Children should have some dairy products every day. Milk, cheese and yoghurt give your child protein and calcium. Calcium helps build strong bones and teeth.
From birth to around 4 to 6 months, babies should only have breastmilk or formula. At around 6 months, you can start to introduce solid foods. Until the age of 2, children should have full-cream milk. Reduced fat dairy is then recommended for children over the age of 2.
Milk provides protein, vitamins and calcium. Soy beverages with added calcium can be used instead of milk for children over 1 year of age. Some nut or oat milks may have added calcium but they lack vitamin B12 and sufficient protein, so check your child’s total diet with a doctor or qualified dietitian before using them.
Alternatives to dairy
If you need an alternative to serving dairy, there are some foods that contain the same amount of calcium as a standard serve (see below) of milk, cheese or yoghurt:
- 100g almonds with skin
- 100g firm tofu
- 60g sardines (canned in water)
- ½ cup canned pink salmon with bones
Tips for serving dairy
- yoghurt on cereal or with freshly cut fruit
- cottage cheese or ricotta on wholegrain toast
- make smoothies with milk or yoghurt and fresh fruit
- grated or grilled cheese on veggies or pasta for lunch or dinner
How much dairy does my child need?
- 2 to 3-year-olds, they should have 1½ serves a day — so that could be a cup of milk and a slice of cheese.
- 4 to 5-year-olds, girls should still have 1½ serves a day and 2 serves for boys — a tub of yoghurt and 2 slices of cheese.
A serve is equal to 1 cup milk (check plant alternatives have at least 100mg calcium per 100ml), 2 slices (40g) of hard cheese such as cheddar or a tub of yoghurt.
Five food groups
Read more about the other 4 of the 5 food groups:
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Last reviewed: January 2020