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Dairy Council

Childhood

Milk and milk products such as cheese and yogurt can play an important part in a healthy, balanced diet for children, and in helping to meet their nutrient needs. Along with calcium, they provide valuable nutrients for growing children including protein and vitamin B12.

The recommended amount of calcium required by children of different ages is shown below. This is also a guide to the portions of milk and dairy foods which could contribute towards meeting their calcium needs.

1-3 years
Calcium Needs:
350 mg/d

  • 100ml whole/semi skimmed milk

  • 80g yogurt

  • 15g cheese

4-6 years
Calcium Needs:
450 mg/d

  • 130ml semi–skimmed milk

  • 100g yogurt

  • 20g cheese

7-10 years
Calcium needs:
550 mg/d

  • 150ml semi–skimmed milk

  • 125g yogurt

  • 25g cheese

The benefits of milk and dairy foods for children

  • Milk and milk products (such as cheese and yogurt) can play an important part in a healthy balanced diet for children

  • During childhood, bones grow in length and strength, and it is important that children have the right nutrients to help build strong and healthy bones, and to lay the foundations for lifelong bone health

  • Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt can provide children with a variety of important nutrients such as calcium, protein and phosphorus which contribute to the normal growth and development of bones 

  • Dairy foods can also provide children with other important nutrients. Milk, for example, is a source of vitamin B2 which contributes to the maintenance of normal skin and vitamin B12 which is needed to make red blood cells, for normal psychological function and can contribute to a reduction of tiredness and fatigue

  • Milk is also a good source of iodine which is needed for the normal growth of children, along with normal cognitive function.

Find out more about the functions of the nutrients in milk and dairy foods.

Nutients in milk for children

The following shows the percentage (%) of a primary school child’s nutrient needs* provided by a carton of semi–skimmed school milk (189ml)

Nutrient

  • Vitamin B2

  • Vitamin B12

  • Calcium

  • Phosphorus

  • Iodine

  • Protein

4–6 years

  • 59%

  • 100%+

  • 52%

  • 52%

  • 28%

  • 34%

7–10 years

  • 47%

  • 100%+

  • 43%

  • 41%

  • 15%

  • 24%

* Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI)

Why not find out more about the School Milk Scheme?

Types of milk for children

  • Between the ages of one and two, it is recommended that toddlers have whole milk rather than lower fat varieties of milk (such as semi–skimmed, skimmed milk and one percent). Compared with lower fat milks, whole milk provides extra energy and vitamin A, which are important for growing children

  • After the age of two, semi–skimmed milk can gradually be introduced to a child’s diet, provided they are growing well and consuming a balanced diet

  • Skimmed milk and 1% fat milk are not suitable as main drinks for children under five

  • Only breast milk or formula milk should be given as a main drink to children under one as cow’s milk does not contain the right balance of nutrients to meet a baby’s needs at this age

  • After six months, cow’s milk can be used for cooking – for example to make a cheese sauce – and can be introduced as a main drink after the age of one.