Growing up in Taiwan, tofu, soy milk and other soy products were a part of my diet as it is in many Asian countries. While one may think it's the equivalent of western cow milk and dairy products, Asians do not consume as much soy as what Westerners consume in dairy. I drank some soy milk, some peanut milk, rice milk, but as a toddler and child I am certain I didn't drink 28 or > 34 ounces in a day of soy milk or any other liquid. This is often what parents tell me how much a 2 - 3 year old may be drinking in a day!
Tofu itself does not have a strong taste of any kind, but that's also why it's so versatile for use in cooking in forms of various consistency. As I meet families daily in clinic whose children consume an excessive amount of commercial cow's milk or flavored milk, and eat lots of cheese and yogurt, we discuss the following when I suggest they cut back on cow milk based dairy products:
How much milk should a toddler drink?
Read this Nutrition Guide for Toddlers on kidshealth.org (the most visited website for parents on all topics of children's health). This guide shows not only what a 2 - 3 year old should eat in all food groups, it lists recommended total dairy consumption.
I share with parents that once a child is 2, American Academy of Pediatric recommends about 12 - 14 oz of 2% milk per day. Excessive milk may result in iron deficiency anemia in toddlers. Kids who are "poor eaters" often eat more when parents cut back on how much milk they give their child. One reason is because milk and dairy takes longer to digest in the stomach, and kids are "full" and less likely to feel hungry. Don't forget all the sugar in packaged flavored milk for kids which also decrease their appetite.
What are we suppose to give him/her instead?
Some milk, dairy, soy, coconut, almond or rice milk, with cereal or even drinking a glass a day probably cause little harm. I never recommend that parents substitute the huge amounts of dairy milk with soy milk since there are scientifically shown health risks if excessive soy and soy products which are consumed since in the US soy is highly genetically modified. The soy milk and tofu that I had growing up in Taiwan in the 70's were likely not the same highly processed and genetically modified soy we encounter today, and Chinese cooking uses lots of fermented soy tofu curds and products which are the beneficial kind of soy products. I buy SILK soy milk which specifically states is a non-GMO product, and Claire rarely drinks more than 4oz in any given day.
Instead of giving your toddler store bought yogurt (beware of the added sugars), try using Silken Tofu with fresh fruit, in a blender, with a little water, or soy milk, or coconut milk. You can be sure there will be no preservatives, added sugars, and easy to make.
- Everyone someone believes yogurt is good for you (and we never hear how it may be bad for you), there is now many yogurt and yogurt drink products targeted at babies, toddlers, and children which contain added sugars! Do not be fooled, please read the food labels and realize that when your toddler drinks his/her third Danimals yogurt drink, or eats their third tube of Go-Gurt, that's 30 grams sugar which is about 7.5 - 8 added teaspoons of sugar!
- Instead of trying to buy commercially prepared foods that are better for our children, whenever possible, it is best to simply buy fresh and prepare foods.
STRAWBERRY SILKEN TOFU SMOOTHIE/YOGURT
- 1 16oz container of fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
- 1 block of silken tofu (refrigerated section in the produce area)
- 1/2 to 1 cup of coconut milk (add less for thicker consistency), may use almond milk, rice milk or coconut juice.
Put in blender, mix and enjoy!
May substitute strawberries with any other frozen or fresh fruit.