Log in to your account

Not a member yet?

Subscribe now



HFG guide to milk

Nutritionist Rose Carr investigates the varieties of milk on offer and their nutritional value.

The most recent National Nutrition Survey (in 1997) found the majority of adults still chose standard milk over trim milk. Hopefully,
the survey being done now will tell us this has changed. Dairy fat is high in saturated fat, so the less fat, the better for our heart health.

As an added bonus, trim milk also has fewer kilojoules. We advise using milk with around 1.5% fat or less. The exception is for young children (see table below).

In New Zealand, milk and bone health are strongly linked: in 1997, dairy products supplied on average over half of our calcium, and milk made up the bulk of that, providing 37% of our total calcium intake.

But many people still don't get the calcium they need to keep their bones strong over their lifetime. Choosing higher-calcium milk can be a good way to boost calcium intake.

We love all stock-standard reduced-fat, trim or extra-trim milk. If price is important, just find the cheapest milk with the lowest fat content that you like the taste of. These all supply a good amount of calcium at 120mg per 100ml or more. For those less price-conscious, there are many choices and while we think there are better ways to get your omega-3 than from fortified milk, getting some omega-3 from milk won't do you any harm. Two types of milk we like are the ultra-filtered milks and the new milk with added prebiotic.

Ultra-filtered milk such as Anchor Xtra, Meadow Fresh Calci-Trim and Sun Latte have some of the water, lactose and fat filtered out, so the amount of protein and calcium is higher in the finished product and the fat content is lower. These milks have more body, and the extra protein helps you feel full longer, so they are good as part of a meal or snack. They're also good for anyone wanting to boost calcium intake.

New to the market prebiotic milk, is milk which has added inulin – a prebiotic naturally found in garlic, asparagus, onions, leeks and artichokes. Prebiotics feed the good bacteria in the colon, so they are good for gut health. There's also a lot of emerging research around other benefits of prebiotics and a number of studies have found inulin improves the absorption of calcium.

It's important to remember these guidelines for young children as their dietary needs are different.

  • Cow's milk should not be given to infants under 12 months of age.
  • Before two years old, a higher-fat milk (dark blue) is recommended.
  • After two years, gradually introduce lower-fat milk.
  • Rice milk is not suitable as a sole milk replacement for children under five.
Type of cow's milk Usual label colour Fat %* Sat. fat %* Energy in 250ml glass*
Extra/Super trim Light green 0.1 0.1 375kJ
Trim Green 0.5 0.4 420kJ
Reduced fat/Lite Light blue 1.5 1.0 500kJ
Standard Dark blue 3.3 2.2 650kJ

*Approximate values. May vary across brands.

Date modified: April 3 2017
First published: Nov 2009

Join healthyfood.com today from as little as 1 per month* using code:

Shopping list saved to go to meal plans