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Milk and other dairy foods

18th Feb 2021

Dairy foods are nutritious. Try to include dairy foods at both main meals and snack time. Dairy foods include milk, cheese, yoghurt and custard. These foods supply protein, fat, minerals (especially calcium) vitamins and carbohydrate.

Milk includes fresh, powdered, long life (U H T), evaporated and condensed milk. Full fat or fat reduced varieties of these milks are usually available.

Last year, National Heart Foundation stated that research found that full cream milk was neutral on cholesterol levels. So, what does this mean? It would seem that for older people, who like to drink  full cream milk, can do so without a detrimental effect on their cholesterol levels. For frail older people this is good news as full cream milk provides more calories that fat reduced milk. If you have been advised by your doctor to have fat reduced or skim milk and you would like to have full cream milk, always check with your doctor first.

What are milk alternatives?

These include soy, coconut, oat almond and rice ‘milk’. These beverages do not contain calcium unless it has been added. For calcium levels to equate to the amount of calcium in dairy milk they must contain at least 100 mg of calcium in every 100mls.

Even if these non- dairy alternatives have been fortified with an appropriate amount of calcium, few are nutritionally equivalent to milk. There is more to milk than just calcium.

Fortified soy beverage would be the closest to milk in the nutrients it contains. As well as calcium, soy is fortified with vitamins A, B1, B2 and B12.   

Many of the other milk alternatives are low in protein, fat and calories and don’t contain the vitamins and minerals found in cow’s milk. If you are having these beverages instead of cow’s milk or soy milk it would be a good idea to ask your doctor for advice (people with medically diagnosed cow’s milk allergies may need to have milk alternatives).

How much dairy food is recommended for you to have each day?

Try to have at least 3 (preferably 4) serves of dairy food each day. A serve is 1 cup (250ml) of milk or a small tub of yoghurt or 2 slices of cheese or 1 cup of custard.

If it is hard for you to have at least 3 serves a day, why not have 2 serves in one. Just add 2 – 3 tablespoons of powdered milk to a cup of milk and you have 2 serves if dairy. Powdered milk stirs in easily. It can be added to any custard (home- made or ready to eat) canned creamed rice, fruit smoothies, hot milk drinks or soups (add to soups just before serving).

Milk drinks such as milkshakes, smoothies, hot chocolate, milk coffee, flavoured milk and drinking yoghurt – all excellent ways to have your daily dairy serves.