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Part of a Balanced Diet

The Department of Health’s Food Pyramid recommends 3 servings from the ‘milk, yogurt and cheese’ food group each day as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Between the ages of 9-18 years, 5 servings per day are recommended. Examples of one serving include 200ml of milk, 125g of yogurt or 25g of hard cheese.

We are all unique with our own specific dietary needs and preferences but there are key components that form the foundations of all healthy diets. These are outlined in the Department of Health’s dietary guidelines, which are depicted in the Healthy Ireland Food Pyramid. The Food Pyramid is regularly reviewed in line with the latest nutrition research. It is based on international best practice and tailored to meet the specific needs of Ireland’s population.

It categorises foods into six different groups and provides guidelines on the number of servings to be eaten from each food group on a daily basis. It is advised to choose a variety of foods from each of the bottom four shelves every day to get a good range of vitamins and minerals. 

The Food Pyramid applies to individuals from the age of five years; younger children start with smaller and fewer servings which should increase up to these guidelines in accordance with the child’s own growth and appetite.

  • Main function: Fruit and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals and fibre.
  • Servings: 5-7 servings a day.
  • One serving: 1 medium apple, orange, banana or pear; 10 grapes; 16 raspberries; ½ cup cooked vegetables (fresh/frozen); a bowl of salad or homemade vegetable soup; 150 ml unsweetened fruit juice.

To note:

  • Base meals on this food group and choose a variety of coloured fruit and vegetables.
  • Limit fruit juice to once a day with a meal and choose unsweetened.
  • Main Function: Foods from this shelf are the best energy providers for your body.
  • Servings: 3-5 servings a day. Up to 7 servings for teenage boys and men aged 19-50 years.
  • One serving: 2 thin slices wholemeal bread; 1/3 cup dry porridge oats; 2 medium or 4 small potatoes, 1 cup of cooked pasta, rice, noodles or cous cous.

To note:

  • The number of servings you need from this group depends on age, size, if you are male or female and how active you are (very active people will need more).
  • Main Function: Milk, yogurt and cheese are important sources of calcium, a mineral needed for healthy bones and teeth.
  • Servings: 3 servings a day for 5-8 years; 5 daily for those aged 9-18 years.
  • One serving: A 200ml glass of milk; a 125g pot of yogurt; or a 25g piece of hard cheese.

To note:

  • Low/ reduced fat varieties from this food group are recommended and remain sources of important nutrients such as calcium and protein.
  • Main Function: These foods are good protein and iron providers.
  • Servings: 2 servings a day.
  • One serving: 50 – 75g of cooked lean beef, pork, lamb, mince or chicken; 100g of cooked fish or tofu; 2 eggs; 40g plain, unsalted nuts or seeds.

To note:

  • Choose lean cuts of meat and limit processed meat (e.g. sausages, bacon and ham).
  • Eat oily fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel, sardines) up to twice a week.
  • Main Function: Spreads and oils provide essential fats but are only needed in very small amounts.
  • Servings: Use as little as possible.
  • One serving: 1 portion pack (approximately 10g) for 2 slices of bread or 1 teaspoon of oil per person when cooking.

To note:

  • Limit mayonnaise, coleslaw and salad dressings as they also contain oil.
  • Cook with as little oil as possible – grill, steam, bake or boil instead.
  • There is no recommended servings for the Top Shelf foods and drinks as they are not needed for good health.
  • It’s best to not have these foods every day – maximum once or twice a week of small or fun-sized servings.
  • Weekly lower risk limits are 11 standard drinks for women and 17 standard drinks for men.
  • One standard drink is equal to a half pint of beer or lager, a single measure of spirit or a small glass of wine.
  • Have at least 2-3 alcohol free days a week.
  • Alcohol is not recommended for those under 18 years of age; or for pregnant/breastfeeding women.

To find out the role of dairy as part of a balanced diet across the life stages, along with topics such as: healthy eating guidelines, muscle and bone health, dental health, lunchbox tips and more, you can download our free ‘Nutrition & You’ booklets:

Dairy foods are not only delicious but are versatile foods that can be included across a wide range of meals and snacks. Discover our ‘dairy’licious recipes here