Holy Cow! Celebrate National Dairy Month

By Emily Schmitt, RD, LDN, Campus Recreation Services

June is National Dairy Month.  Dairy products include all fluid milk products and many foods made with milk (like cheese, yogurt, and milk-based desserts).

But why dedicate a whole month to dairy?  Dairy products contain an unique nutrient combination, including the mineral calcium, which is used for building bones and teeth and maintaining bone mass and others such as potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins A, D and B12, riboflavin, and niacin.

Beyond strong bones, dairy has other health benefits including helping you to maintain a healthy weight and manage a healthy blood pressure.

How much dairy is needed daily?  MyPlate recommends that men and women consume 3 cups of dairy products every day.  What counts as 1 cup of dairy?

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1.5 oz hard cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss, parmesan)
  • 2 oz processed cheese (American)
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheese
  • 2 cups cottage cheese
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup pudding made with milk
  • 1 cup frozen yogurt
  • 1 ½ cups ice cream

While it’s tempting, especially in the warm summer months and with such easy access to the famous ice cream at  The Dairy, try and avoid meeting all your dairy needs with high-fat options like rich ice cream. To gain optimum nutritional benefits, strive to select mostly low-fat or fat free dairy options.

Eager to increase your daily calcium consumption, but not sure how to incorporate these foods into your current diet?  Try these 6 tips, which can be utilized in on-campus eateries, at restaurants, and at home.

  1. Drink a glass of low-fat or fat free milk with each meal.
  2. Start your day with low-fat yogurt topped with fresh fruit.  Add a splash of 100% juice & ice cubes and blend for a refreshing breakfast smoothie.
  3. Add low-fat or fat free milk to your morning coffee.
  4. Top your sandwich with a slice of low-fat cheese.
  5. Sprinkle shredded low-fat cheese on your salad, soup, or baked potato.
  6. Snack on a single serving low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt.

Can’t consume dairy products?  That’s okay!  While dairy products are the primary source of calcium in the American diet, there are non-dairy foods that contain this nutrient including green leafy vegetables, beans, and calcium-fortified soy milk.  View a list of the top dairy and non-dairy sources of calcium from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

What’s your favorite calcium-rich food?  How do you incorporate calcium into your day? Tell us below.

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