Dairy 101

Dairy is one of the five main food groups among protein, grains, fruits, and vegetables. There are a variety of dairy sources and plenty of ways to fit dairy into a healthful diet! Not only is dairy versatile, but it offers many health benefits as well. 


  • Nutrient-rich in protein, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin A, phosphorous, pantothenic acid, and niacin 
  • Improved bone and teeth health
  • Cultured sources (yogurts, some cheeses) provide probiotics to support gut health 
  • Weight maintenance 
  • May help maintain blood pressure due to calcium, potassium, and magnesium 
  • Potassium helps regulate fluid balance which plays a role in stroke prevention 
  • More research indicates decreased type 2 diabetes risk 

Categories and what is considered one cup 

  1. Cheese
    • 1 ½ ounces hard cheeses (Swiss, Parmesan, mozzarella, cheddar)
    • ⅓ cup shredded cheese
    • 2 ounces processed cheese (American)
    • ½ cup ricotta cheese
    • 2 cups cottage cheese 
  2. Milk
  • Whole, 2%, 1%, skim milk
  • Calcium-fortified soy milk 
  1. Yogurt 
    • 8 ounces dairy-based yogurt, Greek yogurt, Skyr 

In order to be classified in the dairy food group, calcium content is crucial; therefore, foods made from milk that lack adequate amounts of calcium are not considered dairy– for example, cream, butter, cream cheese, etc. 

What about flavored milk?

Flavored milk is acceptable, especially if it is the only way to get a kid to drink milk. Look at the diet as a whole. Are there many sources of added sugars? If so, maybe be mindful of flavored milk consumption and enjoy it once in a while. To spotlight chocolate milk, it is an excellent post-workout drink for all ages! Not only is it delicious, but it provides protein to repair muscles, sugar to replenish energy stores, and provides electrolytes to retain fluid and stay hydrated!  

Intake recommendations

  • 1-year-olds: 16-24 ounces whole milk, yogurt, cheese per day
  • 2 years and older: 2-3 cups of low-fat or non-fat dairy per day