Are you drinking, eating enough dairy foods for your health?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 26, 2019

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Did you know June is National Dairy Month? It is a great time to learn more about dairy foods and how they fit into a healthy-eating pattern.

All age groups except for young children 1–3 years old are below the recommended intake for dairy foods according to the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Dairy provides many health benefits, so it is important to add more fat-free and low-fat dairy foods to your meals and snacks.

                                                        DAIRY IS NUTRITIOUS

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Milk is the foundation for all dairy foods and only has three ingredients. It is a nutrient powerhouse by containing nine essential nutrients.

Milk is well known for having calcium that helps build bones and teeth and maintains bone mass. Milk and yogurt provide potassium, which may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Vitamin D is added to milk to help the body work with calcium and phosphorous to help build and maintain bones. Protein helps build and maintain healthy muscles and bones.

Dairy products are one of the most affordable sources of nutrition and has been linked to improved bone health.



Lactose intolerance. If you avoid milk because of lactose intolerance, there are still several ways to get calcium in your diet. You can choose alternatives lower in lactose or lactose-free such as cheese, yogurt, or lactose-free milk, or consume the enzyme lactase before consuming milk products. There are also calcium fortified juices, cereals, breads, soy beverages or rice beverages available in stores.

                                                                                                             HOW MUCH DAIRY FOODS DO I NEED DAILY?

The amount of dairy foods you need to eat daily depends on your age. Older children, teens and adults need 3 cups of dairy foods per day, while children 4–8 years old need 2-1/2 cups and children 2–3 years old need 2 cups.

Generally, 1 cup of milk, yogurt or soymilk, 1-1/2 ounces of natural cheese or 2 ounces of processed cheese counts as 1 cup from the Dairy Group. Cream cheese, cream and butter are not part of the dairy food group since they contain little or no calcium and are higher in saturated fat.

                                                          COMPARING COW’S MILK WITH MILK ALTERNATIVES

Reading the Nutrition Facts label is important to compare food choices in order to select the healthier option. The table below shows how the calories, protein, fat and carbohydrates in cow’s milk compares to milk alternatives.

Many people do not realize the nutrient profile varies between each type of milk and milk alternative. The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans does not count “milks” made from plants such as almond, coconut and rice as part of the dairy group because their overall nutrient content is not similar to dairy milk and fortified soymilk.

                                                  6 WAYS TO ADD MORE FAT-FREE OR LOW-FAT DAIRY FOODS

• Eat cereal with fat-free or low-fat milk.

• Mix fat-free or low-fat milk with your oatmeal.

• Top a baked potato with low-fat yogurt instead of sour cream.

• Make a yogurt parfait by layering fat-free or low-fat vanilla yogurt with fresh fruit and topped with a whole grain cereal.

• Drink a glass of fat-free or low-fat milk with a meal.

• If you cannot drink milk due to being lactose intolerant, try yogurt, lactose-free milk or fortified soymilk to help get your calcium. Source: Kayla Colgrove, MS, RDN, ACSM-CPT

Here is an easy, fun ice cream recipe for the entire family to enjoy making. It’s a great way to eat a Dairy food dish while cooling down on a hot day.  For you scholars it’s also a STEM (Science, Technology, Enginering and Math) project, demonstrating the changes of liquid to solid.  It’s called:


READY IN: 15 minutes


1 cup milk

2 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

1 sandwich size zip-type plastic bag

1 gallon size zip-type plastic bag

3 cups crushed ice

½ cup rock salt



Put crushed ice and rock salt in the larger bag, set it aside.  Put first 3 ingredients in the sandwich zip type bag and seal tightly closed.  Add the smaller zip bag to larger bag. Seal the large bag making sure to get out all extra air.

Shake bags until mixture thickens, about 10-15 minutes.  Once mixture hardens, remove small bag from large bag, empty contents into a bowl, add fresh slice fruit or eat plain.  Enjoy!  NOTE: Bags get very cold; so wrap bags with a towel and shake.