Dairy & MyPlate Back »

Through the years, a variety of food guide systems have steered Americans towards good nutrition; helping them know what and how much to eat. Dating back to 1916, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) food guide system was called “How to Select Food”. In the 1940’s the guide was called “A Guide to Good Food” which showcased 7 food groups. Spanning the next 36 years, there were 3 more food guide systems prior to the “Food Guide Pyramid”, which was introduced in 1992. The “pyramid” concept was revamped in 2005 to “My Pyramid”; it incorporated an updated icon that included physical activity. Our current USDA food guide system is Choose MyPlate also known as “MyPlate”; it was added in 2011. It includes an icon that is associated with mealtime for consumers. A common thread that runs through all the past and current food guide systems is the Dairy or Milk group.

According to MyPlate, the Dairy group encompasses all fluid milk products including fluid milk (skim, 1%, 2%, whole milk, flavored milks, lactose-reduced milks and lactose-free milks.) The Dairy group also embodies foods that are made from milk, that retain their calcium content. Examples include milk-based desserts (puddings, ice milk, frozen yogurt and ice cream); cheese (hard natural cheeses, soft cheeses and processed cheeses); and all yogurts (fat-free, low fat, reduced fat and whole milk yogurt). Foods made from milk that have little to no calcium, such as cream, butter and cream cheese, are not part of the Dairy group.

Consuming dairy products provides nutrients needed for bone health and reduces the risk of osteoporosis. The Dairy food group provides vital nutrients; calcium, vitamin D, potassium and protein. Milk has calcium which is important for strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D keeps calcium and phosphorus levels maintained, which then help to build and maintain bones. Potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure.

Recommended amounts of daily dairy consumption:

Children 2-3 years old – 2 cups
4-8 years old – 2-1/2 cups
Girls 9-13 years old – 3 cups
14-18 years old – 3 cups
Boys 9-13 years old – 3 cups
14-18 years old – 3 cups
19-30 years old – 3 cups
Women 31-50 years old – 3 cups
51+ years old – 3 cups
Men 31-50 years old – 3 cups
51+ years old – 3 cups


During an infant's first 12 months, they need to consume breast milk and/or formula. Toddlers 1-2 years old should drink whole milk for the dietary fats needed for normal growth and brain development.

For individuals who do not consume dairy products, calcium food sources include: Calcium fortified juices and cereals, canned fish, soybeans and some leafy greens. Check out Tips for Making Wise Choices in the Dairy Group for additional non-milk calcium sources and creative methods for incorporating the Dairy group into your diet. Check out Got Your Dairy Today? 10 tips to help you eat and drink more fat-free or low-fat dairy foods.


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