Yogurt offers several health benefits, including protein and probiotics, but may not be a good choice for all children. If your child has health problems, talk with her doctor about whether yogurt is a healthy option to include in her diet. For some kids, a moderate amount of yogurt may be suitable, while other children may need to avoid it completely.
While many major brands of yogurt have made the switch to products made with hormone-free milk, some still use it. This hormone is given to cattle to promote growth and increase the amount of milk they produce. It is passed into cow's milk and poses several health risks when consumed by children. Potential problems include early puberty, and the increase in hormones present in a child's body may play a role in the future development of cancer, according to Healthy Child Healthy World, a website that aims to educate parents about the dangers of chemicals to children's health.
Despite its health benefits, overconsumption of yogurt may fill your child with more sugar than is healthy. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 3 teaspoons, or 12.5 grams, of added sugar per day for children ages 4 to 8. Teens should limit intake to 5 to 8 teaspoons of added sugar, which is 25 to 40 grams. A container of yogurt can contain up to 26 grams of sugar, making it easy to exceed daily intake recommendations. If your child really enjoys yogurt, look for one that is geared for kids, some of which are lower in sugar. Reading labels is the best way to find a yogurt that aligns with your child's health goals.
Children who are lactose intolerant may have to eliminate yogurt from their diets. Yogurt contains lactose, a protein in milk that is difficult to digest if a child has lactose intolerance. Symptoms include stomach pain, gas, nausea, cramps, bloating or diarrhea. Some children may be able to tolerate small amounts of yogurt, while others will experience discomfort with even a bite. Goat or soy milk yogurts are alternatives for children who are lactose intolerant but who really like to eat yogurt.
Fat and Calories
Some types of yogurt are high in fat and calories, which may contribute to weight gain in children. Being overweight presents many health risks, including diabetes, heart disease, sleep problems and depression, conditions that may appear in childhood or show up as they get older. Keri Glassman, a registered dietitian, recommends choosing nonfat yogurt, which contains no fat, but still includes all the nutrients that make yogurt a healthy food. She also recommends choosing a yogurt that contains 15 to 20 calories per ounce, or 90 to 120 calories for a 6-ounce container.
- CBS News; The Skinny on Yogurt and Your Health; October 2009
- American Dietetic Association: Why Does Yogurt Have So Much Sugar?
- KidsHealth; Lactose Intolerance; November 2009
- Family Education: Are We Too Sweet? Our Kids' Addiction to Sugar
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: The Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity