Living in Wisconsin, dairy is certainly an important part of our lifestyles. We take pride in being known as America’s Dairyland — it’s even listed on our license plates! Dairy is also an important part of our eating patterns, so let’s chat about it!
Foods in the dairy group: All milk products and many foods made from milk are considered part of the dairy group, including:
- Milk (skim, 1%, 2%, whole and chocolate)
- Frozen yogurts
- Ice cream
- Yogurt (regular and Greek)
- Cheese (hard, soft, processed)
- Cottage cheese
And, let’s not forgot about those who need to eat lactose free or dairy free. Many dairy substitutes contain similar nutrients to dairy foods, like calcium. Here are a few ideas:
- Almond milk
- Coconut milk
- Rice milk
- Soy milk
- Lactose free milk
- Almond yogurt
- Coconut yogurt
- Soy yogurt
- Daiya dairy free cheese products
The rule of thumb for dairy is to choose fat free or low fat products. Saturated fat occurs naturally in animal foods, including dairy. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fats, which are found in butter, cheese, red meat and other animal-based foods. Decades of sound science has proven it can raise your “bad” cholesterol and put you at higher risk for heart disease. By looking at the NuVal® scores for milk below, you will notice that the whole milk scores lower than 2% and skim milk because of its higher saturated fat content. However, all milk varieties get great NuVal scores because of the other important nutrients, like calcium, vitamin D and protein, found in milk. Whole milk is much better than no milk!
When it comes to choosing sweetened milk products, like yogurt, you will want to choose varieties that have less added sugar. Added sugar can be identified by looking at the ingredient list in a food. Click here for a list of names for added sugars. Another great tool to use to help you identify milk products with less added sugar is NuVal. NuVal scores in the yogurt category are driven up by vitamin D, fiber and protein, and scores are driven down by saturated fat, added sugar and calories. Use NuVal to trade up your sweetened milk products, like yogurt!
If you eat dairy free or lactose free, you may have difficulty getting enough calcium, since calcium is primarily found in dairy foods. Here are a few nondairy foods that are higher in calcium:
- Dark leafy greens, like spinach, kale, turnips and collard greens
- Fortified cereals, like Total, Raisin Bran and Corn Flakes
- Fortified orange juice
- Fortified soy milk and almond milk
- Enriched breads and grains
Calcium is important for bone and teeth health and in maintaining bone mass. Dairy products are the primary source of calcium in American diets. Diets that provide 3 cups or the equivalent of dairy products per day can improve bone mass.
Potassium helps to maintain healthy blood pressure. Dairy products, especially yogurt, milk and soy milk, provide potassium.
Vitamin D functions in the body to maintain proper levels of calcium and phosphorous, thereby helping to build and maintain bones. Milk and soy milk that are fortified with vitamin D are good sources of this nutrient. Other sources include vitamin D-fortified yogurt, orange juice and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals.
Recipe ideas featuring dairy foods:
- Red Grape, Chicken & Pesto Pizza (fresh mozzarella cheese)
- Black Bean Burrito Bowl (shredded white cheddar cheese and plain nonfat Greek yogurt)
- Mushroom Farro Casserole (low fat cottage cheese and parmesan cheese)
- Milkshakes (skim milk, ice cream and reduced fat cream cheese + a dairy free milkshake)
- Apple Gouda Grilled Cheese (gouda cheese)
- Greek Yogurt Mac ‘n Cheese (cheddar cheese and plain nonfat Greek yogurt)
- Quinoa Pizza Bites (shredded mozzarella cheese or Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds)
- Sweet Potato Cheesecake Shooters (low fat/nonfat cream cheese, nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt and reduced fat sweetened condensed milk)
- Dark Chocolate Pudding (chocolate milk or chocolate coconut milk)
Lauren Tulig is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with Festival Foods and is certified by the state of WI.
Disclaimer: The information provided here is intended for general information only. It is not intended as medical advice. Health information changes frequently as research constantly evolves. You should not rely on any information gathered here as a substitute for consultation with medical professionals. Information may not be reproduced without permission from Festival Foods. We strongly encourage guests to review the ingredient lists of suggested products before purchasing to ensure they meet individual dietary needs. All products not available at all Festival locations.