Milk or Milk Beverage?

A recent survey from the Consumer Council aiming at better informed choices on milk has popped up to rather confusing terms: ‘milk’ and ‘milk beverage’. What is the difference between them them? Is milk preferable to milk beverage, particularly for children?

As part of well-balanced diet, enjoying 1 to 2 serving daily of dairy products and alternatives, including milk, milk powder, cheese, yogurt, and calcium-fortified soya beverage, plat crucial roles in our health. It provides adequate calcium for bone and teeth health while its protein and vitamins aid in cell growth and repair as well as normal bodily function. For the sake of health, low-fat or fat-free version is recommended over those full-creamed dairy products like cream, ice-cream, condensed milk, and milkshake, to avoid excessive fat intake, not-to-mention their high sugar content. We can easily spot the healthier versions out via the local Nutrition Labelling Scheme which has endorsed the ‘low-fat’ claim with no more than 1.5 g of total fat content while no more than 0.5 g for ‘fat-free’ beverage.


Not only the fat content, but the term ‘milk’ are also protected under the Food and Drugs (Composition and Labelling) Regulations, where it refers only to cow’s milk and cream with least 3.25 of fat from milk. Consequently, products like milk powder, condensed milk, goat’s milk, reconstituted milk as well as dairy products with the combination of milk fat and milk solids such as skimmed and low fat milk are rather considered such as milk beverage than milk. Additives such as stabilizers may be used be used in milk beverages to maintain even dispersion of milk fat for desirable texture and longer shelf life. It may seem ‘unnatural’ in the process, but skimmed and low fat milk beverages, as part of healthy diet, does carry the same healthful benefits as milk. In fact, due to lower fat content particularly animal fat, they help our energy intake and blood cholesterol levels in control, which in turn, reduce our long term risks of obesity and heart diseases, compared to full-creamed milk.

What about babies? ‘Breast is best.’ Exclusive breastfeeding in right proportion to infants up to the first six months. Afterwards, unless infants are switched to bottle-feeding, breast-feeding can continue till 1 year-old. Progressing to full-creamed milk should be cautious at 1 year of age because the relatively high protein content may burden kidneys and trigger allergic reductions among infants. As growing towards 2-5 years of age, toddlers can transit to low-fat milk when they start to chew on solid foods rather than milk as the core nutrition and energy source. After 5 years old, children can progress father to fat-free milk as part of healthy well-balanced diet.


330 Tips provided by:  Ms Grace Lam  (Senior Dietitian - Centre for Nutritional Studies, School of Public Health and Primary Care, Faculty of Medicine, CUHK)

Date: 2016-07-01