Do I Need to Drink Milk?

I love dairy products but I hate milk (except when it's on cereal). I just can't stand the taste. Is that bad? Should I give it another try?
– Abby*

The reason experts (and parents!) tell us to drink milk is because of its bone-building calcium and other nutrients. The good news is you can get these same nutrients from other dairy products, like yogurt or cheese.

Most teens need about three servings of dairy a day. So if you pour a cup of milk on your cereal, eat a cup of low-fat yogurt at lunch, and use about 11/2 ounces of low-fat cheese in other foods, you're getting the recommended amount of dairy.

One thing everyone needs to watch out for is that some dairy products (usually the best-tasting ones, like ice cream!) can be high in fat and sugar. Regular cheese, including cream cheese, is high in fat and saturated fats. (Saturated fats can raise blood cholesterol levels and increase your risk for heart disease.) Even low-fat yogurt can have a lot of sugar if it's flavored with fruit and other ingredients.

Don't let this put you off dairy — just don't eat too much of these products. Instead, choose low-fat or "lite" versions of dairy products, and those that are lower in sugar.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: May 2010

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*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.

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