Mealtimes and eating habits vary throughout the world, but dietary guidance for dairy food consumption is pretty much the same. Americans tend to fall short of recommended guidelines, while the French comply, according to the American Society for Nutrition.

For example, in France, 97% of the population meets the recommendation for daily dairy intake, while in the United States, only 52% do. Other countries that are doing better than the U.S. in meeting their government’s daily dairy consumptions include Italy (70%) and Spain (62%). Two countries trailing the United States are China (16%) and Brazil (41%).

At an ASN meeting in San Diego in April, researchers said that only 14% of adults and 20% of children in the United States consume at least three servings of dairy a day, which is the recommendation of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

“While most people consider yogurt a healthy snack, they don’t know the many ways that yogurt can be incorporated into recipes to make meals more nutritious,” said nutritionist and best-selling author Ellie Krieger. “Given the right tools and knowledge, anyone can attain a healthy balance with their lifestyle practices and reach dietary goals.”

At the symposium titled The Yogurt in Nutrition Initiative for a Balanced Diet (or YINI), scientists discussed a variety of issues — from looking at new research about the association between yogurt consumption and Type 2 diabetes to analyzing how yogurt can help play a role in improving dairy consumption in young adults.

Sharon Donovan, a former president of ASN and the YINI co-chair said “This work is crucial, especially in light of the global shortfall of dairy consumption. From China to Brazil to the United States, the majority of people simply aren’t eating enough dairy to meet their countries’ daily recommendations.”

The Federal University of Sao Paulo’s Dr. Mauro Fisberg concurred with Donovan. “Consuming enough dairy is an important part of a healthful diet,” he noted. “Most yogurts help provide the calcium, potassium and Vitamin D lacking in so many diets. Not getting these necessary nutrients may lead to suboptimal nutritional status and possible longer-term health risks, especially for children and adolescents as they develop.”

Adding yogurt to the daily diet would help close the gap between recommendations and actual dairy consumption. For instance, adding a single 8-ounce serving of fat-free or low-fat yogurt would help increase the average U.S. daily dairy consumption to 84% of the recommended three servings per day.

 The Yogurt in Nutrition Initiative for a Balanced Diet is a multiyear project led by the Danone Institute International in collaboration with ASN and the International Osteoporosis Foundation. The mission of the project is to uncover scientific data related to yogurt, stimulate new research and identify gaps in the understanding of the health effects of yogurt and to share this information with professionals and the public.