I may not be a doctor or have gone to Harvard, but apparently I think like a Harvard trained doctor — at least when it comes to how important milk is. I believe you’re not a bad mom if your kid doesn’t drink milk.

In an editorial in the JAMA Pediatrics journal, Dr. David Ludwig questions the scientific rationale for promotion of three servings a day of reduced-fat milk for most age groups. Today Health sums up his argument, and it makes a lot of sense to me.

People who have a high-quality diet, including children, don’t necessarily need the nutrients that come from milk. If a diet is rich in “protein, vitamin D and calcium from things like leafy greens, legumes, nuts and seeds,” the nutrients that are so important from milk are already being consumed.

If you have a good diet, drinking three cups of milk a day just because you’re supposed to only adds unneeded calories and quite possibly unnecessary sugar. We’re told that drinking low-fat milk is so incredibly important, especially for children, that it’s better to add sugar and flavor to the milk than to let them go without it.

“The worst possible situation is reduced-fat chocolate milk: you take out the fat, it’s less tasty," Ludwig says. "So to get kids to drink three cups a day, you get this sugar-sweetened beverage.”

The same goes for yogurt. Many low-fat yogurts have added sugars, flavors and artificial colors so kids will eat them. Ludwig says, “Cutting down the fat in yogurt and milk but adding extra sugar – that’s a wash.”

Ludwig thinks the current recommendation for milk consumption should be zero to three servings a day, not automatically three servings a day.

“For a child or an adult — but especially a child — eating a poor quality diet, three cups a day of milk may be the most helpful thing,” Ludwig says.

However, if someone has a varied diet that includes foods that contain all the nutrients that can be found in milk, zero servings should be just fine.

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Zero servings of milk a day may be fine, says Harvard doctor
An editorial in the journal JAMA Pediatrics puts some commonsense reasoning into whether drinking 3 servings of milk is as important as we’ve been told.