How Many Milk and Alternatives Do You Need?

white milk being poured into a glass

We know that Milk and Alternatives are important for building strong bones. But how many servings do you need each day?

Bonus! Watch the video to see this information in action.

Canada’s Food Guide recommends 2-3 servings of milk and alternatives a day depending on your age.







14-18 years

19-50 years

51+ years

Boys and Girls
















Examples of one food guide serving of milk and alternatives:

  • 250 mL (1 cup) milk -- skim, 1% or 2% milk, mixed powdered milk, chocolate milk, buttermilk, canned evaporated milk or fortified soy beverage
  • 175 g (¾ cup) yogurt or kefir
  • 50 g (1 ½ oz.) cheese (size of two thumbs)
  • 1/3 cup (50 g) shredded cheese
  • 250 mL (1 cup) quark or cottage cheese

Find out more about Food Guide Servings in the Milk and Alternatives food group. 

How to get enough milk and alternatives

An easy way to get enough Milk and Alternatives is to eat a serving at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Here’s an example of what your day could look like:


1 boiled egg

Whole wheat English muffin with 1 tbsp peanut butter

1 orange, sliced

1 cup milk

1 Food Guide serving


Noodle soup (soba noodles, broth, salmon, colourful veggies, tofu)

Yogurt (3/4 cup) topped with berries

1 Food Guide serving


Beef and bean chili with ¼ cup shredded cheese

Brown rice

Green salad with carrots and tomato slices

½ cup milk

1 Food Guide serving


3 Food Guide servings

Five ways to save money when buying milk and milk alternatives

  1. Buy milk in bags rather than cartons. If you are buying soy beverages, choose the ones in the dairy case instead of the shelf-stable cartons (these are more expensive).
  2. Buy plain yogurt and add your own fresh or frozen fruit for flavour and texture.
  3. Buy no-name hard cheese in larger blocks. Most firm or hard cheese can be frozen so if you can’t use it all before it spoils divide it into smaller portions and freeze.  Tip: Shred the cheese before you freeze it so you can add to pizzas, quesadillas, omelettes, soups and pasta.
  4. Buy cottage cheese and yogurt in larger containers.
  5. Mix skim milk powder with water according to package directions. You can drink it or add it to soups, casseroles, sauces, puddings or baked goods.

How to store milk and alternatives

  • Check the "best before" date and use milk products before the date expires.
  • Store most milk products in the fridge, except for shelf-stable (UHT) cartons, powdered milk or canned products.
  • Store milk and soy beverages that are sold refrigerated in the main part of the fridge where it is colder, not the door. Use up by the best-before date.
  • Milk sold in UHT cartons will keep in a cool, dry place for up to six months.
  • Refrigerate opened containers of canned and UHT milk. Opened canned milk should be transferred to a clean glass container and covered. Use it within three weeks of opening.
  • Powdered milk will keep for up to one year if stored in a cool, dry place. Once the package is opened, it should be used within three months. Once made into fluid milk, it keeps for 5-7 days in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer.
  • Shelf-stable soy beverages, if unopened, can be kept for up to one year in a cool, dry place.
  • Store all yogurts in the main part of the fridge. Once opened, use the yogurt within a week and before the best before date.
  • Plastic wrap is the best way to store cheese in the fridge. It also provides the tightest seal to protect cheese from moisture, odours and mould. Make sure that the wrapping sticks well to the cheese to avoid drying out. Store your cheeses in the lower shelf of your refrigerator, far from foods with strong odours, to avoid absorbing unwanted smells.
  • You can eat cheese that has a bit of mould on it as long as the cheese is firm, semi-soft or hard. Cut off at least 1 inch of the mouldy cheese and wrap the rest in a new piece of plastic wrap. However, if the rind is dry and yellowed and smells bad the cheese should be discarded.
  • Soft or fresh cheeses that show signs of mould should be thrown out.
  • All cheeses can be frozen, but freezing can affect their texture and character. This is why thawed cheeses are best for cooking. You can freeze cheese for 6-8 months. Wrap them carefully in plastic wrap or aluminium foil and place them in an airtight freezer bag.

Try these recipes:

Chicken and Corn Chowder

Canadiana Yogurt

Layered Yogurt Pops

Mac and “Squeese”

Ground Up Frog Smoothie

You may also be interested in:

Calcium Sources

Getting Enough Calcium when you are Lactose Intolerant

What you need to know about calcium

Last Update – May 1, 2018

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