A great source of calcium and protein is milk and dairy products. Such as cheese. And yogurt. Healthy. Balanced diets can include them.
Calcium-fortified. Unsweetened dairy alternatives such as soy milk. Soy milk. And soy cheese is part of this food group. These can be good alternatives to dairy products.
To make healthier choices, choose options that are lower in fat and lower in sugar.
Healthy dairy choices
Dairy products can vary greatly in their fat content. To make healthy choices, look at the nutritional information on the label to check the amount of fat, including saturated fat, salt, and sugar, in the dairy products of your choice.
Dairy products and milk contain a large amount of saturated fat. For older children and adults, eating a lot of fat can contribute to increased energy intake, which leads to weight gain.
A diet rich in saturated fats can also lead to higher cholesterol levels, and this can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Vitamins and calories are both found in milk fat, which is ideal for young children.
But for older children and adults, it is a good idea to opt for low-fat milk because having too much fat in your diet can lead to weight gain.
If you’re trying to reduce fat, try replacing it with 1% fat or skim milk, as it still contains the important nutritional benefits of milk, but has less fat.
Cheese can form part of a healthy, balanced diet, but it’s a good idea to keep track of how much you eat and how often it can be high in saturated fat and salt.
Most cheeses, including Brie, Stilton, Cheddar, Lancashire, and Double Gloucester, contain between 20 and 40 grams of fat per 100 grams.
Foods with more than 17.5 grams of fat per 100 grams are considered high in fat.
Some types of cheese can also be high in salt. More than 1.5 grams of salt per 100 grams is considered high. Too much salt can cause high blood pressure.
Try choosing low-fat hard cheeses, which usually have between 10 and 16 grams of fat per 100 grams.
Some cheeses are lower in fat (3g of fat per 100g or less), including low-fat cheese and quark.
If you are using cheese to flavor a dish or sauce, you can try using cheese that has a stronger flavor, such as mature cheddar or blue cheese, because you will then need less.
But remember that it is recommended that ‘at-risk’ groups avoid certain types of cheese, such as:
- Babies and young children
- People over 65 years old
- pregnant women
- Those with a long-term medical condition or a weakened immune system
These cheeses include:
- Ripe soft cheeses such as Brie or Camembert
- Ripe goat’s milk cheese like chevre
- Soft blue cheese, like fine cheese
Listeria bacteria may be present in these cheeses.
As long as the cheese is cooked, Listeria will be killed. Wild bread, for example, is a safer option.
Other dairy foods
Butter is rich in fats and saturated fats. It’s often high in salt, so try to eat it often and in small amounts.
Choosing low-fat spreads instead of butter is a good way to reduce your fat intake.
The cream is also high in fat, so use it often and in small amounts as well. You can use low-fat plain yogurt and fries instead of cream.
Or you can opt for low-fat sour cream or fresh, low-fat cream in recipes.
But remember that these foods can also contain a lot of saturated fat.
When eating yogurt or puree, choose low-fat varieties, but look at the label to ensure they’re not high in added sugar.
Low-fat plain yogurt is a good choice because it usually doesn’t contain added sugars.
See the Eatwell Guide for more information on healthy dairy options.
Dairy intake for pregnant women
Dairy products are good sources of calcium, which is important during pregnancy as it helps the fetus’s bones to form properly.
But there are some cheeses and other dairy products that you should avoid during pregnancy, as they may make you sick or harm your baby.
Make sure you know the important facts about foods to avoid or take precautions during pregnancy.
Learn more about foods to avoid if you’re pregnant
During pregnancy, drink only pasteurized or ultra-heat-treated (UHT) milk. These dairy products have been heat treated to kill bacteria and prevent food poisoning.
Cow’s milk sold in stores is pasteurized, but you can still find unpasteurized or “raw” milk for sale from some farms and farmers markets. Check the label if you’re not sure.
Eating dairy products for infants and children under five years of age
Milk in your child’s diet
Milk and dairy products are an important part of the diet of young children.
They contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, including calcium, and are a good source of energy and protein. This will help young children build bones and maintain healthy teeth.
It is recommended that you give your baby only breast milk (exclusive breastfeeding) for the first six months of your baby’s life.
Breastfeeding has many benefits. Find out more
If you choose not to breastfeed, or if you are unable to breastfeed, the only alternative is infant formula.
Learn more about the different types of infant formula
Cow’s milk should not be given as a drink until a child is one year old. This is because it does not contain the balance of nutrients that children need.
But babies around 6 months old can eat foods that use whole cow’s milk as an ingredient, such as cheese sauce and custard.
Children under one year of age should not be given condensed, evaporated or powdered milk or any other beverage referred to as “milk,” such as rice, oat or almond drinks.
Whole milk and dairy products should be given to children between the ages of 1 and 2 years. This is because they may not be getting the calories or essential vitamins they need from low-fat alternatives.
After the age of 2, children can gradually switch to semi-skimmed milk as a drink, as long as they eat a varied and balanced diet and are growing well.
Do not give skimmed milk or 1% fat as a drink to children under 5 years old. Children under the age of five do not receive enough calories and other important nutrients from it.
Children ages 1 to 3 need about 350 mg of calcium per day. About 300ml of milk (just over a pint) will save.
See the British Dietetic Association web page on calcium for more information.
Goat and sheep milk in your child’s diet
Cow’s milk, goat’s milk, and sheep’s milk are not suitable as drinks for children under one year of age because they do not contain the right balance of nutrients.
Once the child is one year old, he can drink whole milk goat’s milk, and sheep’s milk as long as the milk is pasteurized.
It can be given to babies from 6 months of age in cooked foods such as cheese sauce and custard.
Cheese in your child’s diet
Cheese can form part of a healthy, balanced diet for infants and young children, and provides calcium, protein, and vitamins such as vitamin A.
It is safe for babies to consume pasteurized full-fat cheese from the age of six months. This includes hard cheeses such as light cheddar, cottage cheese, and cream cheese.
Full-fat cheeses and dairy products are recommended up to the age of two, as young children need fat and energy to help them grow.
Young children should not eat:
- Ripe soft cheeses, such as Brie or Camembert
- Ripe goat’s milk cheese like chevre
- Soft blue-veined cheese such as Roquefort cheese
Listeria bacteria may be present in these cheeses.
You can check the labels on the cheese to make sure it’s made with pasteurized milk.
But these cheeses can be used in a cooked recipe since cooking kills Listeria. Brie bread, for example, is a safer option.
What is pasteurization?
Pasteurization is a heat treatment process to kill bacteria and prevent food poisoning. Most milk and cream are pasteurized.
If the milk is unpasteurized, it is often called “raw” milk. This should carry a warning that it has not been sterilized and may contain harmful bacteria (which can cause food poisoning).
You can sometimes buy unpasteurized milk and cream at farms and farmers’ markets.
If you choose unpasteurized milk or cream, make sure you store them properly in the refrigerator because they go off quickly.
Follow the instructions that came with the milk and do not use the milk after its expiration date.
Some other dairy products are made with unpasteurized milk, including some types of cheese.
For example, some makers of Camembert, brie, and goat cheese may use unpasteurized milk, so check the label.
Children, the sick, pregnant women, and the elderly are especially susceptible to food poisoning.
It should not contain unpasteurized milk or cream and some dairy products are made with unpasteurized milk.
Milk allergy and lactose intolerance
Milk and dairy products are good sources of nutrients, so don’t cut them out of your diet or your child’s diet without first talking to a GP or dietitian.
There are two conditions that cause a reaction to milk.
Lactose intolerance is a common digestive problem in which the body is unable to digest lactose, a type of sugar mainly found in milk and dairy products.
Bloating and diarrhea are symptoms of lactose intolerance. It does not cause severe reactions.
Cow’s milk allergy
A common childhood food allergy is cow’s milk allergy (CMA).
CMA usually occurs when cow’s milk is first introduced into your baby’s diet either in formula or when your baby starts eating solid foods.
In rare cases, it can affect only breastfed babies because cow’s milk from the mother’s diet is passed on to the baby through breast milk.
If you think you or your child has a milk allergy or intolerance, make an appointment to speak with a GP or other health professional.
Find out more about cow’s milk allergy
Dairy alternatives and alternatives
Some people need to avoid dairy and cow’s milk because their bodies can’t digest lactose (lactose intolerance) or they are allergic to cow’s milk protein.
There are a number of lactose-free dairy products available for purchase that are suitable for people with lactose intolerance.
These products contain the same vitamins and minerals as standard dairy products, but they also contain an added enzyme called lactase, which helps digest any lactose so the products don’t cause any symptoms.
Some people also choose not to eat dairy products for other reasons – for example, because they follow a vegan diet.
There are a number of alternative foods and drinks available in the supermarket to replace milk and dairy products, such as:
Soy milk, yogurt, and some cheese
Coconut, quinoa, almonds, hazelnuts, rice, oats, almonds, hazelnuts, and almonds
Foods marked “dairy-free” or “suitable for vegetarians”
Remember that milk and dairy products are good sources of important nutrients, so don’t cut them out of your diet or your child’s diet without first talking to a GP or dietitian.
If you are not able to eat dairy products or choose not to eat them, you may not be getting enough calcium in your diet.