Growing up in Taiwan, tofu, soymilk, 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 soymilk 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:
1. 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 (read section on Who Is Most At Risk, children age 1-5 who drink more than 24 oz). 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.
2. 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 soymilk 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 soymilk and tofu that I had growing up in Taiwan in the 70′s were likely not the same highly processed and genetically modified soywe 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 soymilk which specifically states is a non-GMO product, and Claire rarely drinks more than 4oz in any given day.
3. Instead of giving your toddler store bought yogurt (beware of the added sugars), try using Silken Tofu with fresh fruit, in a blendar, 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.
4. 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 3rd Danimal yogurt drink, or eats the 3rd tube of Gogurt, that’s 30 grams sugar which is about 7.5-8 added teaspoons of sugar!!!
5.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. one 16oz container of fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
2. 1 block of silken tofu (refrigerated section in the produce area)
3. 1/2 to 1 cup to coconut milk (add less for thicker consistency), may use almond milk, rice milk, or coconut juice.
Put in blender, mix, enjoy!
May substitute strawberries with any other frozen or fresh fruit!
Dr. Julie Wei is a pediatric ear, nose, and throat specialist and the author of A Healthier Wei. As a mother herself, Dr. Wei is a passionate advocate for improving children's health through better diet and dietary habits. She has been committed to helping parents learn how to eliminate their child's ear, nose, and throat problems simply by reducing excessive sugar and dairy intake, as well as minimizing habitual late night snacking. She hopes to raise awareness for the need for accountability by both medical professionals and parents to ensure that children are not prescribed or take unnecessary medications long term.
When she is not in the clinic, operating room, or conducting research, you will find her in the kitchen preparing food with love along with her daughter Claire. If you sit next to her on the plane, she will likely share with you information about how to minimize choking hazards in young children, and many other tips for improving your child's health.