June is Dairy Month, and in honor of this let’s dive in and learn more about the benefits, servings and sources. Milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream (yes ice cream!) are the key players in the dairy food group that provide our bodies with quality nutrition. Along with being a great source of protein, these foods supply us with calcium, potassium and vitamin D. Dairy products play an important role to help keep our bones and teeth strong- yay bone mass! These nutrients are vital during childhood to increase bone mass and help to prevent osteoporosis later in life. Don’t miss out on the delicious smoothie recipe at the end of this post!
How much dairy should I consume each day?
2 – 3 years old= 2 cup equivalent
4 – 8 years old= 2½ cup equivalent
9 years old & up= 3 cup equivalent
How much counts as a cup equivalent?
Milk, Yogurt & Ice Cream
- 1 cup of milk, soymilk, yogurt, pudding made with milk, and frozen yogurt
- ½ cup evaporated milk
- 1½ cup ice cream
- 1½ oz. hard cheese
- 2 oz. processed cheese
- ⅓ cup shredded cheese
- 2 cups cottage cheese
- ½ cup ricotta cheese
**Note: the amounts above are 1 cup equivalent and are not necessarily a normal serving. Be sure to choose low fat or nonfat as well as low added sugar items for a healthier choice!
**Example: 1½ cups of ice cream= 1 cup dairy equivalent, but a serving size of ice cream= ½ cup! Always check your nutrition facts label for the proper serving sizes!
How can I incorporate more dairy into my diet?
Many people have trouble getting in all of the recommended daily servings into their daily meals and snacks. Here are some yummy ideas:
- Cook hot cereals with milk instead of water
- Incorporate milk, soymilk or yogurt into a smoothie
- Add yogurt to cereal or granola
- Melt cheese over eggs or toast
- Drink a glass with your meal
Lunch & Dinner
- Add cheese to a sandwich
- Add milk or yogurt to mashed potatoes or cauliflower
- Drink a glass of milk or soymilk with your meal
- Add milk to soups
- Make a parfait, layering granola, fruit and yogurt
- Have a serving of frozen yogurt or ice cream with berries
- Make rice pudding or tapioca with milk
- Freeze yogurt swirled with fruit or jam to make homemade popsicles
Should I choose full fat or nonfat dairy?
The USDA recommends we choose nonfat and low fat dairy products. We have to remember that dairy comes from an animal with means the fat is saturated. Saturated fat is a type of unhealthy fat that should be limited in our diets. If you choose full fat dairy products, the excess calories should be considered empty calories, as they aren’t contributing to any food group daily goal. Choosing nonfat and lowfat dairy gives us the best of both worlds- we get the protein, potassium, calcium and vitamin D without the saturated fat.
The chocolate milk controversy in schools…
During my dietetic internship there was a lot of talk about whether having chocolate milk in schools was a good idea. This topic was also brought up in a popular documentary, “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution”, about making school meals healthier. These days, if children have to select a milk to go with their school meals they more often choose chocolate milk, and if plain milk is the only option, it usually ended up in the garbage. When it comes down to it, the overall benefit of consuming the protein, potassium, calcium and vitamin D far more outweigh the added sugar in the flavored milk (especially if added sugar is excluded in other drinks and foods in the child’s diet). Like we talked about earlier, building bone mass during childhood is so important, so drink up! At home if your child refuses to drink plain milk, add a small amount of flavored syrup or cocoa mixture to nonfat or low fat milk. You can slowly decrease the amount you add.
To kick off Dairy Month and getting in more dairy, try this delicious smoothie recipe that I enjoy!
by Caitilin Perez, RDN
½ medium banana, frozen
½ cup mixed berries, frozen
1 cup skim milk
½ cup nonfat greek yogurt
2 tsp agave
(provides 2 full fruit servings and 1 ½ cup equivalent servings of dairy)
Add all ingredients to a blender until smooth. Enjoy!
NOURISHING NUTRITION (per serving)
Calorie:290 Fat (g): 0 Sodium (mg): 164 Protein (g):22 Carbs (g): 51
For more information from the International Dairy Foods Association click here.