The Importance of Milk and Dairy Foods

This week we were lucky enough to attend an event held by The Dairy Council around the science between dairy and obesity. It was a very insightful afternoon and the key note speakers presented some very interesting research. We therefore feel compelled to dedicate this weeks blog to milk and dairy foods.

The importance of milk and dairy foods

Dairy foods include items such as milk, cheese and yoghurt. These foods play an important role in our diet as they contain vital nutrients such as calcium, for strong bones and teeth, protein, for the growth and repair of muscle tissue, vitamins, such as B12 and other nutrients such as iodine, riboflavin and potassium.

Interesting fact: to get the same amount of calcium that we do from a glass of milk, we would have to eat 63 brussel sprouts!

What are the recommendations?

Public Health England recommend that we include some milk and dairy foods (or dairy alternatives), such as cheese, yoghurt and fromage frais, everyday. However, the National Diet and Nutrition Survey highlighted that 19% of girls aged 11- 18 years had very low calcium intakes.

Recommended daily portion sizes of milk and dairy foods to meet calcium needs:

Infants and Young Children

  • ½ glass of whole milk (from 12 months) +
  • 100g pot of plain full- fat yoghurt (from 6 months) +
  • 15g of hard cheese- small cubes (from 6 months)

Primary School Children

  • ¾ glass of semi- skimmed milk +
  • A 150g pot of low fat yoghurt +
  • 20g of hard cheese

Male and Female Adults

  • 1 glass of semi- skimmed milk +
  • 150g pot of plain low fat yoghurt +
  • Hard cheese- about the size of a matchbox

For more information on portion sizes for different age groups visit:

Have you read that you should cut out milk and dairy food from your diet for better health?

Rates of cow’s milk allergy and lactose intolerance in the UK is much lower than you might think. Cow’s milk allergy affects around 3-6% of infants and young children. The majority of children will outgrow their milk allergy by the age of 5 years, meaning milk allergies in older children and adults is very uncommon. In the last few years some celebrities and lifestyle bloggers have been advocating dairy free diets, claiming that it’s better for health. Evidence shows this is not the case and conditions such as acne, eczema and asthma are not caused by consuming milk and dairy products. Research also shows that milk and dairy consumption carries no risk to body composition or obesity and can be enjoyed as part of a healthy balanced diet.

Milk and dairy foods also have important health benefits and provide us with lots of vital nutrients. If an individual were to cut these foods from their diet, it could have an adverse effect on nutrient intakes.

If you think you, or your child, has a cows milk allergy or are lactose intolerant, you should seek advise from your GP. It is unsafe to cut out food groups without the advice of a dietitian.

Should we have full fat or low fat milk and dairy products?

Young children Under 1’s– should either have breast milk or stage 1 infant formula. Whole (full fat) pasteurised milk can be used as an ingredient in infants food from the age of 6 month, however it is NOT suitable as a main drink until they are over the age of 1 year.

Top tips for children:

  • Children over 1 year of age should have no more than 350-500mls of cows milk, including any milk in foods. Any more than this is likely to spoil a child’s appetite for other foods and could worsen any fussy eating behaviours
  • Try to incorporate dairy foods at snack time, such as cheese and crackers, bagel with cream cheese and fruit with yoghurt
  • Include some milk based puddings in the week, such as rice pudding, unsweetened custard and fromage frais.


Individuals wishing to cut down on their fat intakes, should opt for 1% or skimmed milks. They contain all the important nutritional benefits of milk, but contain about half the fat found in semi- skimmed milk. Adults can opt for reduced fat cheese and reduced or low fat yoghurt.

Top tips for adults:Early Start Group Wellbeing and Nutrition Don't Ditch the Diary blog picture 8

  • Try 1% fat milk which contains around half the fat of semi skimmed milk without compromising the taste or texture
  • If cheese is used to flavour a dish or sauce, opt for strong or mature cheese, such as mature cheddar, as the more intense flavour means less needs to be used
  • Try low fat cheese such as cottage cheese or quark
  • Opt for low fat and low sugar yoghurt such as natural, plain or Greek yoghurt. Try adding fruit to naturally sweeten them

Tasty recipe to try this week

Early Start Group Wellbeing and Nutrition Don't Ditch the Diary blog picture 9Early Start Group Wellbeing and Nutrition Don't Ditch the Diary blog picture 10

The full recipe can be found on the BBC Good Food website.

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