Social and health care provision have led to substantial increases in life expectancy. In the UK this has become higher than 80 years with an even greater proportional increase in those aged 85 years and over. The different life stages give rise to important nutritional challenges and recent reductions in milk consumption have led to sub-optimal intakes of calcium by teenage females in particular when bone growth is at its maximum and of iodine during pregnancy needed to ensure that supply/production of thyroid hormones to the foetus is adequate. Many young and pre-menopausal women have considerably sub-optimal intakes of iron which are likely to be associated with reduced consumption of red meat. A clear concern is the low intakes of calcium especially as a high proportion of the population is of sub-optimal vitamin D status. This may already have had serious consequences in terms of bone development which may not be apparent until later life, particularly in post-menopausal women. This review aims to examine the role of dairy foods and red meat at key life stages in terms of their ability to reduce or increase chronic disease risk. It is clear that milk and dairy foods are key sources of important nutrients such as calcium and iodine and the concentration of some key nutrients, notably iodine can be influenced by the method of primary milk production, in particular, the iodine intake of the dairy cow. Recent meta-analyses show no evidence of increased risk of cardiovascular diseases from high consumption of milk and dairy foods but increasing evidence of a reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes associated with fermented dairy foods, yoghurt in particular. The recently updated reports from the World Cancer Research Fund International/American Institute for Cancer Research on the associations between dairy foods, red meat and processed meat and various cancers provide further confidence that total dairy products and milk, are associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer and high intakes of milk/dairy are not associated with increased risk of breast cancer. Earlier evidence of a significant increase in the risk of colorectal cancer from consumption of red and particularly processed meat has been reinforced by the inclusion of more recent studies. It is essential that nutrition and health-related functionality of foods are included in evaluations of sustainable food production.