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Dairy Intake for Children and Your Family

Why do we Include Dairy Foods in our Diet?

  • Dairy foods include milk, cheese, yoghurt and food made with milk such as custard
  • They are the most nutritionally complete single food providing many essential vitamins and minerals to children
  • Dairy foods are not only the richest source of calcium, which is important for building and maintaining bone, but also provide other nutrients including protein essential for good health

What Type of Dairy Product do Children Need?      

According to The Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia (developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council) , anyone over 2 years old should consume reduced-fat varieties such as light milk, 25% reduced fat cheese and reduced fat yoghurt. Reduced fat dairy foods are better, because:

1. They are lower in total and saturated fat, therefore lower in energy (unless extra sugar is added) making it easier for children to maintain a healthy body weight and healthy heart, and
2. They provide the same amount of calcium and protein as full fat dairy products.

Important Message

The Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey* revealed that older girls (aged 14 -16 years) do not meet the dietary requirement for calcium because of low dairy food intake. This could put them at risk of poor bone health. Parents with concerns about their children's calcium intake should seek advice from a nutrition expert or their family doctor.

How much Dairy do Children Need?
Recommended by the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating:

Age group    Serves of dairy
4 - 7 years        3
8 - 11 years      3
12 - 18 years    3-5

Examples of a Serve of Dairy
1 glass of milk (250ml)         
2 slices of cheese (40g total)       
1 tub of yoghurt (200g) 

Food Safety with Dairy Products:
-   Always refrigerate dairy foods below 5 degrees Celsius

-   Pack milk with an ice pack in school lunch box and ask your children to drink it in the earliest break. See How to Keep Food Safe in School Lunchboxes for further information.

True or False?

1. Milk causes asthma?
False: Milk rarely triggers asthma, the common triggers include allergens such as house dust and pollen. Consult your doctor to find out more about your child's asthma triggers.

2. Taking calcium supplements means my child does not need to drink any milk?
False: Supplements provide only calcium to your body, but milk provides not only calcium to you and your children, but other important nutrients such as protein. If your child cannot drink milk, consult your doctor or nutrition expert for suitable alternatives.

3. My child should avoid dairy products because she is lactose intolerant?
Mostly False: People with lactose intolerance can still usually eat cheese and yoghurt. Your doctor can advise you about this. Some people can even consume up to 2 glasses of milk a day without any intolerance symptoms.

Tips to Increase Your Child's Dairy Intake

Breakfast
-    Wholegrain breakfast cereal with reduced-fat milk
-    Include a glass of reduced-fat milk
-    Grill reduced-fat cheese and tomato on toast
-    Grate reduced-fat cheese on scrambled egg
-    Give your child a tetra pack of reduced-fat milk if they are on the run

Lunch
-    Add slices of reduced-fat cheese in sandwich
-    Put some reduced-fat cheese cubes in salad
-    Put a reduced-fat yoghurt in your children’s lunch box
-    Encourage your children to buy reduced-fat plain milk from the school canteen

Dinner
-    Grate reduced-fat cheese on pasta and soup
-    Choose dessert made with reduced-fat dairy products
-    Use reduced-fat ricotta cheese in lasagna
-    Try reduced-fat custard or yoghurt with fruit for dessert
-    Use reduced-fat natural yoghurt in place of sour cream in recipes

Snacks
-    Try reduced-fat cottage cheese on wholemeal crackers
-    Have reduced-fat cheese on rice cakes
-    Grill reduced-fat cheese on a whole meal muffin
-    Choose smoothies made with reduced-fat milk, frozen berries and reduced fat yoghurt

Dining out
-    Order a milkshake with reduced fat milk instead of coke/fruit juice/cordial
-    Choose reduced-fat cheese and tomato instead of a ham sandwich
-    Choose a milk-based dessert

* that survey is conducted and funded by two Australian Federal government departments and also funded by the Australian Food and Grocery Council.

Note: this information is of general nature only. If you require specific dietary advice about your child's health and dairy intake, you should consult a nutrition expert or your family's doctor.

Why do we include dairy foods in our diet?
-    Dairy foods include milk, cheese, yoghurt and food made with milk like custard
-    They are the most nutritionally complete single food providing many essential vitamins and minerals to children
-    Dairy foods are not only the richest source of calcium, which is important for building and maintaining bone, but also provide other nutrients including protein essential for good health

What type of dairy product do children need?       
According to The Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia, anyone over 2 years of age should consume reduced-fat varieties such as light milk, 25% reduced fat cheese and reduced fat yoghurt. Reduced fat dairy foods are better, because
1. They are lower in total and saturated fat, therefore lower in energy (unless extra sugar is added) making it easier for children to maintain a healthy body weight and healthy heart, and
2. They provide the same amount of calcium and protein as full fat dairy products

Important message!!
The Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey revealed that older girls (14-16 years) do not meet the dietary requirement for calcium because of low dairy food intake. This would put them at risk of poor bone health.

How much do children need?
Recommended by the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating
Age group    Serves of dairy
4-7 years    3
8-11 years    3
12-18 years    3-5

Examples of a serve
1 glass of milk (250ml)          
2 slices of cheese (40g total)        
1 tub of yoghurt (200g)  

Food safety with dairy products:
-    Always refrigerate dairy foods below 5oC
-    Pack milk with an ice pack in lunch box and drink it in the earliest break

True or False?
1. Milk causes asthma?
False: Milk rarely triggers asthma, the common triggers include allergens such as house dust and pollen.

2. Taking calcium supplements means I don’t need to drink any milk?
False: Supplements provide only calcium to your body, but milk provides not only calcium to you, but other important nutrients such as protein.

3. I should avoid dairy products because I am lactose intolerant?
False: People with lactose intolerance can still usually eat cheese and yoghurt. Some people can even consume up to 2 glasses of milk a day without any intolerance symptoms.

TIPS to increase dairy intake

Breakfast
-    Wholegrain breakfast cereal with reduced-fat milk
-    Include a glass of reduced-fat milk
-    Grill reduced-fat cheese and tomato on toast
-    Grate reduced-fat cheese on scrambled egg
-    Give your child a tetra pack of reduced-fat milk if they are on the run

Lunch
-    Add slices of reduced-fat cheese in sandwich
-    Put some reduced-fat cheese cubes in salad
-    Put a reduced-fat yoghurt in your children’s lunch box
-    Encourage your children to buy reduced-fat plain milk from the school canteen

Dinner
-    Grate reduced-fat cheese on pasta and soup
-    Choose dessert made with reduced-fat dairy products
-    Use reduced-fat ricotta cheese in lasagna
-    Try reduced-fat custard or yoghurt with fruit for dessert
-    Use reduced-fat natural yoghurt in place of sour cream in recipes

Snacks
-    Try reduced-fat cottage cheese on wholemeal crackers
-    Have reduced-fat cheese on rice cakes
-    Grill reduced-fat cheese on a whole meal muffin
-    Choose smoothies made with reduced-fat milk, frozen berries and reduced fat yoghurt

Dining out
-    Make a milkshake with reduced fat milk instead of coke/fruit juice/cordial
-    Choose reduced-fat cheese and tomato instead of a ham sandwich
-    Choose a milk-based dessert

This article was written by the team at the Healthy Kids Association.
For more great information and articles about nutrition for your family,
visit www.healthy-kids.com.au