What are the health benefits of dairy foods for kids?

Dairy foods contain a range of nutrients that are essential for healthy growth and development of kids of all ages.

Last updated 30/04/2021

Dairy foods belong to one of the five food groups recommended for children every day in the Australian Dietary Guidelines.1 This is because dairy foods provide a unique package of more than 10 essential nutrients important for growing children. These nutrients help to support a child’s nervous and immune system, maintain healthy eyesight, skin, muscle and nerve function, as well as provide energy to support optimal growth.

Dairy foods are best known for calcium and the role it plays in building strong bones and teeth. Along with the rest of their body, children’s bones grow rapidly. A calcium-rich diet during childhood helps maximise peak bone mass and can help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures in later life. Dairy foods are also important for healthy teeth as they contain a unique combination of anti-decay nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus and the milk protein, casein. The most recent child dental health survey found that nearly half of all children had a history of tooth decay in their baby teeth as well as permanent teeth2, and including dairy in children’s meals and snacks (such as cheese) may help to prevent tooth decay.3

Depending on their age and gender, children need between one-and-a-half and three-and-a-half serves of dairy foods every day.1 Research has found that children older than four years of age are not meeting their daily recommended intake of dairy serves and may be missing out on a range of important nutrients.4

Milk, cheese and yoghurt are a convenient source of calcium that's easy for the body to absorb. Below are some suggestions for how to include dairy in every day meals and snacks to help children meet their requirements.

Meal Type

Dairy Food Suggestions

Breakfast

Milk with cereal or porridge

Yoghurt and fruit

School Lunch box

Tub of yoghurt in school lunch box with ice brick to keep cool

Sliced cheese and wholegrain crackers

Cheese and salad roll or sandwich

Afternoon snack

Glass of regular or flavoured milk

Dinner

Pasta with cheese

Vegetable lasagne with milk and cheese sauce

 

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