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How to get more dairy in your diet

Lifestyle — Posted 03/08/14

Milk, cheese and yogurt are naturally high in calcium, the essential nutrient for strong, healthy bones. Here’s how to get more of it.

Dairy foods are excellent sources of calcium, which is essential for strong bones and teeth. Few other foods provide as much absorbable calcium per serve as dairy foods. Milk, yogurt and cheese are also great natural sources of nutrients like protein, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A and zinc, which are important for healthy blood and immune systems, eyesight, muscle and nerve function, healthy skin and energy.

Keeping these health benefits in mind, here’s how you can add more delicious dairy to you diet.

How much dairy do you need?

Like other dietary guidelines, how much dairy you should consume each day varies depending on things like your age and gender.

The current Australian Dietary Guidelines recommends:

How to eat more dairy

Dairy foods are convenient and versatile, making them easy to include in a healthy, balanced diet. With a wide variety of dairy foods available, enjoying your recommended amount every day is easy. However, it is recommended that at least 50 per cent of your dairy intake comes from reduced-fat varieties.

Here are some ideas...

• Start the day with a bowl of wholegrain cereal topped with a cup of low-fat milk.

• If you drink coffee, make it a latte (or other milk-based variety).

• Enjoy a bowl of fruit and yogurt for breakfast or a healthy snack.

• Add a slice of cheese to your sandwich.

• Shred low-fat cheese over your veggies at dinner, or add to your salad.

• Add a dollop of natural yogurt to a baked potato.

• Blend up some fruit, yogurt and milk for an energising smoothie.

• Snack on low-fat cheese on wholegrain crackers.

• Try cottage cheese with your favourite fruit or raw veggies.

• Make homemade salad dressing using plain non-fat yogurt.

• Grate or shave parmesan or mozzarella cheese on pasta dishes.

• Enjoy frozen yogurt for dessert (if you can’t resist an after-dinner treat!)

• Have a warm glass of milk in the evening before bed.

What about other sources of calcium?

It’s true that dairy isn’t the only way to get your calcium – it’s just the easiest. Foods such as canned fish eaten with the bones, green leafy vegetables, nuts such as almonds, cereals and legumes also provide calcium, but in much smaller amounts than dairy foods.

The following foods contain about the same amount of calcium as a serve of milk, yogurt or cheese:

• 100g almonds with skin

• 60g sardines, canned in water

• ½ cup canned pink salmon with bones

• 100g firm tofu (but check the label as calcium levels vary)

(Source: Healthy Bones Action Week)

Find out more at healthybones.com.au and use the handy Healthy Bones Calcium Planner tool to help make sure you’re eating enough calcium-rich foods throughout the day.

Extra   Check out our guide to the Australian Dietary Guidelines for more help planning a balanced diet.
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