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Getting enough dairy products?

Milk breaks make good sense for growing children and health-conscious adults. If not a milk break, how about a mozzarella cheese stick break or a yogurt parfait break?

Children and adults benefit from the protein, vitamins and minerals found in milk and other dairy products. Dairy products are notable sources of calcium and most also provide vitamin D. About 60 per cent of preteens and 70 per cent of teens do not meet the calcium recommendations needed to grow and maintain strong bones.

Most teens, older children and adults need at least three cups of milk or the equivalent daily. Children ages four to eight need about 2.5 cups, and children ages two to three need two cups. One cup of yogurt and 1.5 ounces of natural cheese each count as one cup of milk.

Consider these tips:

• Drink low-fat (one per cent) or fat-free (skim) milk. The calcium content is about the same regardless of the type of milk. The only difference is in the amount of fat and calories.

• Top your cereal with low-fat or fat-free milk. Add a dollop of low-fat plain yogurt to a baked potato.

• Choose cheese with less fat by looking for “reduced fat” or “low fat” on the label.

• Save calories by swapping fat-free evaporated milk for cream and ricotta cheese as a substitute for cream cheese. Cream cheese, cream and butter do not count toward the dairy group recommendations.

• Be cautious about flavoured milks, puddings and frozen yogurt. They are fine as occasional treats, but they contain extra calories from the sweeteners and other flavourings.

Some people cannot digest the lactose (natural sugar found in milk) and experience gastrointestinal problems as a result. If you are lactose intolerant, try soy milk, lactose-free milk or the tablets that can be added to milk to digest the sugar prior to you drinking it. Some people with lactose intolerance can eat yogurt, or they can drink small amounts of milk with meals.

Be sure you are meeting your calcium and vitamin D needs through foods or with help from dietary supplements. Read nutrition facts labels to know what your other sources are of calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients.

About the author

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Julie Garden-Robinson is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

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