Dairy is one of the most varied and often controversial food groups, it is a great natural source of many important nutrients. In this section we'll talk about the different types, why we need it in our diets, how much we need and give some suggestions on healthier choices.What exactly is dairy?
Dairy is the name given to a wide variety of food products, which include milk, butter, cream, yoghurt and cheese. The biggest source of milk for these products comes from cows, but it can also come from goats, sheep and buffalo.
Why do we need dairy in our diets?
Dairy products are high in key nutrients such as protein and calcium, which we need for growth, repair and our bone development and maintenance. They are also good sources of vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and iodine. Milk and dairy products also contain fats in various types and amounts, which need to be included in our diets in moderate amounts to help us absorb other fat soluble vitamins.How much should we eat each day?
The recommended portions for dairy products are:
- 200ml of milk
- 200ml of fortified milk alternatives - almond, soya, oat, hazelnut
- 30g of cheese (about the size of a matchbox)
- 150g of yoghurt
Consuming 2-3 portions from these foods will give us the calcium our bodies need each day.
Sources of dairy in our diets
- Fromage frais
- Cottage cheese
- Calcium-fortified milk alternatives (nut, soya, oat and rice milks)
- Check product labels for details on saturated fat, salt and sugar levels.
- Remember! low-fat doesn't always mean healthier, some low fat yoghurts can be higher in sugar.
- Using stronger strength cheeses like mature cheddar and parmesan in meals often means we don't need to use as much.
- Feta, parmesan, ricotta or cottage cheese as great to use as they are lower in saturated fat than others.
- Try substituting cream, soured cream or creme fraiche for plain yoghurts and fromage frais which are lower in saturated fats.
- Instead of having a cake or ice cream for dessert, why not try making a mixed fruit salad and adding lower saturated fat plain or greek yoghurt.