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Feature Articles: Eating Well, Dietary Guidelines for Americans


Increasing calcium intake: Fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products

Greta Hopke, RD & Candance Gabel, MS, RD, LD, Associate State Nutrition Specialist, University of Missouri Extension


Is it important to drink milk? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans says yes. Based on dietary intake and evidence of public health problems, the Dietary Guidelines reports that calcium intake is a concern for children, adolescents and adults.

Milk and milk products provide calcium, which is important for normal growth. Children and adults should consume enough milk and dairy products to build and maintain healthy bones and teeth.

The Dietary Guidelines recommends children ages 2–3 years consume 2 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products. Children 4–8 years should get 2½ cups per day. Children ages 9 and older should consume 3 cups per day.


A 1-cup serving is equal to 1 cup of fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt, 1½ ounces of low-fat or fat-free natural cheese (such as cheddar or mozzarella), and 2 ounces of low-fat or fat-free processed cheese. Other foods that contain calcium include calcium-fortified cereals and soy milk, canned salmon with bones, and cooked spinach or collard greens. If you are lactose intolerant and can’t digest milk products, try yogurt or lactose-free milk to meet your calcium needs.

blueberry smoothiesTips for including milk and milk products in your diet:

  • Make a smoothie for breakfast by combining fat-free or low-fat yogurt, milk and fruit.
  • Drink fat-free or low-fat milk with meals.
  • Top entrees, casseroles or vegetables with fat-free or low-fat cheese.
  • Have low-fat or fat-free yogurt for snacks or dessert.



Adapted from Dietary Guidelines for Americans, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture, January 2005.


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