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The Dairy Case - Bone Up on Calcium

July 31, 2013 by HealthyFamilies BC

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One in four Canadian women and one in eight men have osteoporosis, a condition where bones get thinner and break easily. The good news is that you can reduce your risk of osteoporosis by ensuring you're getting enough bone-building minerals such as calcium and vitamins such as vitamin D every day, as well as including weight-bearing exercise in your regular routine. Include sources of these important nutrients in your family’s meal plan every day from the Milk and Alternatives food group.

Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide, recommends that adults need 2-3 servings of milk and alternatives each day. Children and teens need 2-4 servings. 

What is a Serving?

  • 250 mL (1 cup) whole, 2% or skim
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) canned evaporated milk
  • 250 mL (1 cup) fortified soy beverage
  • 175 g (3/4 cup) yogurt
  • 175 g (3/4 cup) kefir
  • 50 g (1 ½ oz) cheese

What type of milk is best for children?

Between one and two years of age, children who are no longer being breastfed, or receiving iron fortified infant formula, should be served whole milk. This is because the fat is an important source of energy and other essential nutrients. After two years of age, there should be a gradual transition from whole milk to 2% to skim milk.

Butter, cream, cream cheese, sour cream, whipping cream and table cream are not a part of this food group. They contain mostly fat and little calcium or protein.

Watch our VIDEO "Shopping Sense - Best Buys in Milk and Alternatives" for money saving tips in the Dairy Section of the grocery store.

Is Probiotic Yogurt a Healthier Choice?

Any product labeled as "probiotics" means that it contains active cultures that may be beneficial for digestion, but it is often more costly than other yogurt. The bottom line is to choose lower fat, lower sugar varieties that have at least 15% DV for calcium.

Not a Milk Drinker?

While Milk and Alternatives are your best source of calcium, if you don't drink milk, call 8-1-1 to talk with a Registered Dietitian to make sure you are getting enough calcium and vitamin D. Here are some other foods that can help to boost your calcium intake. 

  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) orange juice with calcium
  • 250 ml (1 cup) fortified unsweetened soy beverage
  • 6 figs, dried
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) white beans
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) broccoli, cooked
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) almonds
  • 79 g (1/2 cup) salmon, canned with bones

In most parts of Canada, especially in the winter, most people do not get enough vitamin D from sunlight so we need to include foods that are fortified with vitamin D. The need for vitamin D also increases with age so people over 50 years should take a daily vitamin D supplement of 10 ug or 400 IU in addition to following Canada's Food Guide.


  • Milk, yogurt and soy beverages are great low sodium choices from the dairy section.
  • Compare the Percent Daily Value (%DV) on the Nutrition Facts table and choose dairy products that are lowest in sodium.
  • Most cheese is high in sodium - use it sparingly.
  • For more information, check out our Sodium Articles and Blogs.
Watch our VIDEO "Shopping Sense - Best Buys in Milk and Alternatives" for money saving tips in the Dairy Section of the grocery store.
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