The key nutrients in dairy play an important role in childhood nutrition by supporting growth and development.
There are 13 essential nutrients found in milk including: calcium, protein, vitamin D (in fortified products), phosphorus, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, niacin, zinc, selenium, iodine, and potassium.
Three servings a day of dairy (for those 9 years and up) contribute 3 of the 4 under-consumed nutrients of public concern – calcium, vitamin D and potassium.
For the first time, the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, recommended yogurt and cheese as complementary feeding options for infants as young as six months of age. Here are the details:
For about the first 6 months of life, exclusively feed infants human milk.
Continue to feed infants human milk through at least the first year of life, and longer if desired. Feed infants iron-fortified infant formula during the first year of life when human milk is unavailable. Provide infants with supplemental vitamin D beginning soon after birth.
At about 6 months, introduce infants to nutrient-dense complementary foods such as reduced-fat cheeses and reduced-fat yogurt. Encourage infants and toddlers to consume a variety of foods from all food groups.
At 12 months of age, plain cow milk (whole milk) can be introduced to help meet calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein needs.