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Ohio State University Extension


Putting MyPlate on Your Table: Dairy

Family and Consumer Sciences
Linnette Goard, M.S., Cindy Oliveri, M.S.
Susan Zies, M.Ed., Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension

MyPlate, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food guidance system, helps individuals use the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to make smart choices from every food group. MyPlate includes an interactive, online guide that provides individuals with recommended food amounts to eat, based on gender, age and physical activity level. Personalized guides and other resources can be found at

This fact sheet provides an introduction to the dairy food group.

Why Dairy?

Dairy products provide calcium, potassium, Vitamin D and protein. It is recommended to consume dairy products for good bone health. Consuming dairy products may also reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Consuming dairy products is important to bone health during childhood and adolescence, when bone mass is being built. Dairy products can also help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, and they can also help lower blood pressure in adults.

Which Foods Are in the Dairy Group?

Foods in the dairy group are fluid milk, cheese, milk-based desserts, yogurt and calcium-fortified soy milk.

Choose Fat-Free or Low-Fat Dairy Sources.

Many cheeses, whole milk and some dairy-based desserts are high in saturated fat. To help maintain a healthy body weight and keep blood cholesterol levels healthy, these foods should be limited.

How Much Is Needed From the Dairy Group?

This chart shows the USDA's daily recommendation for dairy intake.

2–3 years old
4–8 years old
2 cups
2½ cups
9–18 years old
3 cups
9–18 years old
3 cups
19+ years old
3 cups
19+ years old
3 cups

Note these equivalents for 1 cup of dairy:

  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1½ ounces hard cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss, Parmesan)
  • ⅓ cup shredded cheese
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups cottage cheese
  • 1 cup frozen yogurt
  • 1 cup calcium-fortified soy milk
  • 1 cup pudding made with milk
  • ¼ cup dry milk powder

Tips for Getting Dairy Foods on Your Table

  • Start your day with a yogurt fruit smoothie.
  • Add fat-free or low-fat milk instead of water to oatmeal.
  • Include milk or calcium-fortified soy milk as a beverage at meals.
  • Have fat-free or low-fat yogurt as a snack.
  • Use fat-free or low-fat milk when making cream soups.
  • Top casseroles, soups, stews or vegetables with shredded, reduced-fat or low-fat cheese.
  • Top a baked potato with fat-free or low-fat yogurt.
  • Use dry milk in place of fluid milk in soups, stews or casseroles.
  • Make pudding with fat-free or low-fat milk, and have it as a dessert or snack.


USDA. "MyPlate." (2010). Accessed October 2014.

USDA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 7th ed. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2010.

Original Authors: Linnette Goard, M.S., Cindy Oliveri, M.S.
Revised by Susan Zies, M.Ed., Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension

Originally posted Feb 20, 2015.