If you’re an older millennial parent like me, you probably remember the iconic milk commercials from our growing-up years. They drove home the importance of the drink, not to mention introduced us to the magic of milk mustaches.

Even though the commercials look a little different these days, the facts still hold up: As the cornerstone of the dairy food group, milk is a nutrient-rich food that provides essential vitamins needed for kids (especially ones involved in sports!) to maintain healthy diets and grow into strong adults.

Whether your little athlete shines on the soccer field or has dreams of breaking records in the swimming pool, now is the time to make sure they’re getting the fuel they need to succeed. And for many active kids, a balanced diet starts with white dairy milk. If you’re still not convinced, check out this stat that blew my mind: Nine out of 10 U.S. Olympians grew up drinking milk, according to a 2020 survey*. So with Team USA gearing up to compete at the Olympic Games this summer, we decided to highlight some key benefits of including this nutrient-packed drink in your kid’s routine. Keep reading to learn what makes it so great.

1. It’s A Good Source Of Protein.

Anyone who exercises regularly knows that protein is key in helping you make it across the finish line (pun intended). Milk is a natural source of high quality protein, with just one cup containing eight grams of protein. It’s considered a complete protein because milk has all nine essential amino acids — including branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) — that the body needs to prevent muscle loss. Introducing it as a mealtime staple is a great way to ensure your kid keeps building strength, whether they’re on the field or not .

2. It Fortifies Bone Health.

While younger children might not have to worry too much about bone health, there’s no question that early attention to bone health makes for healthy habits and strong bodies down the line. Milk contains calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, potassium**, and of course, protein — all of which are essential for growing strong bones. Particularly for children involved in contact sports like football and lacrosse, fortifying bone health through milk consumption could potentially help them avoid injury later on.

Plus, milk provides vitamin D, a necessary nutrient for aiding your body’s calcium absorption, and also one that isn’t naturally found in many foods. Studies have even shown that regularly consuming milk can help lower the risk of osteoporosis and fractures as people age.

3. It Contains Vitamin D, Which Has Been Linked With Mood.

Most people know that many brands of milk are fortified with vitamin D, but what they may not realize is that this nutrient can actually aid in serotonin production. Along with impacting appetite and sleep, serotonin directly controls mood.

Whether your kid struggles with anxiety before the big game or just has trouble winding down for bedtime after practice, a glass of milk is a good source of vitamin D, and could be a simple way to soothe their spirits.

4. It Can Help Support A Healthy Weight.

For athletes and non-athletes alike, maintaining a healthy body weight is just as important in children as it is in adults. Here’s the good news though: Milk is linked with healthy body weight, no matter how old you are.

The high quality protein in milk also means it’s the perfect snack to give your kid pre- or post-sports practice; it can help them recover after a tough workout, plus it’ll keep them feeling fuller longer, which can help cut down on mindless snacking or overeating.

A lot of things have changed over the years, but the importance of milk in kids’ diets isn’t one of them. Next time your little one reaches for a soda or juice drink, consider pouring them a tall, cold glass of milk instead. Your child — and their health — will thank you later.

*9 out of 10 finding is based on 616 responses received to a survey sent to all U.S. Olympic athletes in 2020.

**Based on the 2019 DRI for potassium established by NASEM.

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