Dairy products make up an entire food group and they are pretty important for your health. Dairy foods are one of your best sources of calcium, which is vital for the health and strength of your bones and teeth. Most of them are also fortified with vitamin D, which also promotes healthy bones as well as supporting other bodily functions. Foods that are included in the dairy foods group include milk, yogurt, ice cream, sour cream, cheese and sour cream. Choosing dairy foods requires some caution if you have allergies or intolerances. Here’s how to make the right choices for you.
1. Look for Dairy Foods That Are Low in Fat Because They’re Better for You
No matter what types of dairy foods you eventually decide on, they should be low-fat versions. This goes for milk, yogurt and cheese. Full-fat versions are higher in saturated fat and calories than the lower fat ones and making the wrong choice can lead to weight gain or other health issues. Low-fat versions satisfy your nutrient needs without overdoing you on fat and calories.
2. Watch the Protein Content of Milk Alternatives
Whether you’re allergic to cow’s milk or it just makes your tummy hurt, there are lots of alternatives to choose from. That includes almond, coconut and soy milk. However, it’s important to pay attention to protein. You need an adequate amount of protein for virtually any bodily function and dairy foods are a prime source. If you choose alternative sources, make sure you balance the lower protein content with your other foods. Almond milk is probably your best bet when it comes to protein.
3. Check the Sugar Content on the Nutrition Panel
Regular cow’s milk has natural sugar, called lactose. However, many types of alternative milk have added sugars because they are flavored. While it’s fine to have a couple servings of these milks, you should make sure you balance that sugar intake with what you eat for the rest of the day so that you don’t get too much of the sweet stuff.
4. Eat Yogurt Even if You Don’t Love the Consistency
I don’t really like the feel of yogurt and it kind of gags me. However, I know the health benefits so I just use it in other ways. Try adding a scoop to a smoothie and you won’t even notice it’s there. Stirring some granola into the yogurt can also help give you something to chew, creating a more pleasant consistency.
5. Think about Trying Grass-Fed Dairy Foods for an Extra Dose of Nutrition
Much like a woman’s diet effects the quality of her breastmilk, so too does the diet of the cows that produce the milk we drink. It turns out that grass-fed cows might produce milk that’s better for you. Experts say that it has a better ratio of good fats and makes for a richer tasting dairy food, even if it is a low-fat one. Look for butter, yogurt and milk from grass-fed cows and see what you think.
6. Choose Raw Dairy Foods if You Worry about Processing
Raw dairy foods were once the norm, but now they are nearly all pasteurized before being sold on store shelves. This is a step that protects against food-borne illnesses. However, if you aren’t pregnant and don’t have a compromised immune system, some experts say that raw milk, cheese and yogurt has certain health benefits. That includes beneficial enzymes and bacteria. Talk to your doctor about whether this is the right choice for you.
7. Stock Your Fridge with Dairy Foods That You Enjoy Eating
It might be virtuous to buy a tub of low-fat cottage cheese, but if you don’t like it, chances are you’ll just throw it away without touching it. Only buy the dairy foods you like eating or you won’t get any benefit from them. Love cheddar cheese? Buy that! Hate Swiss? Don’t buy that. You get the idea, right?
What’s your favorite dairy food? Do you go for cow’s milk or some type of alternative milk?