Dairy and alternatives
Milk and dairy products, such as cheese and yoghurt, are great sources of protein and calcium. They can form part of a healthy diet.
Source of protein and calcium
Protein is essential for the body to grow and repair itself.
Calcium helps keep your bones healthy and regulates muscle contractions.
The calcium in dairy foods is particularly good for you because your body absorbs it easily.
Milk and dairy products are good sources of both protein and calcium and form part of a healthy diet.
However, whole milk and many dairy products can be high in saturated fat.
Go for lower-fat dairy products where possible as these are healthier options.
Healthy dairy options
The total fat content of dairy products can vary a lot.
Much of the fat in milk and dairy foods is saturated fat. Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of developing heart disease.
You can check the amount of fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar in most dairy foods by looking at the nutrition information on the label.
Try to compare the nutritional information on different products. This will help you understand which products are healthier.
A recommended portion of a dairy product includes:
- 200ml glass of milk
- 1 yoghurt pot (120g)
- 30g of cheese (matchbox size)
Butter and cream
Butter and cream are not classified as dairy foods as they are high in saturated fat.
Cheese can form part of a healthy diet. However, it’s a good idea to keep track of how much you eat and how often.
Most cheeses, including Brie, Stilton, cheddar, Lancashire and Double Gloucester, contain between 20g and 40g of fat per 100g.
Foods that contain more than 17.5g of fat per 100g are high in fat.
Some cheeses can also be high in salt. Eating too much salt can contribute towards high blood pressure.
If you're using cheese to flavour a dish or a sauce, try using a more strongly flavoured cheese such as mature cheddar or blue cheese because then you'll need less.
Go for reduced-fat hard cheeses or other cheeses low in fat, such as reduced-fat cottage cheese and quark.
When eating yoghurts or fromage frais, go for lower-fat varieties. These products contain at least the same amount of protein, calcium and some other vitamins and minerals – such as B vitamins and magnesium – as full-fat versions. They just contain less fat.
When buying dairy alternatives, such as almond, soya or oat milk, go for unsweetened, calcium-fortified varieties.
Advice for children and pregnant women
Dairy foods are important both in pregnancy and for children.
Calcium helps your unborn baby's developing bones to form properly.
However, during pregnancy, there are some cheeses and other dairy products that you should avoid as they may make you ill or harm your baby.
Further information is available at:
Further information on what milk your baby and young child should drink is available at: