How To Meet Your Dietary Needs Through Dairy

by Tiffany Naticchioni, RDN, LD

Last Updated: February 9, 2021

Did you know that about 90% of Americans do not get enough dairy? The dairy food group includes milk, yogurt, cheese, lactose-free milk, and fortified soy milk and yogurt. It does not include foods with lower calcium and higher fat content, such as cream cheese, sour cream, and butter. Read more to find out how much you should be getting and which sources might fit your preferences and regimen.

How much dairy do you need?
The amount can vary depending on your age, simply because the recommended intake amount increases as you grow. We measure dairy servings in cups, such as milk, soy milk, and yogurt, and ounces when we refer to cheese. Check out this link for equivalents among the dairy foods. Toddlers need 1.5-2 cups of dairy per day and toddlers, 2.5 cups for children under ten, and 3 cups for children age 10 through adulthood.

What are the nutrients and health benefits?
Dairy products build strong bones and teeth, nourish us with protein, helping sustain our appetites between meals.
  • Nutrients include calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin D (some dairy products are fortified with vitamin D), potassium, zinc, choline, magnesium, and selenium. These nutrients are important for basic metabolic function and are necessary for brain development in toddlers and children.
  • Calcium and Vitamin D are important to all ages. These nutrients improve bone mass and help prevent osteoporosis in adults.

How do you meet your dairy servings each day?
Whether you enjoy dairy or even if your body doesn’t accept it well, there are many options for getting these valuable nutrients. These foods can be incorporated into almost any meal.
  • Foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt from cow’s milk are wholesome dairy options.
  • For those who choose not to have dairy products from cow’s milk, there are many other options, and they’re delicious too:
    • Calcium-fortified juices, cereals, breads, plant-based milks such as rice milk or almond milk are good alternatives.
  • Foods that are not dairy or dairy alternatives, but still contain those nutrients:
    • Canned fish such as sardines or salmon with bones, soybeans, or products made from soy such as tofu or tempeh can be rich in calcium and protein too.
    • Some leafy greens like collard or turnip greens, kale, and bok choy contain calcium.

How do you begin adding these in?
Add them to any meal and snack. Try these suggestions.
  • Breakfast: Use milk or soy milk (no sugar added) in your cereal, oatmeal, or coffee; you can even add it in as a beverage at any point throughout the day.
  • Snacks: Enjoy light mozzarella cheese sticks, Light Babybel semi-soft cheese, or Laughing Cow light spreadable cheese to spread over whole grain crackers or vegetables like cucumbers or carrots
  • Lunch: Add a slice of cheese to a lunch meat sandwich or have 1/2 a cup of low-fat cottage cheese with your favorite fruit or vegetable for flavor and variety. You could also have low fat shredded cheese as a salad topping.
  • Dinner: It can be beneficial to have a glass of milk at dinner time. Have you ever tried freezing your individual yogurt servings? They make a great dessert.

No matter how you choose to get your dairy servings into your regimen, do so in the amount recommended and within the serving size on the nutrition label. If you have questions or would like to discuss adding dairy into your and your family’s regimen, contact a registered dietitian at Kroger Health via this link.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.


Tiffany Naticchioni, RDN, LD

Tiffany Naticchioni, RDN, LD

Tiffany is a compassionate dietitian with experience in nutrition throughout her lifespan along with empowering those with diabetes and heart disease to use food as medicine. A believer in total body wellness, she has a decade of experience as a licensed massage therapist. With a passion for healthy living, she practices hot yoga, enjoys most any fitness activities, stays active in the community, and loves spending time with her family.