Dairy 101 – Importance of Milk on Childhood Development

By Heide Kennedy, Arizona Farm Bureau Communications Intern

Growing up, my mom was huge on making sure my 3 brothers and I got enough milk. There for a while, it’s no exaggeration to say that we would be going through about 6 gallons a week. So, that meant that my mom was always looking at grocery store ads to see who had milk the cheapest each week. But she viewed this as a good problem to have because getting plenty of milk during childhood is crucial for development.

Cute little girl pouring milk in glass, isolated over white

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the AAP, and the American Heart Association, milk is a critical part of a healthy diet for children, and plant-based milks are not an equal replacement for cow’s milk. Why is this? Pediatric dietician Jill Castle gives many reasons why milk is so vital for development.


  • It’s nutrient-rich, as it’s full of calcium, vitamins A, B12, and D, protein, zinc, and iodine. So, the calories from milk are not just empty calories.
  • The vitamin D and calcium promote bone growth and density, and the protein, zinc, and iodine are great for brain health and development, both of which are taking place during childhood.
  • It’s a quality source of protein and amino acids, which are vital during development as they promote the growth of tissues and muscles.
  • Dairy products are filling due to the protein and fat content. Keeping kids satiated helps to prevent overeating.


Another perk that milk offers is that unless it’s flavored, milk is free of added sugars, doesn’t contain high amounts of natural sugar, and is nutrient-dense, unlike beverages such as fruit juice which contain lots of sugars, both natural or added, and not much for nutrition. Also, aside from its nutritional benefits, dairy products are very economical and versatile, making them a great food to keep in your fridge.

There are lots of dairies here in the state of Arizona that produce a lot of the dairy that we can get at our local grocery stores. Stock up on some and make sure that your kids are getting all of the developmental benefits that milk has to offer!

For more articles about milk, or about health and nutrition in general, check out the Fill Your Plate blog.

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