Dairy foods: How much is enough?

Dairy foods including milk, cheese and yogurt are one of the five food groups the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend we eat every day. The other four food
groups are:

  • Vegetables and legumes/beans
  • Fruit
  • Grain (cereal) foods
  • Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans.

Dairy foods have long been known for their role in bone health, but research over the last decade has demonstrated that consumption of milk, yogurt and cheese can protect us against heart disease and stroke, can reduce our risk of high blood pressure and some cancers and may reduce our risk of type 2 diabetes.

Recommendations

As a result of the updated scientific evidence, the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend higher intakes of the dairy food group, for most age groups than previous dietary guidelines. Current dairy food group recommendations for adults and children are shown in the following tables.

Other ways to include enough serves from the dairy food group include:

  • 1 cup of fresh, flavoured, UHT long life or reconstituted powdered milk
  • ½ cup (120 mL) evaporated unsweetened milk

It’s recommended that more than 50% of intake from dairy foods is reduced-fat varieties.

Australians are not having enough

Unfortunately, most Australians are missing out on the health benefits of consuming milk, yogurt and cheese as they don’t include enough in their diet. It is estimated that 8 out of 10 Australian adults need to increase their intake of dairy foods to achieve the levels recommended by the Australian Dietary Guidelines. Most Australian children also need to increase their intake of the dairy food group in order to meet recommendations.

Contrary to popular belief, consumption of three to four daily serves of dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt and cheese, as part of a balanced diet is not linked to weight gain. Furthermore, including three to four daily serves of these dairy foods within a kilojoule controlled diet can help accelerate loss of weight and body fat, improve muscle retention and reduce waistlines.

Most people need to cut down on foods that are not found within the five food groups. These foods are called discretionary choices (or junk foods). Examples of these foods include: fried potatoes, cakes and muffins, soft drinks, alcoholic drinks, meat pies, biscuits, cakes, ice cream, high fat takeaway items and confectionary. Swapping these foods for milk, yogurt and cheese is one way to increase your intake of the dairy food group.

More tips to increase your dairy intake

Dairy foods are convenient and versatile, making them easy to include in a healthy, balanced diet. With a wide variety of dairy foods available, enjoying your recommended amount every day is easy.

  • Grab a caffè latte on the way to work.
  • Have a bowl of fruit and yogurt for breakfast or after a workout.
  • Include cheese in a salad or sandwich.
  • Dollop natural yogurt on a jacket potato.
  • For an energizing fruit smoothie, blend together some fruit, yogurt and milk.
  • Grate or shave parmesan or mozzarella cheese on pasta dishes.
  • Have a warm glass of milk in the evening.

For recipes and ideas on how to include adequate serves of dairy foods in healthy meals, visit www.legendairy.com.au/recipes.

Dairy foods’ package of nutrients

Dairy foods are a natural source of 10 essential nutrients including calcium, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, carbohydrate, protein, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and zinc.

These nutrients are important for healthy blood and immune systems, eyesight, muscle and nerve function, healthy skin, energy and growth and repair in all parts of your body.

Dairy foods – a good source of calcium

Milk, cheese and yogurt provide a convenient and readily absorbable source of calcium, contributing around 60 per cent of the calcium we eat.

Few foods provide as much absorbable calcium per serve as dairy foods. Foods such as canned fish eaten with the bones, green leafy vegetables, nuts such as almonds, cereals and legumes also contribute calcium to the diet, but in much smaller amounts than dairy foods.

The following foods contain about the same amount of calcium as a serve of milk, yogurt or cheese

  • 100g almonds with skin
  • 60g sardines, canned in water
  • ½ cup canned pink salmon with bones
  • 100g firm tofu (check the label as calcium levels vary)

For individuals who can’t have, or are intolerant to, dairy foods, alternatives such as soy, rice or other drinks with at least 100 mg of added calcium per 100 ml may be suitable.

 

Nutrition Australia acknowledges Dairy Australia as the original author of this fact sheet.

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