Dairy every day is a healthy way to nourish kids’ brains, bones and bodies.

From delicious and nutritious cheese and creamy yogurt to cool, nutrient rich milk and refreshing smoothies, dairy is a fundamental part of American cuisine.

Benefits Go Beyond Bones

Not only do dairy foods make eating more enjoyable, they also provide important nutrients and health benefits that go beyond building strong bones.

For parents, dairy offers great first food choices for little ones, like yogurt and cheese for baby’s first bites and tantalizing options for older kids. Plus, by exposing your growing child to many foods, textures and tastes, you’re helping them learn to like a wide variety of nutritious foods, now and into the future.


Dairy is a Healthy Way to Nourish Brains, Bones, and Bodies

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Dairy is a Healthy Way to Nourish Brains, Bones, and Bodies

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Dairy Every Day is a Healthy Way to Nourish Brains, Bones and Bodies

Companion Presentation Slides


Research shows what children drink from birth until age five makes a difference for their health, both now and in the future.  Health experts – including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and American Association of Pediatric Dentistry – agree that dairy milk and water should be the go-to beverages for children ages 1-5 years.  One tip is to encourage young children to drink dairy milk with meals and water in between.

Children under 5 should avoid plant-based/non-dairy milks*, caffeinated beverages, sugar and low-calorie sweetened beverages, toddler formula and flavored dairy milk.  And 100% fruit juice is an option in limited amounts but is not a daily recommendation.

Restricting sugar-sweetened beverages in early childhood is recommended due to associations with lower diet quality and other adverse health outcomes.

*In case of a milk allergy, fortified soymilk is the recommendation.

0 – 6 months – Breast milk or infant formula only.

6 – 12 months – Breast milk or infant formula with baby’s first bites. At around 6 months introduce tastes and textures of nutrient-rich foods like yogurt and cheese, eggs, iron-fortified cereal, ground beef and pureed fruits and vegetables to help baby learn to like a variety of healthy foods.

12 months – After baby’s first birthday, it’s time to add whole dairy milk to fuel brain and growth spurts.  Breastfeeding can continue after 1 year if desired.

2 – 5 years – Switch from whole milk to low-fat or fat-free dairy milk.  Think milk at meals and water in between.

6 – 12 months – Introduce yogurt and cheese

1 – 2 years – Aim for 1 2/3 – 2 cups a day

2 – 3 years – Aim for 2 – 2 1/2 cups a day

4 – 8 years – Aim for 2 1/2 cups a day

9+ years – Aim for 3 cups a day

*Can be divided into several servings throughout the day

Milk – 1 cup/8 ounces

Yogurt – 1 cup/8 ounces (no added sugar)

Cheese – 1 1/2 ounces of hard cheese, 1/3 cup shredded cheese, 1 ounce American cheese

If toddlers drink more than the recommended amount of milk, it may reduce their appetite for other nutritious foods, including iron-rich foods.  A helpful tip is to serve milk with meals and water in between.  To enhance iron absorption, pair foods high in iron – like fortified or enriched whole grains, beans or meats – with foods high in vitamin C – like strawberries, bell peppers or tomatoes.

It’s understandable to be concerned about the development of food allergies.  But the 2020 – 2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans state there is no evidence to support the prevention of food allergies by delaying the introduction of allergenic foods beyond when other complementary foods are given.

In fact, the opposite might be true.  The introduction of potentially allergenic foods during the complimentary feed period is supported by research, pediatrician recommendations and child readiness and may be helpful in reducing the risk of food allergy.  In case of a milk allergy, fortified soymilk is the recommendation.

While some may avoid dairy for tummy troubles, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping dairy products on the menu for most children with lactose intolerance.  Many options exist for lactose intolerance.  Products like lactose-free dairy milk and lactose-free yogurt have no lactose, hard cheeses naturally contain very little lactose, and yogurt has good bacteria that helps break down lactose.

  • Lactose-free dairy milk is real dairy milk just without the lactose.
  • Yogurt with good bacteria can help break down lactose, making it easier to digest.
  • Hard cheeses (e.g., Cheddar, Swiss, Colby, etc.) contain very little lactose.

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