Ripple Milk, made with pea protein, is growing in popularity. But many wonder, what exactly is pea protein milk? Is Ripple milk healthy and safe for babies and toddlers? Can it be a replacement for dairy milk? As a registered dietitian, I had all of these questions when my son turned 12 months last year. Our breastfeeding and formula journey was coming to an end.
When I had to decide what “milk” I was going to serve him, I made sure to research all of the options. And to my surprise, Ripple Kids milk wasn’t the healthiest option! I knew I wanted to find a plant-based milk, but many plant-based milks do not contain all the nutrients a growing toddler need. When I first was looking into milk made with pea protein, to my surprise, the milk designed specifically for kids (Ripple Kids) wasn’t the healthiest option! But Ripple does have a great option for toddlers and young children!
In this post, I’ll cover:
- Is Ripple milk safe for babies?
- Nutrient recommendations for calcium and vitamin D for toddlers and young children.
- Tell you what milk alternatives are healthy and safe for toddlers and babies.
- How pea protein is made.
- Give my dietitian Ripple milk review for toddlers and young children.
- Provide a breakdown of Ripple Milk Unsweetened Ingredients.
- Compare Ripple Unsweetened to Ripple Kids milk.
- Provide a simple conversion schedule for switching toddlers from cow’s milk to Ripple milk.
Is Ripple Milk Safe for Babies?
Please take note-while Ripple milk is healthy and safe for toddlers and children, until the age of 12 months (1 year old), babies should be primarily drinking breastmilk and formula. Although, when your infant turns 6 months and starts eating solids, you can use Ripple milk in place of cow’s milk in recipes. It is also safe for your baby at the age of 6 months to take sips of Ripple milk. Just make sure you are not replacing breastmilk or formula Ripple milk or cow’s milk until a baby’s turns 1.
Vitamin D and Calcium are Critical for Toddlers and Young Children
Did you know that many children are not meeting their daily requirements of vitamin D and calcium? A study in Nutrients examining micronutrient adequacy of children aged 1-6 in the United States found many children had inadequate calcium and vitamin D intake. It is estimated that 17% of toddlers between 12-23 months have insufficient intakes of calcium.
Vitamin D and Calcium are vital for bone and oral health, especially early in life. Vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets. Rickets is a bone disease that affects bone mineralization and can cause deformities such as bow legs and knock-knees. Children who don’t consume enough calcium are at risk for bone fractures and osteoporosis later in life. And vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium.
Recommendations for Vitamin D and Calcium
According to the government’s ChooseMyPlate, children aged 2-3 need two-and-a-half cups from the “dairy” group per day. Calcium requirements increase as children get older, so from 9 years on, children and teenagers need 3 cups from the “dairy” group per day. I put “dairy” in quotations because it should say, “vitamin D and calcium. It doesn’t necessarily mean they need dairy, just those nutrients.
Recommended Calcium mg Per Day
1-3 years old (700 mg)
4-8 years old (1000 mg)
9-18 years old (1300 mg)
Recommended Vitamin D IU Per Day
Over 1 years old (600 IU)
10-30 minutes of sunlight several times per week
How can Toddlers and Young Children Meet Vitamin D & Calcium Requirements without Cow’s Milk?
Please know, cow’s milk is not the only source and choice for meeting the MyPlate recommendations for “dairy”. And dairy is not the only choice for meeting “dairy requirements.” Remember, the dairy in the MyPlate recommendations represents calcium and vitamin D.
And this is not to say that dairy is bad, but it’s not the only choice for parents. A common statement by parents is that their children love yogurt and cheese but refuse to drink milk. The reality is, that’s okay. The fact is yogurt and cheese can easily provide vitamin D and calcium to meet the requirements.
Calcium is also in various non-dairy foods such as tofu, fortified juices, fortified plant-based kinds of milk, almonds, and white and red beans.
Vitamin D is a little harder to find in foods. And most food sources for vitamin D are not plant-based but can be incorporated into a pescatarian diet. However, some foods are fortified with vitamin D, such as orange juice, soymilk, fortified cereals, soy milk, and Ripple milk (made from pea protein). Vitamin D sources include fish such as mackerel, salmon, and tuna, egg yolks. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight. However, sunlight exposure can be challenging for those living in climates without a lot of the sun or those working long hours indoors.
What Milk Alternatives are the Healthiest for Toddlers and Young Children?
There are plenty of plant-based alternatives to cow’s milk when it comes to milk. But all plant-based kinds of milk are not equal. Few plant based milks provide the protein and nutrient requirements for toddlers and young children. The healthiest milks are soy milk and milk made from pea protein (Ripple milk). This is because soy or pea protein milks have the same amount of protein in each serving (8g) as cow’s milk. Ripple Milk is made from pea protein, and is an excellent alternative for toddlers and young children.
According to a national consumer survey, Americans rated Ripple as the “best plant-based milk” and “closest to dairy”. But are their products equally healthy? Keep reading to see my review and why Ripple Milk Kids is not the best option of the Ripple milks!
Before my Review, more about Pea Protein, found in Ripple Milk!
Pea protein is derived from yellow split peas. The peas are milled into flour, and the protein is separated from the fiber and starch. Lastly, the protein is purified and blended with water and other ingredients.
Pea protein contains all nine essential amino acids, like soymilk. It is one of the few non-animal-based food sources to include all nine. However, it is low in methionine (one of the essential amino acids). Check out Essential Amino Acids and Proteins-What you Need to Know on how to create a complete protein food.
Using pea protein to create milk like Ripple is more sustainable than other plant-based milk products. It requires less water and is more environmentally sustainable. Therefore, the production of Ripple causes no significant damage to any forests, water, air, or land.
Review of Ripple Unsweetened Milk for Toddlers and Young Children
The remarkable fact about Ripple’s milks is they are not only great for those following a plant-based diet but also for those with allergies. Many parents struggle with a child having a milk or soy allergy and worry about vitamin D and calcium needs. Ripple milk is one of the only milk alternatives without one of the top 8 food allergens. Ripple products are gluten-free, 100% vegan, and made without nuts, lactose and soy.
But Here’s The Trick…
You should buy the UNSWEETENED ORIGINAL Ripple Milk.
Most of the other Ripple Milks contain ADDED SUGAR.
Review of Ripple Milk Kids
Ripple has a drink specifically marketed for children and is “Developed with Pediatricians.”
But here’s the problem: It contains 5g of added sugar per serving! If your child drinks 2-3 servings a day, that’s 15g of added sugar!
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children under 2 years old don’t consume any added sugar. And children over 2 years of age consume less than 25 grams of added sugar per day. Learn how to spot added sugar on a food label.
To reap all the benefits of Ripple milk without the added sugar, choose the Unsweetened Original.
There’s not much benefit from toddlers or children drinking Ripple for Kids compared to the Unsweetened Original. It’s all marketing. Most nutrients are the same, with Ripple Kids milk containing slightly more iron and DHA, but the amount is negligible.
The one nutrient Ripple Kids milk has that the Unsweetened Original version does not is choline, a mineral necessary for brain health. However, choline is in soy products, salmon, and eggs. The tradeoff of sugar for choline is not worth it. Check out my post on the importance of choline for babies and toddlers.
Unsweetened Original Ingredients Break Down
Ingredient lists are overwhelming. It’s important to know what’s in a product before serving it to children or consuming it yourself. Below is a breakdown of Ripple Unsweetened Original Milk ingredients and what each element is, and its purpose.
When looking at an ingredient list, the order of the ingredients starts with the product that is the most. For instance, water is the most abundant component in Ripple since it is listed first.
Water – the most abundant ingredient in Ripple.
Pea Protein Blend– quality peas to produce a clean taste.
Sunflower Oil – gives a rich texture and smoothness.
Vitamin A Palmate – a form of vitamin A that is easily absorbed by the body. It is vital for bones, skin, and eyesight.
Vitamin D2 – there are two forms of the “D” vitamins. Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). D2 is derived from plants, and D3 is derived from animals.
Vitamin B12 – keeps nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA.
DHA Algal Oil – provides DHA Omega-3 fatty acids to support brain health. Children need to consume DHA regularly to support overall health and development. However, it may be difficult to consume it just through diet, especially since the best source of DHA is cold-water fatty fish.
Tricalcium Phosphate – the concentrated form of calcium. Also used as an anti-caking agent.
Dipotassium Phosphate – preservative and flavor enhancer.
Sunflower Lecithin – natural emulsifier. Rich in vitamins and minerals and has numerous health benefits.
Sea Salt – less processed than table salt.
Mixed Tocopherols – different forms of vitamin E which provide antioxidant protection.
Natural Flavors – those that derive their aroma or flavor chemicals from plant or animal sources.
Guar gum – made from the guar bean, it is a thickener with a lot of holding power. The FDA lists this as food generally recognized as safe for consumption.
Gellan gum – similar to guar gum, it is used to bind or stabilize foods.
How to Convert Toddlers and Children to Ripple Milk from Cow’s Milk
Any change with children can strike up resistance, especially with toddlers. Ever been yelled at for offering the wrong color cup?
If your child is used to drinking cow’s milk and you want to change to Ripple (or soy milk), start slowly.
Start by replacing cow’s milk with Ripple milk in recipes that call for milk, and then gradually replace cow’s milk with Ripple.
Please note that up until the age of one, babies should be drinking primarily either breastmilk or formula.
Conversion Schedule for Converting Toddlers from Cow’s Milk to Ripple Milk
Days 1-2: mix a 1:3 ratio. For instance, 2oz of Ripple and 6oz of dairy milk.
Days 3-4: mix a 1:1 ratio. 4oz of Ripple and 4oz of dairy milk.
Days 5-6: mix a 3:1 ratio. 6 oz of Ripple and 2oz of dairy milk.
Day 7 and beyond: all Ripple
As children are growing, it’s very important they receive adequate nutrition to help keep them healthy and strong. And while dairy does contain vitamin D and calcium, it’s not the only option.
Ripple Milk can be a very healthy and safe option for toddlers, and young children as a replacement to cow’s milk. It’s now sold in many grocery stores around the United States. I encourage you to give it a try!
If you’re wondering where you can buy Ripple milk, many grocery stores are now carrying the brand. It is typically in the refrigerator section with other plant-based milks. In my area (northeast Ohio), I purchase Unsweetened Ripple milk at Target, Heinen’s, or Giant Eagle. Remember, to buy the Unsweetened Original instead of Ripple kids because of the added sugar. Please comment if you have any questions!