How to Get Enough Dairy for Good Health
Dairy foods supply critical nutrients that are important for the health and maintenance of our bodies. In particular, milk products are vital for building and maintaining bone mass throughout life. Ways to get enough dairy for proper nutrition and good health are outlined below.
Learn What Kinds of Foods Are Included in the Dairy Group
Fluid milk products and products made from milk that retain their calcium content are the only foods in the dairy group. Thus products like butter, cream, and cream cheese are NOT members of the dairy group because they have little or no calcium remaining in them. Milk, yogurt, cheese, and milk-based desserts are all members of the dairy group and can supply the calcium and other nutrients needed for good health.
Get the Number of Dairy Servings Needed Per Day
Children aged 2 or 3 need two cups of dairy products per day. Children aged 4 through 8 need two and a half cups per day. Those aged 9 or older including adults need 3 cups per day. See the chart on Amount Needed in the Resources section.
Learn What Counts as a Dairy Serving
One cup of milk, one cup of yogurt, one and a half ounces of natural cheese and two ounces of processed cheese constitute “one cup” dairy serving each. It’s important to remember these serving equivalents so that you and your family will get enough dairy for good health.
Eliminate Whole Milk and Full Fat Milk Products from Your Diet
(This advice does not apply to children under two years old.) Whole milk, many cheeses and products derived from them are high in saturated fat and “bad” (LDL) cholesterol , and have too many calories as well. These products increase your risk for coronary heart disease. Wean yourself away from these high fat products by switching to 2%, then 1% and finally to non-fat varieties.
Visit ChooseMyPlate for More Information on the Dairy Group
Go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Choose My Plate site and scroll down to the Dairy Group. Review all the links (sections) in the dairy group, and especially the section on “health benefits and nutrients.”
Under “Tips for Making Wise Choices” there are many good tips on getting enough dairy servings for good health. Some of these include serving fat-free milk at most meals, adding fat-free milk instead of water to oatmeal or other hot cereals, and having fat-free or low-fat yogurts for snacks.