University of Illinois Extension

Milk Group

Foods in this group are excellent sources of calcium. recommends that most individuals consume 3 8-ounce glasses of low-fat or non-fat milk or its equivalent every day. Each glass of milk will provide about 300 milligrams of calcium towards your daily goal.

Foods made with milk such as yogurt and cheese also contain calcium. The amount of calcium each has will vary so check the Nutrition Facts Label to see how much calcium a serving of each food will provide for you. Yogurt and cheese also varies in the amount of fat, so choosing reduced-fat products can be part of a healthy diet. Additionally, yogurt calories vary according to the amount of sugar added, so beware of how many calories you are getting from these foods.

Foods in the Milk Group are also good sources of protein, and are often fortified with vitamin D. Read the label to make sure the foods you are purchasing have vitamin D added. Cow’s milk always has vitamin D added. Soymilk usually does, but the amount may vary. Some yogurts have vitamin D added. Cheese can be high in sodium. Choose lower sodium cheeses, or limit your intake of cheese to keep your overall diet lower in sodium.

Low-Fat Cheeses

Serving SizeCalcium
Part-skim Ricotta¼ cup150805
Part Skim Mozzarella1 oz.200805
Fat-free Mozzarella
(not recommended to use in cooking)
1 oz.150450
1% milk-fat Cottage Cheese½ cup69821
Low-fat Cream Cheese1 oz.36624
Non-fat American cheese1 oz.150300
Reduced-fat Cheddar Cheese1 oz.200906

Nutrition Facts on other popular cheeses

Serving SizeCalcium
Cheddar1 oz.2001109176
Mozzarella 1 oz.203 817130
Cottage Cheese½ cup691095460
Cream Cheese1 oz.36991084
Feta Cheese1 oz.138746313
American Cheese1 oz.1501109406
Swiss Cheese1 oz.250100873
Romano Cheese1 oz.3011097340
Monterey Jack Cheese1 oz.2001008150
Colby Cheese1 oz.2001109170
Ricotta Cheese¼ cup127107852
Parmesan Cheese1 oz. 2501107528

Soy Milk

There are many reasons why someone may choose to consume soymilk. Examples of this may be to achieve the benefits of soy, taste, if they are strict vegetarians, or if milk just doesn't agree with them. Soymilk is not an exact replacement for cow's milk. Soymilk, depending on brand, can have varying amounts of: calcium, vitamin D, and B12 as well as other nutrients. Reading the food label of your soy-milk is important so you can be sure that you are getting a product as close to cow's milk as possible.

Lactose Intolerance

What about those who cannot drink milk due to lactose intolerance? Lactose is the sugar found in milk and foods made with milk. It is not a serious disease and it should ease up if you eat less food with lactose of if you use products that help you digest lactose.

If lactose is not digested, it can cause gas and stomach cramps. After eating foods containing lactose, you may experience gas, diarrhea, stomach bloating, or feel sick to your stomach.

You may be able to eat a small amount of some foods with lactose. For example you may be able to eat yogurt or aged cheeses like cheddar and Swiss, but not drink milk. You may be able to eat some foods prepared with milk. To determine which foods you can eat is a trial and error method - try small amounts of foods containing milk and see how you feel.

Over the counter medications in pill or liquid form are available at drug stores and grocery stores that will help you digest lactose. The pills are called lactase enzyme caplets and you chew them right before you eat a food containing lactose. The liquid can be added to milk before you drink it and is called lactase enzyme drops. You may also consider drinking lactose-reduced milk.