk is 3.25% milk fat (M.F.).
  • Other milk alternatives, even if fortified, do not contain enough protein and fat to meet the needs of a growing toddler.
  • Fortified soy beverage can be used as an alternative to cow’s milk after age two.
  • While fortified almond, soy, coconut, rice, hemp and other plant-based beverages can be offered after age two, they don’t count as an alternative to cow’s milk based on Canada’s Food Guide.1 

Suitable for 1-2 year old toddler

Not suitable for 1-2 year old toddler

Counts towards 1 serving in the Milk & Alternatives food group

  • Whole pasteurized cow’s milk  
  • Whole, pasteurized goat’s milk fortified with vitamin D and folic acid 

      • Almond beverage
      • Soy beverage
      • Coconut beverage
      • Rice beverage
      • Hemp beverage
      • Other plant-based beverages
      • Whole pasteurized cow’s milk  
      • Whole, pasteurized goat’s milk fortified with vitamin D and folic acid
      • Fortified soy beverage

      What are some of the key differences between cow’s milk and milk alternatives? 

      Cow’s milk

      Cow’s milk is an excellent source of calcium, protein, and many other key nutrients. Whole pasteurized cow’s milk can be introduced when a baby is 9-12 months of age and eating a variety of foods that are high in iron.2 Toddlers need energy to grow so continue to offer whole milk until age two. You can switch to lower fat milk (2% or less M.F.) after age two.2

      Goat’s milk

      Goat’s milk contains a similar amount of protein, calcium, and vitamin A compared to cow’s milk. It also has the same amount of lactose as cow’s milk. Goat’s milk is not recommended for infants younger than nine months of age. When it is whole, pasteurized and fortified with vitamin D and folic acid, it can be used as an alternative to cow’s milk for children less than two years of age .2 Note that usually, if a child is allergic to cow’s milk, they will also be allergic to goat’s milk.   

      Soy beverage

      Soy beverage contains a similar amount of protein compared to cow’s milk. It can be purchased sweetened, unsweetened, and flavoured. It is not a suitable milk alternative for children less than two years of age because of its low fat content.2

      Almond beverage

      Almond beverage can be purchased sweetened, unsweetened, and flavoured. It is not a suitable milk alternative for children less than two years of age due to its low protein and fat content.2

      Coconut beverages

      There are many types of coconut beverages on the market including coconut water, coconut juice, coconut “milk,” and coconut cream. Coconut beverages are not a suitable milk alternative for children less than two years of age due to their low protein and fat content.2

      Rice beverage

      Rice beverage is usually made from brown rice and may be sweetened and/or flavoured. It is not a suitable milk alternative for children less than two years of age due to its low protein and fat content.2

      Hemp beverage

      Hemp beverage is made from hemp seeds and may be sweetened and/or flavoured. Hemp beverage is not a suitable milk alternative for children less than two years of age due to its low protein and fat content.2  

       

      It's clear that Not All Milk Are Created Equal! For more information about the differences in nutritional value between cow’s milk and the different milk alternatives, please consult this comparison chart.

      A word about fortification

      In Canada, according to plant-based beverage fortification law, manufacturers must fortify a beverage with the following six nutrients:

      • vitamins A, D, and B12
      • riboflavin
      • calcium
      • zinc

      In addition to fortifying a beverage with these six nutrients, manufacturers may choose to add the following nine additional nutrients:

      • vitamin B6 and C
      • thiamine
      • niacin
      • folic acid
      • pantothenic acid
      • phosphorous
      • potassium
      • magnesium

      While fortified beverages made in Canada generally meet these requirements, many imported beverages do not. Check a product’s label to find out which nutrients it provides and consult with a dietitian who will help you identify food sources for the missing nutrients (if applicable). 

      References

      (1) Health Canada. (2007). Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide. Retrieved from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/index-eng.php 

      (2)   Health Link BC. (2015). Baby’s First Foods. Retrieved from http://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthfiles/hfile69c.stm

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      • Hi Corrine. Thank you for your comment. I am sure others are wondering the same thing. Adding coconut or olive oil to any plant based beverage is not a recommended substitution for whole-cow’s milk in chil... more
        Hi Corrine. Thank you for your comment. I am sure others are wondering the same thing. Adding coconut or olive oil to any plant based beverage is not a recommended substitution for whole-cow’s milk in children, ages 1-2. According to Health Canada, the only acceptable alternative to cow’s milk is pasteurized and fortified goat’s milk. This is because plant based beverage, like soy, oat, coconut, and rice, lack the much needed protein and calories from fat that children in this age range need to grow appropriately. In addition, research has shown that the nutrients added to plant based beverages, like calcium and vitamin D, are not absorbed effectively, meaning children wouldn’t get the nutrients their bodies need. After age 2, substituting fortified soy milk for cow’s or goat milk is acceptable. If you are wanting to speak to a Registered Dietitian about feeding concerns, dial 8-1-1 to speak to a health professional today. less
      • What about oat milk? And why not add olive oil or coconut oil to meet the fat requirements? It has the same amount of protein as human breast milk and the same amount of calcium as cow milk.

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