My 13-year-old son drinks two gallons or more of nonfat milk a week. He eats regular meals as well and drinks water with his school lunches. Is there such a thing as too much milk?
"It only becomes a problem when you look at it in terms of the whole picture," says Suzette Smookler, administrator for clinical nutrition and education at Stony Brook University Medical Center. If the teenager is excluding other food groups, it's a concern. If he's eating fruits, vegetables, meats and grains normally and skim milk is his drink of choice, that's not problematic, she says.
"You're talking about something that's relatively wholesome here. You're not talking about someone who is drinking two to three gallons of a sports drink," she says. Look at a product's label - the fewer items in the ingredient list, the less of a problem it is. If it has high-fructose corn syrup, additives, dyes and preservatives, then "you're seeing a chemistry kit on the label," Smookler says, and drinking too much is not nutritious. "In a short list - a la milk, carrot juice and such - the more whole food it is, and the less it's an issue."
The conventional recommendation is that an adolescent drink 16 ounces of milk of day to help meet the goal of adequate calcium and vitamin D, which doctors have lately recommended children need more of anyway, Smookler says. Whole milk is not an issue unless the adolescent is overweight, in which case she would recommend switching to reduced or nonfat milk.