The dairy industry has tried some crazy stunts to get people to drink milk: They put a milk mustache on Kermit the Frog and even made some of their “Got Milk?” ads smell like cookies.

Then, there’s the time-honored method of dedicating a whole month to the cause. Well guess what? June is, you guessed it, Dairy Month!

And, why not? In its low-fat versions dairy is one of the healthier staples of the American diet. Dairy foods supply nine essential nutrients, including calcium, protein, potassium, vitamins D, A and B12, phosphorus, riboflavin and niacin.

How much dairy do you need to do your body good? The National Academy of Sciences recommends the following:

      Age (Years)          Calcium (mg/day)         Daily Servings*
1-3   500  3 servings **
4-8   800  3 servings
9-18  1300  4 servings
19-50  1000  3 servings
51+  1200  4 servings

*A serving size of dairy equals 1 cup (8 ounces) of milk, 1 cup of yogurt or 1 to 1.5 ounces of cheese.
**Serving sizes for children ages 1-3 are two-thirds the adult size.

Parents with lactose-sensitive children often avoid milk at all costs. But Melvin Heyman, Ph.D, chief of pediatric gastroenterology at UCSF Children's Hospital, encourages parents to try giving their lactose-intolerant children small amounts of dairy. True, the traditional approach is to get these children off dairy entirely, but Heyman says that may spell calcium deficiency in adulthood. “With all the increase in bone mineral problems later in life, getting as much calcium earlier in life is important. Using low-fat dairy to tolerance is helpful,” he says.

Heyman recommends starting your child off with a little low-fat yogurt, which is more tolerable for lactose-sensitive bodies, and working up from there. Add a little low-fat milk to your child’s cereal or give them Lactaid milk--which is just milk without the lactose. Heyman suggests giving your child as much dairy as he’ll tolerate until those infamous symptoms flare up.

Sadly, milk duds do not count as part of your recommended daily dose. But lactose or no lactose, if you’re looking for a fast, easy way to stock up on your nine essential nutrients in one gulp, crack open that carton.

Milk Fun Fact

Q: Who invented the “best before” date on foods?

A: Al Capone.