Teenagers holding a glass of milk

Dairy for teens

Teenage years are one of the most important periods to build healthy bones to last a lifetime.

As one quarter of adult bone mass is built between the ages of 12 to 14 for girls and 13 to 15 for boys, it’s important to eat enough calcium-rich foods, get enough vitamin D and do plenty of weight-bearing exercise like running, jogging or jumping to optimise bone growth.

Most Australian teenagers fall short of their recommendations for calcium, largely because they don't have enough milk, cheese and yoghurt.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend 3.5 serves of dairy for teens every day. A serve is 250ml (one cup) of milk, 200g (3/4 cup) of yogurt or 40g (two slices) of cheese.

In addition to calcium, dairy foods provide a natural source of nine other essential nutrients including potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, carbohydrate, protein, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and zinc. These nutrients are important for healthy blood and immune systems, eyesight, muscle and nerve function, healthy skin, energy and growth and repair in all parts of the body.

A healthy and varied diet will ensure teenagers get the nutrients they need to support growth:

  • Eat a wide variety of foods from each of the five food groups.
  • Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast. Eating breakfast can reduce cravings for unhealthy snacks later in the morning.
  • Snack foods like chocolate and chips can be high in calories and low in nutrients. Instead, try a fruit smoothie, fruit toast with ricotta or dried fruit and nuts.
  • Limit soft drinks and energy drinks. Milk and even flavoured milk are healthier drink choices.
  • Swap sports drinks for flavoured milk – which has the added benefit of protein to support muscle recovery, as well as natural electrolytes to help rehydrate.