This February, I had the opportunity to rekindle my affection for America’s dairy farmers. I was invited to speak at the Great Lakes Regional Dairy conference on the health benefits of dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt. Considering this invitation came on the heals of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) in which once again, Calcium, Vitamin D and Potassium are included in the list of nutrients of concern for the American public, I was more than happy to oblige.
It had been several years since I left my position as a spokesperson and registered dietitian for the dairy industry to pursue my doctoral degree. During this time, my love for dairy foods had not waned. However, I was happy to be reminded of my appreciation for the hard work that America’s dairy farm families do every single day to provide us with safe, wholesome and great tasting dairy foods. Dairy foods (milk, cheese and yogurt) contribute substantial amounts of many nutrients in the U.S. diet that are important for good health, making dairy foods a great nutrient bang for your calorie buck!
The 2015 DGAs confirmed the importance of milk and milk products in a healthy diet by maintaining the recommendation of 3 daily servings of low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products for those ages 9 and older. For children ages 4-8, the recommendation remained 2.5 servings, and for children ages 2-3, the recommendation remains 2 servings. Serving sizes are 8 ounces or 1 cup for both milk and yogurt and 1½ ounce for cheese. These recommendations can be easily met by using milk on your cereal at breakfast, sprinkling cheese on your baked potato or soup for lunch and enjoying a fruit and yogurt parfait for an afternoon snack and/or drinking milk for dinner.
Another topic I addressed was dairy intolerance. Whereas less than ½% of adults has a true milk protein allergy, adults with dairy intolerance most likely have lactose intolerance. The key to enjoying dairy if you have lactose intolerance is using simple tips to limit or manage the amount of lactose consumed at one time.
These simple tips include:
• Using smaller amounts of milk and include with a meal or snack. This helps to slow the digestion thus, give the body more time to digest lactose.
• Taking advantage of lactose-free or lactose-reduced milk products. New products are constantly being developed from real milk, just without the lactose, providing the same essential nutrients as regular products while tasting great.
• Enjoying yogurt. The live cultures in yogurt help to digest lactose.
• Choosing natural, aged cheeses which are lower in lactose such as Cheddar to top sandwiches, potatoes, soups or crackers.
Registered dietitians and other health professionals advise that people continue to enjoy dairy foods in recommended amounts to meet their nutrient needs from the nutrients dairy provides. It is difficult to get enough of these nutrients without dairy foods in the diet…and with all the great tasting options of milk, cheese and yogurt on the market today. Why miss out?