How much dairy should I eat per day?

You need three cups of dairy per day. Dairy foods contain calcium, which is necessary for growth, strong bones and teeth. Calcium-fortified soy milk is also in this food group. Examples of dairy include liquid milk products and foods made from milk. 

Dairy products include milk, yogurt, and cheese. They are good sources of calcium, protein, and vitamins A and D. But many dairy products are high in fat. And some people have trouble digesting them. So choose low-fat dairy products or dairy substitutes. Aim for 3 dairy servings (about 3 cups) of low-fat milk products each day. Some good choices are listed below.

Low-fat dairy products:

  • 1 cup of 2%, 1%, or skim (fat-free) milk
  • 1 cup of low-fat or fat-free yogurt
  • 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese

Low-fat dairy substitutes:

  • Fortified soymilk, rice milk, and almond milk
  • Lactaid, Dairy Ease, and similar products (for people who can't have lactose)
Intermountain Registered Dietitians
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist
Stick with products that are 1% fat or less, and aim for 3 servings (3 cups) every day. Sample servings (portions) are:
  • 1 cup low-fat, skim, or fat-free milk
  • 1 cup fortified soy milk, rice milk, or almond milk
  • 1 cup low-fat yogurt or calcium-fortified soy yogurt
  • 1 ounce low-fat cheese
  • ½ cup low-fat cottage cheese
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

The recommended daily serving size of dairy products based on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) dinner plate guidelines is 3 cups, including:

  • 1 cup of milk = Small carton (or 8 ounces [oz])
  • 1.5 oz of cheese = 2 (9 volt) batteries
  • 1/2 cup of ice cream = 1/2 the size of a baseball

Tip: Choose fat-free or low-fat milk (1%), yogurt or cheese. Low-fat and fat-free milk products contain the same amount of calcium, protein and vitamin D as whole dairy products; however, they offer less fat, saturated fat and calories.

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Dr. David L. Katz, MD, MPH
Preventive Medicine Specialist

A vegan or vegetarian would avoid these foods. If you don't wish to go that route, choose at least two servings of fat-free, skim, or low-fat options per day.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.