mother and baby cow in grass

PETA’s Executive Vice President Tackles Your Tough Questions and Tricky Situations

Issue 2|Spring 2024

The letter Q in a purple speech bubble

My son’s pediatrician is pushing me to give him cow’s milk for calcium. Help!

– Calciumm

Tracy Reiman

The letter A in a purple speech bubble Push back! Your son’s doctor likely didn’t get any nutrition training in medical school and is parroting what they’ve heard in dairy ads. The fact is that children don’t need a cow’s breast milk any more than calves need yours. Cows make milk that’s designed by nature for their babies, who have four stomachs and gain hundreds of pounds in months. And catch this: As proteins in cow’s milk break down, they produce acid. And what do our bodies use to neutralize acid? Calcium. It takes all the calcium in a glass of milk plus more from our own stores to digest that glass of milk. So consuming dairy actually robs us of calcium! Far healthier and more digestible calcium sources include leafy greens, edamame, tofu, white beans, sesame seeds, and fortified plant milks and orange juice.

Many parents (including me) have raised strong, healthy vegan kids – and more and more doctors support this choice. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine offers a list.

Oh, and cow’s milk is one of the primary causes of food allergies among children. Disturbingly, recent research published in the British Medical Journal also found that cow’s milk is now the leading cause of fatal anaphylaxis in children under 16.

Cows are cool! Request a free copy of the PETA Kids comic book A Cow’s Life or download a printable version here.

Cover of the comic "A Cow's Life"

The letter Q in a purple speech bubble

My child is a picky eater. I’m concerned about dairy, but what can I do when sometimes all she’ll eat is grilled cheese or macaroni and cheese?

– Dairy-Dubious Dad

The letter A in a purple speech bubble I and many other parents have been right there with you. Fortunately, there are loads of vegan cheese and milk options that are kid-approved. Chao and Violife make nondairy cheese slices in a variety of flavors, and Daiya’s mac ’n’ cheese is top-notch. Follow Your Heart’s shreds are great on pizza. When my son was younger, I used soy milk on his favorite healthy cereals, and it makes a great base for fruit smoothies (sneak in veggies!). He also liked the vegan versions of kid classics like hot dogs, burgers, chicken nuggets, and deli slices. You can find more inspiration from PETA Kids and PETA Living.

Mimi Bekhechi's daughter Gia wearing a PETA onesie

Gia, daughter of Vice President of PETA UK, Europe, and Australia Mimi Bekhechi, is off to a great plant-fueled start. Bekhechi says, “Her favorite food is porridge; she’d eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if I let her. And it’s loaded with good stuff: oats, soy milk, flaxseeds, chia seeds, peanut butter, almond butter, banana, apple, pear, and cinnamon. Some days, I swap the apple, pear, and cinnamon for chocolate mousse, which is just blended tofu, cacao powder, dates, and soy milk. Other days, I’ll make it with blueberries, cherries, and strawberries to ensure she’s getting an array of healthy foods.”

Be Part of It!

Do you have a burning question for Tracy? E-mail it to [email protected].

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