Celebrate Dairy Month with Good Taste and Good Nutrition

June is National Dairy Month so what better time to make sure you’re getting enough milk and other dairy foods in your diet? While almost everyone knows milk is a great source of calcium – 75% of the calcium in our food supply comes from milk products – it’s also a good source of protein, vitamins A and D, potassium, phosphorus, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin B12.

Worried about the fat in dairy? Well, there’s good news! When the fat is removed to make low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese, all of the nutrients stay in the milk. So you get the same great nutrition without the fat.

But what about the sugar in chocolate milk, flavored yogurt or ice cream? Not a problem either. For just 130 calories an 8-ounce glass of fat-free chocolate milk provides 30% of daily calcium, 25% of vitamin D, 20% of riboflavin, 16% of protein, and 10 – 13% of vitamins A, B12, niacin and potassium. A pretty good trade-off for the 4 teaspoons of added sugar that come with this nutrient rich drink. Remember whether the added sugar comes in the form of sucrose, commonly known as table sugar, or high fructose corn syrup, they are both nutritionally the same. Likewise, an 8-ounce cup of flavored, low-fat yogurt comes packed with over a third of a day’s calcium and all the other nutrients in milk.

So during June, make it a goal to include three servings of dairy each day. A serving is one cup of milk, yogurt or frozen yogurt or 1 1/2 ounces of cheese. A cup of ice cream or cottage cheese counts as half a serving. Just be sure to use low-fat or fat-free varieties to cut calories and fat. To make it easier, here are some fun and tasty ideas to boost your dairy intake:

  • Mix low-fat fruit yogurt with high-fiber cereal for a filling breakfast
  • Top pancakes or waffles with fat-free vanilla yogurt, fruit and a dash of cinnamon
  • Whip up a smoothie in a blender with low-fat yogurt and fresh or frozen fruit
  • Take mozzarella string cheese for an on-the-go snack
  • Create a protein-packed, fiber-rich lunch with a cantaloupe wedge topped with low-fat cottage cheese and a sprinkle of sunflower seeds
  • Heat half cup of coffee and half cup fat-free chocolate milk in the microwave for a mocha latte or whir in a blender with ice for summer chiller
  • Prepare low-fat instant pudding mix with fat-free milk and top with strawberries for a luscious dessert
  • Make nachos by heating baked tortilla chips spread with black beans and shredded low-fat cheese in the microwave and top with salsa
  • Use low-fat or nonfat yogurt in dips for dunking vegetables

Neva H. Cochran, M.S., R.D., L.D., is a registered and licensed dietitian, member of the CRA RD Panel, a nutrition consultant, and a writer based in Dallas, Texas. In addition to working with national organizations and corporations as a nutrition and health consultant and spokesperson, Cochran has been a contributing columnist and researcher for Woman’s World magazine for 16 years and Maximum Fitness magazine for 5 years.

Members of the RD Panel are paid consultants to the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), but their statements and opinions are their own. RD Panel members provide general dietary information, but you should consult your own physician or dietitian for advice concerning your particular circumstance.