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Deciphering Dairy

By Alison Preston, EYN Partnership Nutritionist

Why should we include dairy in our diet and that of our children? Including the right balance and types of foods from the different food groups in children’s diets helps them develop good dietary habits for life. Milk and dairy products, such as cheese and yoghurt, make up one of the food groups and provide a good source of protein and calcium. Unsweetened, calcium-fortified dairy alternatives like soya milks, soya yoghurts and soya cheeses also count as part of this food group and can make good alternatives to dairy products. These will be needed for children who are allergic or intolerant to dairy foods.

That’s not the only good reason to include them as part of a balanced diet. Dairy products can provide important benefits at different stages of development and life. But knowing about the benefits is only half the challenge! With so many variations of dairy produce available; no-fat, half-fat, semi-skimmed, full-fat…the list goes on…it can be tricky to know what type and how much to offer your little ones. So here is a handy reference guide for you:

Ages 1-5 years

What are the benefits?
Children grow rapidly during this time. Dairy provides young children with energy, protein and fat-soluble vitamins that are essential for growth and development.

What type of dairy?
Children under 2 years should have whole milk (blue top in most shops) and whole yogurt. From two onwards children can move to semi-skimmed milk providing they are growing and eating well. Children who cannot consume dairy products can have non-diary alternatives – these should be fortified with calcium and milks should be unsweetened. Note that dairy free cheese alternatives can be high in saturated fat and salt, so check the labels if considering these products. A link to more information on milk allergy is provided at the end of this blog.

How much?
Three portions a day. These could include:

  • 100-150 ml milk on cereal or as a drink
  • 15g-25g cheese. Children need the energy provided by full-fat dairy but it’s fine to include low-fat cheeses, such as cottage cheese, in children’s diets for variety.
  • 1 pot (100-125g) yogurt. Choose whole (full-fat) yogurt but don’t forget to look out for those lower in sugar.

Click Here to read more on The Early Years Nutrition Partnership website.

Alison Preston, EYN Partnership Nutritionist. 2017. Deciphering Dairy. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 14 November 2017].