Milk, yoghurt and cheese are very important to the body
A wide range of milk and yoghurt products are available with varying levels of fat. Milk can be fresh, dried, evaporated, or UHT (long life).
Cheese is usually high in kilojoules, saturated fat and salt and is best limited to 2-3 times a week. However, some cheeses also have reduced levels of fat and salt. Examples of milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives include:
- Milks – All reduced fat or full cream milks, plain and flavoured, long life milks, powdered milk, evaporated milk, soy beverages (fortified with at least 100mg calcium/100mL)
- Yoghurt – All yoghurts including reduced fat or full cream, plain and flavoured, soy yoghurt (calcium fortified)
- Cheese – All hard cheeses, reduced or full fat for example cheddar, red Leicester, Gloucester, Edam, Gouda Soy cheeses (calcium fortified).
How much should I eat from the milk, yoghurt, cheese and / or alternatives group?
Most people need at least 2-3 serves each day, however, the minimum recommended will vary according to your age, sex and life stage for example, women over 51 years need 4 serves a day as their calcium requirements are high.
What can I do with these foods?
Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternative products form part of the diets and there are endless ways that they can be consumed at any meal or any time of the day. It can be as simple as a glass of milk or slice of cheese, or combining with other foods to make larger meals such as:
- Breakfast – milk/yoghurt (or alternatives) used on cereal, in porridge, in smoothies; cottage cheese/ricotta cheese on wholegrain toast
- Lunch – sliced cheese/ricotta cheese on wholegrain bread,
- Dinner – grated and grilled cheese on top of main meal, white sauce
- Snacks – tub of yoghurt (or alternative), cold or hot milk drinks including milk based coffees.
- Desserts – Ice cream and dessert style custards are relatively high in kilojoules, fat and added sugars and are considered a discretionary choice that should be eaten only occasionally. However, lower fat, lower sugar milk based desserts including custards, junkets and puddings, can be made at home. Low sugar, low fat yoghurt (with or without fruit) is a great quick and easy dessert that is low in kilojoules.
Non-dairy milk drinks can be substituted for cow’s milk in recipes.
Health benefits of milk, yoghurt, cheese and / or alternatives
Milk, cheese and yoghurt provide calcium in a readily absorbable and convenient form. They also have various health benefits and are a good source of many nutrients, including calcium, protein, iodine, vitamin A, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and zinc.
Some people prefer to follow a dairy food-free or milk free diet because of allergies, or intolerances to lactose (the natural sugar in milk). Or because they believe that milk increases mucus.
However there is no scientific evidence of any link between dairy products and mucus production. Allergies and intolerance should always be diagnosed by a doctor. Avoiding dairy foods and not making suitable alternative choices such as the ones recommended in this food group can affect your long term health.