We love dairy products, especially me, so we were so happy to find out there’s a way to still include dairy products in our heart healthy diet!
Benefits of Dairy Products
Dairy products, like milk, cheese and yogurt, are an essential part of a well-rounded diet, as long as they’re fat-free or low-fat(1%). They give you much needed calcium, protein and other vital nutrients, and have less artery-clogging saturated fat than whole-milk or full-fat products. If you consume 2,000 calories every day, you should include 2 to 3 servings of dairy, and fat-free is the better choice. 1 cup of fat-free or low-fat milk is considered 1 serving. 1 1/2 ounces of fat-free or natural(not processed) low-fat cheese is also 1 serving.
Dairy Products to Buy at the Grocery Store
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When you are looking for milk at the grocery store, you should select fat-free(also called skim), or low-fat 1%. Lucky for us, I drank fat-free milk growing up and that’s what my kids grew up on, so we didn’t have to change our milk drinking habits. If you drink whole milk, you can make this transition gradually. You can start by switching to 2% for awhile, then as you get used to it, switch to 1%. After you’re used to that, switch to fat-free milk for the fewest calories, the least amount of fat and cholesterol, and the greatest benefit for your health. Also, if you’re used to having whole milk in your bowl of cereal, to make the transition easier, you could buy a carton of fat-free milk and a carton of whole milk. You could use half of each kind of milk with your cereal. Then gradually decrease the amount of whole milk you put in, as you increase the fat-free. Eventually you’ll be used to the taste of fat-free by itself. Avoid milk that has added flavorings like vanilla, chocolate or strawberry because they usually have added sugars and calories.
Mmmm, cheese, I love it! Make sure you buy fat-free, low-fat, or reduced-fat cheeses, like Cheddar, mozzarella, American and Swiss. I like having the Laughing Cow Light Cheese on whole wheat crackers. Only have brie and processed cheese spreads occasionally because they are usually high in saturated fat.
Choose soft margarines that contain 0 grams trans fat instead of butter. The margarine often comes in a tub. We used margarine before anyway, so we just had to change to the light version instead.
When you buy other dairy products, like yogurt, sour cream and cream cheese, select fat-free or low-fat. My oldest son and I eat yogurt several times a week, and there are plenty of flavor varieties available, even in the light version. I also recently discovered Greek yogurt, and I really like it.
Guess what? You can still have desserts! Just make sure you buy fat-free and low-fat dairy desserts, like frozen yogurt and ice cream. We eat frozen yogurt or low fat ice cream several nights a week for dessert. Once a week, for our afternoon snack, we have a low fat ice cream novelty. Our favorite brand is Skinny Cow.
You can still use creamer in your coffee too, just make sure to buy fat-free nondairy coffee creamers and whipped toppings, instead of products loaded with coconut, palm, or palm kernel oil. Thank goodness for this one, because I like to have “a little coffee with my creamer,” as they say since I fill up my cup about half full of creamer.
Dairy Products Nutrition Label Requirements
The nutrition label requirements aren’t spelled out as nicely as they are for the Whole Grains, but I do have some information.
Total sugar for yogurt is limited to 20 grams or less per standard 6 ounce serving.
Milk and milk alternatives must have 130 calories or less per 8 fl oz.
It’s good if it has 10% or more of beneficial nutrients, like calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and protein.
Always read labels very carefully and avoid products high in saturated fat.
Ways to Use Dairy Products
So, now that you know how to shop for dairy products, what are some delicious ways to incorporate them in your heart healthy diet(besides the ones I mentioned above)? Well, I have lots of snack ideas in my Heart Healthy Snack Ideas post. Some other ideas are to use fat-free or low-fat sour cream along with some spices to make a homemade dip. I made a couple of dips this way for New Year’s Eve, using an herb package we bought at the county fair. You can use low-fat, reduced-fat or fat-free cheese slices in your sandwiches and hamburgers. I like breaking up cheese slices and having them in between 2 crackers for a snack. When a recipe calls for a dairy product, you can substitute all of the dairy products mentioned above. For example, I always use fat free milk in my recipes, even when it calls for whole milk. When a baking recipe calls for cream cheese, I use fat-free cream cheese; or when it calls for butter, I use soft margarine.
So, see, you can make it work! What is your favorite healthy dairy product?