While many fad diets tell you to steer clear of dairy, Jaimee Gregor, a Marshfield Clinic registered dietitian, believes dairy is good when consumed appropriately. In fact, dairy is a key component of the DASH diet, which is designed to keep blood pressure low.
“Milk and yogurt are good sources of carbohydrates, which give you energy,” Gregor said. “Dairy also provides protein and important vitamins and minerals.”
Good sources of dairy
Gregor said between two and three servings of dairy per day is a healthy goal. Good sources of dairy are fat-free and low-fat milk, Greek yogurt, portion-controlled cheese and low-fat cottage cheese.
“Some of my favorite meal and snack recommendations are vanilla-flavored Greek yogurt with berries or a piece of string cheese and fruit.”
Whether or not foods like whole milk are healthy is of some dispute because of its high saturated fat content.
“There are some studies that suggest saturated fat in milk isn’t as unhealthy as once thought,” Gregor said. “It’s possible the fat in the milk keeps people feeling full, but I do not recommend whole milk to all patients. It’s very individualized depending on their needs.”
She added that a glass of whole milk has the same number of calories as a can of soda. Gregor also warns against over indulging in cheese because it is high in fat and calories.
Alternatives to dairy
Gregor said not all milk alternatives are equivalent to cow’s milk. Almond milk is low in calories, but it is also low in protein. In addition, sweetened milk alternatives may be high in calories.
For those who cannot have dairy, Gregor suggests foods like nuts, vegetables, orange juice and fatty fish as good sources of calcium.
Refuel with chocolate milk
For those who enjoy exercise, dairy provides a surprising benefit. Chocolate milk, Gregor said, is an excellent drink to help the body recover after exercise.
“It’s that right balance of carbohydrate and protein to replenish your glycogen stores,” Gregor said.
Ultimately, moderation and portion control are important with dairy as they are with any element of your diet.