June is known for many things such as the beginning of summer, end of school, and warm weather. It’s also National Dairy Month, so we can add building strong bones and teeth to the last of why June is so great!
Dairy Month began back in 1937 as National Milk Month, as a means to promote drinking milk and stabilize the dairy demand when there was a production surplus. Now, however, it is important to appreciate all dairy products for their rich nutrient quality, delicious taste and the versatile functions they serve in the foods we eat.
Dairy is known to be a great source of calcium which is essential for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. Most dairy products are fortified with vitamin D which helps the absorption of calcium and the maintenance of phosphorous in the body, another nutrient needed for strong bones and teeth. They are also a complete source of protein, meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids your body requires. This makes milk, cheese, and yogurt great options for getting in protein throughout the day.
Along with calcium, vitamin D, and protein, dairy is a source of 6 other essential vitamins and minerals: potassium, phosphorous, vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin, and niacin. Make your dairy even better by choosing low-fat or fat-free options. By doing this, you get all the benefits of milk without all the saturated fat.
Milk, yogurt, and cheese are the big 3 dairy products that you are probably familiar with. According to the USDA, the dairy group is defined as all liquid milk products and foods made from milk that retain their rich calcium content. Foods in the dairy group include yogurt, cheese, calcium fortified soymilk, and desserts made with milk such as ice cream, frozen yogurt, and some puddings.
3 Servings A Day
The USDA recommends everyone over the age of 9 eat 3 servings of dairy a day. Keep in mind, this may change based on your age! The following all count for 1 serving:
- 1 cup of milk or calcium-fortified soymilk
- 1-8 ounce container of yogurt
- 1/3 cup shredded cheese
- ½ cup cottage cheese
- 1 ½ ounces of hard cheese
- 2 ounces of processed cheese
Aim to choose fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese! If you are lactose intolerant, you can have calcium-fortified lactose-free milk, which can count as a dairy serving.
3 Ways to Meet Your Dairy Needs
1. Make a smoothie for breakfast with low-fat milk or soymilk and your favorite fruits for a tasty, nutritious drink to start your day.
2. Mix sliced berries and a handful of high fiber cereal into your Greek yogurt for a mid-morning or afternoon snack. This will help you get a serving of dairy and keep you satisfied between meals.
3. Add 1/3 cup of shredded cheese to your pasta dish. Don’t forget to toss in the roasted veggies and add a side salad to make it a complete meal!
Unless you are lactose intolerant, dairy products are nothing to fear! This food group is a nutrient powerhouse and should be incorporated into your meals every day.
Your Turn to Take Action: Find a new and exciting way to include dairy into your meals. Let me know how it goes in the comments below!