What foods are included in the Dairy Group?

How much food from the Dairy Group is needed daily?
The amount of dairy foods you need to eat depends on your age. The amount each person needs can vary between 2 and 3 cups each day. Those who are very physically active may need more. Recommended daily amounts are shown in the table below.

All fluid milk products and many foods made from milk are considered part of the Dairy Group. Foods made from milk that retain their calcium content are part of the group. Foods made from milk that have little to no calcium, such as cream cheese, cream, and butter, are not part of the Dairy Group

The dairy group includes all liquid milk and products made with milk that retain their calcium after processing, including yogurt and cheese. Calcium-fortified soy milk is also part of the dairy group. Cream cheese, cream, and butter are not included because processing reduces or causes them to lose their calcium content.

Consuming dairy products can contribute to improved bone health. Other nutrients present in dairy products can contribute to maintaining healthy blood pressure.

Table 1. Daily Recommendations for the Dairy Group

Age

Cup(s)

Children

2–3 years
4–8 years

2
2 1/2

Girls

9–13 years
14–18 years

3
3

Boys

9–13 years
14–18 years

3
3

Women

19–30 years
31–50 years
51+ years

3
3
3

Men

19–30 years
31–50 years
51+ years

3
3
3

What does one cup from the dairy group mean?
1 cup of milk
1 cup of calcium-fortified soy milk
1 cup of yogurt
1 1/2 ounces (2 slices) of hard cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss, Parmesan)
1/3 cup of shredded hard cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss, Parmesan; equivalent to 1 1/2 ounces)
2 ounces (3 slices) of processed cheese (American)
1 1/2 cups of ice cream
1 cup of pudding made with milk
2 cups of cottage cheese

“Go, Slow, Whoa” Foods
An easy way to make smart and nutritious choices within the dairy group is to use the “Go, Slow, Whoa” concept.

“Go” foods are the most nutrient-dense; they contain more of the nutrients you need with relatively fewer calories. Eat them almost any time, based on your calorie needs.
– Examples: fat-free or 1% low-fat milk; fat-free or low-fat yogurt; part-skim, reduced-fat, or fat-free cheese; low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese.
“Slow” foods are higher in calories, fat, and/or sugar than “Go” foods. Eat them sometimes, at most several times a week.
– Examples: 2% low-fat milk, processed cheese spread.
“Whoa” foods are high in calories, fat, and/or sugar and offer little nutritional value. Eat them only once in a while or on special occasions, and in small portions.
– Examples: whole milk; full-fat American, cheddar, Colby, or Swiss cheese; whole-milk yogurt; ice cream; cream cheese.

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