June is National Dairy Month and what a great way to start the summer! Check out the refrigerated section of your local grocery store, and you will certainly find dairy foods dominating the shelves. Now is the time to remind yourself of the delicious ways to make dairy foods a part of your healthful eating plan.
Milk is an excellent source of calcium as well as protein, riboflavin, vitamins A and D, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and other vitamins and minerals. The fat content does not necessarily change these nutrient values. Choose low-fat or non-fat varieties. Look for lactose-reduced or lactose-free milk if you are sensitive to lactose.
Yogurt is also a high-calcium, high-protein dairy food. If you don’t drink much milk, eating yogurt may help you get the calcium you require. Be sure to choose low-fat or non-fat varieties, or you might opt for plain non-fat yogurt and add your own fresh or canned fruit without added sugar. Check for yogurt with “live and active cultures” on the label.
Cheese is a good source of many of the same nutrients found in milk. It can provide us with protein, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin A, riboflavin and vitamin B12. However, certain types of cheese can be high in sodium content. Review the Nutrition Facts panel on the label to compare sodium content. Additionally, make sure to choose low-fat cheeses such as low-fat ricotta, part-skim mozzarella, string cheese or other varieties of reduced-fat cheese. Buying and using shredded and sharp-flavored cheeses as well as using portion control can help give a recipe more flavor with less cheese.
Cream, Sour Cream & Cream Cheese
In general, cream, sour cream and cream cheese are higher in calories and fat and provide very little calcium. Try low-fat or non-fat varieties to reduce calorie and fat intake.
From calcium to potassium, dairy products like milk contain nine essential nutrients which may help to better manage your weight, reduce your risk for high blood pressure, osteoporosis and certain cancers. Whether it’s protein to help build and repair the muscle tissue of active bodies or vitamin A to help maintain healthy skin, dairy products are a natural nutrient powerhouse. These are just a few reasons why you should celebrate dairy not just in June, but all year long. Strive to get your “3 A Day” from the dairy group today.