Dairy is an important part of a child’s diet as it aids in healthy growth and development. Milk, cheese and yoghurt provide calcium in a readily absorbable and convenient form which is crucial for strong bones and teeth. They are also a good source of other nutrients including protein, vitamins A and D, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and zinc.
Here are the top things to consider when serving dairy at your early childhood service:
Regular full cream milk or skim milk
- Regular full cream milk is an important source of energy and nutrients and should be the only milk used for children under the age of two years.
- For children over the age of two years provide reduced fat or skim milk varieties.
Not all sources of dairy are created equal!
- Cream, sour cream and butter are not appropriate substitutes for milk, yoghurt and cheese. These foods offer few health benefits and are high in saturated fat and/or added sugar.
Don’t forget the calcium!
- Ensure that alternatives to cow’s milk products for children with allergies/intolerances are fortified with calcium. Alternatives such as soy/rice/oat products must be fortified with at least 100mg of added calcium per 100ml.
Top tips to include milk, yoghurt and cheese on the menu
- Include a glass of milk at morning tea and/or afternoon tea. A serve (according to the Menu Planning Guidelines for long day care) of milk is only 100ml which is less than half a cup!
- Serve yoghurt for morning or afternoon tea.
- Make fruit smoothies. This is a good way to use up leftover fruit and milk at the end of the week and is a great activity to do with children.
- Offer cheese and wholemeal or grainy crackers at morning tea or afternoon tea.
- Use grated cheese in main meals such lasagne and other pasta dishes.
- Include yoghurt and/or milk in main meals (e.g. natural yoghurt in a curry).
For more information and ideas on including milk in your menu: Menu ideas and tips for milk and alternatives