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You may be aware by now that the USDA has recently changed it’s guidelines in regards to serving milk in daycare. Their new rules state:

  • Milk served to children 2 yrs and older must be skim or 1%.
  • Whole milk and 2% milk may no longer be served to children on the food program that are 2 yrs and older.

Low-fat milk (skim and 1%) has the same calcium, same protein, same amount of vitamins and minerals with less fat and fewer calories. Children under two need fat for the brain and nerve growth but after age two we only need some fat in the diet for our brains, joints and energy and most Americans already consume well over the recommended fat intake.

Hmm. It seems like the USDA’s new requirements are reasonable. I mean, we can only assume that by cutting back on fat their objective is to decrease obesity in children. Apparently, in the USDA’s eyes, whole milk is the culprit – or more specifically, saturated fats. The USDA Fact Sheet, depicting low-fat yogurt and low-fat milk on a colorful school lunch tray blazes:Use Low-fat Milk, Cheese, and Yogurt for Healthier School Meals. Their reasoning includes:

  • Low-fat (1%) and fat-free (skim) milk provide calcium and other nutrients without a lot of saturated fat.
  • A cup of whole milk contains three times as much saturated fat as the same amount of low-fat (1%) milk (4.6 grams of saturated fat in whole milk vs. 1.5 grams in low-fat milk).

Are Saturated Fats Really the Culprit?

If we take a moment to do a little digging, we’ll see that restricting saturated fat for weight loss and better health has a notoriously bad track record.

The low-fat craze became official in 1984 when the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) began a campaign to convince us that a low-fat diet was healthy. Interestingly enough, when we jumped on the bandwagon and lowered our consumption of saturated fats (things like butter, red meat, raw milk, cream, etc), we began an epidemic of obesity and diabetes. (source)

In 2005, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and other institutions studied the weight and milk consumption of 12,829 kids ages 9 to 14 from across the country. “Contrary to our hypothesis,” they reported, “skim and 1% milk were associated with weight gain, but dairy fat was not.” (source)

Walt Willet of the Harvard School of Public Health wrote in the American Journal of Medicine, “Diets high in fat do not appear to be the primary cause of the high prevalence of excess body fat in our society, and reductions in fat will not be a solution.” (source)

And finally,  Bruce Watkins, professor of lipid chemistry and metabolism at Purdue University, and Bernhard Hennig, professor of cell nutrition at the University of Kentucky say that restricted fat intake in children reduces growth and visual acuity and limits mental development. “For example, omega-3 fatty acids — which come from fish and certain plant oils — are crucial for brain development and for development of the retina,” Watkins says. They say that limiting dietary fat to less than 30 percent of total calories in young children may reduce growth and lead to nutritional shortages. (source)

Saturated fats actually play an important role in our health:

  • cell membranes are 50 % saturated fat
  • lung surfactant is made of a specific saturated fat which, if it’s available to the person, prevents asthma and other breathing disorders
  • heart muscle cells prefer saturated fat over carbohydrates
  • saturated fats are required for bone to assimilate calcium effectively
  • they help the liver clear out fat and provide protection from the adverse effects of alcohol and medications like acetaminophen
  • medium-chain saturated fats in butter and coconut oil play an important role in the immune system
  • they stabilize proteins that enable white blood cells to more effectively recognize and destroy invading viruses, bacteria, and fungi, and also fight tumors
  • saturated fatty acids function as signaling messengers for hormone production, including insulin
  • they signal satiety
  • saturated fats make up 54 % of the fat in mother’s breast milk (monounsaturated fats are 39 %; and polyunsaturated fats, a tiny 3 %)


So my question is, when the USDA states that children under two need fat for the brain and nerve growth but after age two we only need some fat in the diet for our brains, joints and energy – are they even considering the other proven health benefits of saturated fats later in life?

What’s In Low-Fat Milk?

If you were to open a regular carton of low-fat milk and saw a chalky, bluish-white liquid inside, would you offer it to your child with a smile? Well, that’s what many nonfat milks look like before they’re ‘whitened’.

To turn skim milk white, “some companies fortify their product with powdered skim,” says Bob Roberts, a dairy scientist at Penn State. Powdered skim is produced by spraying the liquid under heat and high pressure, a process that oxidizes the cholesterol.

Oxidized cholesterol accelerates atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries — the leading cause of heart attacks, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease). (source) In 1996, Spanish researchers reported that in animal studies oxidized cholesterol triggered a host of biological changes, leading to plaque formation in the arteries and heart disease. “OC’s are mutagenic and carcinogenic,” they wrote.

And we haven’t even dug into the harm that pasteurizing, homogenizing, and adding hormones and antibiotics does to commercialized milk!

A Better Option

While daycare providers are stuck with regulations, you as a parent aren’t. I’d encourage you to seriously reconsider the USDA’s ‘suggested’ guidelines from all angles.

At the very least, swap out the skim, 1%, and 2% milk for whole milk. But even better, consider the benefits of raw milk – lately proven to be safe despite all the misinformation and fear-mongering. You can find sources for raw milk at www.RealMilk.com.

If childhood obesity and weight loss is a concern, cut back on processed foods, sugars, sweets, processed breads and high starchy foods for and replacing them with whole foods like meats, eggs, butter, coconut oil, and fresh green vegetables. (source)

Need recipe ideas? Glad you asked! We have a ton of recipes here at Whole Intentions in the drop down menu at the top of the page. Some of my personal favorites are:

Look around for blogs that encourage cooking from scratch and eating whole foods. Here’s a few to get you started:

Pakastami Kimi – one of the most requested recipes from Whole New Mom

Healthy Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge  from Creating Naturally – this is where I learned about adding almond butter or peanut butter to my basic Chocolate Coconut Cubes. LOVE it!

No Bake Chocolate Macaroons from Red & Honey. These make me think of the drop cookies we made when I was little – just a lot healthier!

Add a bit of good, old-fashioned exercise to the mix and you’ll notice a world of difference in your kids. Whether they’re two or thirty-two. 😉


Paula, CHS, Certified Level 3 Metabolic Effect Nutrition Consultant

Paula, CHS, Certified Level 3 Metabolic Effect Nutrition Consultant

Hi, I'm Paula - wife and homeschooling mom of six. Several family health issues involving candida, food allergies, and Lyme Disease have created a passion to better understand our God-created bodies. Today I share that enthusiasm by bringing you information on ways to improve your gut health. You can follow me on Facebook, and Pinterest.
Paula, CHS, Certified Level 3 Metabolic Effect Nutrition Consultant
Paula, CHS, Certified Level 3 Metabolic Effect Nutrition Consultant

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    5 replies to "Skim Milk & Saturated Fats – New Daycare Guidelines"

    • LindaG

      I appreciate you posting a common sense look at the situation.
      Great post!

    • Steph

      This is pretty sad to me! Kids, especially in many (not all, I’m sure!) daycare/school settings are already so deprived of good nutrients like fats, vitamins, etc. etc. because of the poor food quality. I remember when my oldest turned 1 (3 years ago) my pediatrician recommended I put her on 2%, because of the high risk of heart disease & childhood obesity and the risk of adult obesity. Sadly, I did comply for the short-term, until I recognized the importance of whole milk & fats on her growing body & brain. Our entire family now drinks raw, whole milk and while none of us have gained weight (minus kids growing!) we have seen so many benefits-My 2 young daughters & I have had eczema in the past and this disappeared almost immediately when we switched over. My otherwise dry skin & hair are no longer dry, and my husband who would be considered “overweight” by dr.’s scales has actually lost weight. And this is while drinking whole milk, liberal amounts of butter, olive & coconut oil and eating real meats-with fat & bones! Someone tell me how this can be, when low-fat/fat free is key for ultimate health??!! For our family at least, the exact opposite has been true! Thank you for posting this article 🙂

      • Paula

        And thank YOU for your comment. 🙂 It’s nice to hear ‘stories from the trenches’ of others who have lost weight and gained health by drinking raw milk. 🙂

    • Judith

      What a well researched post!! Thanks for sharing this info on milk. Yuk!! All the more reason NOT to drink skimmed milk!!

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