With a large number of milks on the market it is easy to become confused as to which is best for your family. So I thought I’d explain a few important facts about milk!

Why do we need to drink it?

Milk is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, particularly calcium. With the high levels of calcium, milk is recognised for its important role in bone health. Doctors and Dietitians recommend that milk and other dairy products be consumed daily as part of a balanced diet.

Milk is a great source of nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, Calcium, Riboflavin, Phosporous, Vitamins A, D and B12 and Panthothenic acid. These nutrients are particularly important to toddlers and young children for the optimal development of healthy bones.

What do the different types mean?

There are four main types of milk:

  • Full-fat (4% fat or 10 grams of fat per 250ml glass)
  • Reduced-fat (2% fat or 4 grams of fat per glass)
  • Low-fat (less than 1.5% fat or less than 2 gram of fat per glass)
  • Skim/No fat (less than 0.15% or less than 1 gram of fat per glass)

When choosing which milk to drink we need to consider the amount of fat that each product will provide in a day. The following table demonstrates the amount of fat in Full Cream dairy products versus low fat dairy products

  Full Cream Dairy Grams (g) fat Low-fat Dairy Grams (g) Fat
Breakfast 250ml of milk and cereal 10 250ml of skim milk and cereal 0.2
Morning Tea 300ml Cappuccino 12 300ml Skinny Cappuccino 0.2
Lunch Toasted sandwich w Chicken, cheese and avocado 17.5 Toasted sandwich w Chicken, low-fat cheese and avocado 1.5
Afternoon Tea Yoghurt and fruit 6 Low fat Yoghurt and fruit 2.6
Dinner Carbonara pasta (made with cream) 12 Carbonara pasta (made with skim milk) 0.2
Dessert Ice-cream 12 Low-fat ice-cream 3
Total 69.5g   7.7g


What should I (Mum/Dad) be drinking?

I think the answer to this question should be starting to become a little clearer!!! Australian adults should be choosing reduced fat dairy products. Especially for those trying to lose weight, the choice should always be low-fat/no-fat dairy products. The health benefits of reducing fat from dairy are well recognised. This is due to the majority of fat in dairy being ‘saturated fat.’ Without going into too much detail (maybe this should be a future topic!) fat comes in 2 different forms: Saturated and Unsaturated (let’s just ignore trans-fats at the moment). Saturated fats are the ‘bad’ fats, these are derived from animal sources or take-away foods. Un-saturated fats are the ‘good’ fats that are plant based fats like olive oil and avocado. Well the bottom line is, fat from milk is the ‘bad’ fats.

What should I be giving my children?

From 12 months of age children are recommended to have Full Cream Milk. Other dairy foods such as full cream cheese and yoghurt can be introduced from 6 months. Once a child reaches the age of 2 it is recommended by the National Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents that they consume reduced-fat milk.

The potential benefit of swapping a child’s milk over when they are young is that they become used to it before knowing any different and there is no problem swapping it over. We all know how difficult it is to change kids’ food once they reach school age! Low-fat varieties of milk tend to be a little on the light side for children unless weight is a problem.

Is flavoured milk a ‘No No’?

A recent study has found that children in the US who avoid milk tend to be more overweight than children who do drink milk. It is thought that this is due to children who do not drink milk replacing it with high energy drinks such as fruit juice and soft drinks. Children and adolescence require a large volume of calcium for growing bones. It can be often difficult to get this age group to drink adequate amounts of milk. Milk is a much healthier choice than sugary drinks, and therefore making a reduced fat (for children over 2 years) flavoured milk drinks a better choice for your children.


Milk allergies are more common in very young children and most tend to grow out of them or build up a tolerance to milk.

Lactose intolerance is a condition where an individual doesn’t product enough lactase. This results in undigested lactose being broken up by the bacteria in the large intestines causing gas, bloating, pain and sometimes diarrhoea. Lactase if an enzyme in the small intestine that breaks down the lactose found in milk so that it can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Lactose is the type of carbohydrate that is naturally occurring and found in any time of milk made from an animal.

Avoiding all dairy is not necessary for individuals with lactose intolerance. Most people can have small amounts of dairy products. Individuals can still consume milk in moderate quantities and also have the option of buying lactose-free milk. Some dairy foods contain minimal amounts of lactose, which means that people with lactose intolerance can consume these foods. Foods that contain less lactose include some yoghurts, mature cheeses (like cheddar cheese, fetta and mozzarella), butter, and evaporated milk.

Written by Sally – ShapeUp Mums trainer and resident dietitian.

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