An Ode to all things Dairy for National Healthy Bones Week: August 4th-10th

By Guest Blogger Stephanie Savio, BNutDiet(Hons), APD, AN

Them bones, them bones, them dry bones… 

Everyone knows dairy foods are packed full of calcium and calcium is good for your bones, right?  Right.  We have good evidence to tell us that consuming dairy products, particularly milk, is associated with improved bone density, which reduces the risk of osteoporosis.


What else can dairy do?

Dairy foods are about so much more than just good, strong bones. Research shows that consuming milk, yoghurt and cheese is good for your health in so many other ways and can reduce our risk of certain diseases including:

  • Some types of heart disease and stroke
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome


Not only can dairy provide these benefits but it’s also a rich sources of calcium and other minerals, protein, and vitamins, including B12 – it’s enough to make a dietitian swoon.

… But Aussies aren’t getting their daily dairy fix

The average intake of dairy per day is only around half of what it needs to be according to the latest National Nutrition Survey.


So how much is enough?

Thanks to dairy industry advertising in the 90’s, ‘a glass of milk, a piece of cheese and a tub of yoghurt’ a day has been my mantra for getting my dairy fix since I was a kid.  However, this year the clever folks at the National Health & Medical Research Council reviewed our Australian Dietary Guidelines and have worked out more precisely how much dairy our bodies need for good health.


For most of us; men and women aged 19-50, 2½ serves of milk, cheese, yoghurt and/or alternatives per day, is just what the dietitian ordered.

Adolescents and older adults should aim for 3½-4 serves of dairy foods per day.  This is particularly important for older women to compensate for a greater loss of calcium from the bones around menopause. More information on serve sizes for specific groups can be found here.


Choosing mostly reduced fat varieties is the best way to go, as full fat dairy packs a calorific punch.


What does 2½ serves of dairy look like over a day?

  • 1 cup (250ml) reduced fat milk on cereal
  • 1 slice of cheese (40g) on a salad sandwich
  • ¾ cup (200g) reduced fat yoghurt for a snack


Don’t drink cow’s milk?  No worries!

Go for a soy, rice, or other cereal milk.  Taking care to choose a variety that has at least 100mg of added calcium per 100mL. This will make sure your bones don’t miss out on all the goodies.

What might your 2½ serves look like over a day if you don’t drink cow’s milk?

  • 1 soy milk fruit smoothie (made with 250ml calcium enriched soy milk)
  • 2 salmon patties (made with 100g canned pink salmon with bones)
  • Stir fry with tofu (50g firm tofu)

While milk provides the greatest calcium hit, fruit and vegetables also have small amounts of calcium which add up, so make sure you pack plenty into your day.


Reduced fat and low fat and skim, oh my!

Anyone else get confuddled when staring at the milk fridge in the supermarket?  Good.  Me too.  Let me break it down like Chris Brown:

Full cream: Just that – this one has all the fat left in.  Usually around 4% fat, but this will vary depending on the breed of cow.  Four percent doesn’t sound like much, but that’s 10g, or two teaspoons of fat per cup – ouch!

Reduced Fat (may be labeled ‘low fat’): Most reduced fat milks on the supermarket shelf will contain about 11.5% fat- that’s only 4g per cup, which is less than a teaspoon. Quite a saving compared to full cream milk.

Skim: Has virtually no fat <0.15% and half the kilojoules of full cream milk.

If you haven’t tried reduced fat milk for a while, it might be time to give it another go. Advances in technology means they now taste pretty close to full-cream milk. One important point though, reduced fat and skim milks are not suitable for children under 2 years of age as – unlike adults – they need the extra energy for growth.


National Healthy Bones Week: Join the conversation

Here at HELPP, we are celebrating National Healthy Bones week 4th-10th August.

Join our celebration by sharing how you get your serves of dairy in a day?  What tricky ways do you sneak some extra dairy in?  Tweet to @HELPPFlinders and jump on our dairy bandwagon.


What are you waiting for?  Go on, get your dairy on and let’s you and I bring back the milk moustache.

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