1 to 2 year olds need whole milk
Milk and dairy products are an important part of a young child’s diet but breastfeeding or
infant formula is recommended until the age of 1. From the age of 1 to 2 years, whole milk is recommended; because children may not get the calories or essential vitamins they need from low-fat milk. After the age of 5 years old skimmed or semi-skimmed milk can also be introduced to the diet. About 300ml of milk (just over half a pint) would provide a 1 to 3 year old child with all the calcium they need (350 mg/d**).Children 4 to 6 years old need a little more calcium (450 mg/d).
Primary school aged children
Both calcium and protein is needed for normal growth and development of bones in children. Dairy is rich in calcium, therefore, a relatively small serving can make a significant contribution to the recommended daily amount. For example, by having a glass of milk (250ml) and a small matchbox piece cheese (20g) and 80g of yogurt, 7 to 10 year old children can meet the full daily calcium recommendation of 550mg. On top of this, dairy products also provide significant amounts of vitamin B2 and B12 and a wide range of other vitamins and minerals.
During this stage of life, calcium demands are higher than at any other time as bones develop quickly as they growth in length and density. Every day during the growth spurt significant amounts of new calcium are deposited in the bones. Unfortunately, not all UK teenagers get the calcium they need. Latest dietary surveys show that 19% of girls and 8% of boys aged 11 to 18 years old had very low calcium intakes. Having dairy in the diet makes it easy to meet the recommendation of 800mg of calcium per day for girls and 1000mg/d for boys.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Dairy foods such as milk, cheese, fromage frais and yogurt are important in pregnancy, because they contain calcium and other nutrients that a baby needs. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to choose low-fat varieties wherever possible, such as semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, low-fat, lower-sugar yogurt and reduced-fat hard cheese and should aim for two to three portions a day. Throughout pregnancy, and especially while breastfeeding, dairy is a convenient, enjoyable and easy way to have enough calcium. When breastfeeding the daily calcium recommendation is increased with 1250mg/d.
Adults, particularly women
Calcium is important throughout life as bones are constantly being broken down and build up again in a process called remodeling. Therefore, adults need a daily supply of calcium to maintain normal bone density. Women over 50 are at particular risk of developing bone diseases. Two slices (50g) of low-fat hard cheese provides 420mg calcium which is the amount acknowledged to help reduce the loss of bone mineral in post-menopausal women. To prevent bone loss a daily intake of 1200mg calcium is required.
Dairy can be useful for adding nutritional value to the diets of older people due to their nutrient density, flavour and palatability. In addition to calcium other natural dairy nutrients also provide health benefit. A glass of milk (250 ml) provides 20% of the recommended intake of potassium which can help maintain normal blood pressure, as well as more than 30% of the recommended intake of vitamin B2 and B12, which both can help reduce fatigue and tiredness.