Milk and dairy foods

Milk and dairy foods are important during childhood as they are a good source of calcium, vitamins A and D, protein and fat. Calcium is needed to help build strong bones and for nerve and muscle function. Vitamin D is needed to help absorb calcium and therefore plays an important part in strengthening bone.

Peak bone mass is the maximum bone density achieved in life and this occurs between the ages of 18–30 years. Childhood and adolescence is therefore a crucial time to lay down calcium stores, which strengthen bone by making it more dense. Once peak bone mass is achieved, bone begins to lose calcium stores and weaken. If good stores have not been built up in early life, there is a greater risk of osteoporosis later in life.

Whole milk should be given to children up until the age of 2. If a child is eating a varied diet from 2 years, semi-skimmed milk may be given. Semi-skimmed milk contains less fat but just as much calcium.