Dairy and alternatives
Milk and dairy products, such as cheese and yoghurt, are great sources of protein and calcium. This page includes information on making healthy choices, what pregnant women and children should eat and avoid, and also health and allergy advice.
Source of protein and calcium
Your body needs protein to work properly and to grow or repair themselves.
Calcium helps to keep your bones strong.
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.
Choose lower-fat dairy foods where possible because these are healthier choices.
Healthy choices for adults
The total fat content of dairy products can vary a lot.
Fat in milk provides calories for young children and also contains essential vitamins such as vitamins A and D.
You can check the amount of fat, salt and sugar in most dairy foods by looking at the nutrition information on the label.
If you compare similar products you will be able to make healthier choices.
A recommended portion of a dairy product includes:
- 200ml glass of milk
- 1 yoghurt pot (120g)
- 30g of cheese (matchbox size)
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.
Or choose reduced-fat hard cheeses or other cheeses low in fat, such as reduced-fat cottage cheese and quark.
Other dairy foods
Butter is high in fat, so try to use it sparingly. Low-fat spreads can be used instead of butter.
Cream is also high in fat so use this sparingly too. You can use plain yoghurt and fromage frais instead of cream, soured cream or crème fraîche in recipes.
When eating yoghurts or fromage frais, you can choose low-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 or soya, 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.
But when pregnant, 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: