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Ask the Nutrition Expert: Do We Really Need Three Daily Servings of Dairy?

Good things come in threes, including three servings of dairy foods (milk, cheese and yogurt).

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends three daily servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods for everyone age 9 and up (two and a half servings for children aged 4-8 and two servings for children aged 2-3). There’s a good reason for these recommendations. Eating three daily servings of low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese or yogurt can help people meet their needs for essential nutrients:

  • Milk provides nine essential nutrients: protein, phosphorus, calcium, vitamins A and D as well as B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid) and B12 (cobalamin)
  • Yogurt provides seven essential nutrients: protein, phosphorus, calcium, zinc, B2 (riboflavin), B5 (pantothenic acid) and B12 (cobalamin)
  • Cheese provides six essential nutrients: protein, phosphorus, calcium, B3 (niacin), vitamin A and B12 (cobalamin)

Three daily servings of dairy also contribute three of the four underconsumed nutrients of public concern—calcium, vitamin D and potassium. Note: The fourth is fiber, which can be found in foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans ― all foods that pair well with dairy!

Three daily servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods, as part of healthy eating patterns, is linked to bone health, especially in children and adolescents, as well as reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure among adults.

Despite the benefits, unfortunately, most Americans are getting just shy of two servings on average every day. While there are plenty of nutritional reasons for people to want to eat their three servings, don’t forget that dairy tastes great, and is portable, accessible, affordable and more.

Here are some easy and creative ways to include just one more serving:

  • Grab a yogurt for a snack.
  • Enjoy string cheese with some almonds and grapes.
  • Mix up a smoothie with yogurt, milk and frozen fruit.
  • Top salads, casseroles, soups or veggies with grated cheese.
  • Make a packet of onion or ranch dip with Greek yogurt and dip your favorite veggies or whole grain crackers into it.
  • Make pudding with low-fat milk and mix in extra whey protein powder then enjoy with fresh fruit.
  • Grab a cold glass of low-fat milk.
  • Warm up low-fat chocolate milk for hot chocolate.

Do you have a specific question for one of them? Tweet it to @NtlDairyCouncil or email us at Kelly.Moynihan@dairy.org.