Dairy and Produce: An Affordable Meal Combination

Southeast Dairy Association - milk drinks such as a Strawberry Smoothie with yogurt

The face of hunger in the United States is not what most people think. Hunger can affect people from all walks of life. With nearly 80% of U.S. workers living paycheck to paycheck, anyone, at any time, can experience a food hardship. An unexpected expense of $400 can force more than one-third of adults to make the difficult choice between heat in the winter or food for their children.

On top of financial instability, many Americans are also confused about nutrition advice. The majority of people are falling short on fruits, vegetables, and dairy when it comes to meeting recommendations for healthy eating, as defined by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Additionally, those in financial hardship don’t purchase these foods because they feel they are too expensive.

Luckily, there is a simple solution! Canned produce and dairy are affordable and nutritious options for those who experience stress related to food access and healthy eating.

Affordable Dairy Prevents Disease

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 3 servings of dairy per day, which can cost as little as $1.00. Dairy foods are packed with nutrients and are a deliciously affordable way to build stronger bones and healthier bodies. For example, a cup of milk contains nine essential nutrients – calcium, phosphorus, vitamins A and D, four B vitamins, and 8 grams of protein – for only 25 cents!

Dairy also delivers three out of the four nutrients of public health concern: vitamin D, calcium, and potassium. When dairy is eaten as part of a healthy eating pattern, overall diet quality improves and may lower the risk for osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes.

Reap the Benefits of Canned Food

People who eat canned fruits and vegetables have a higher intake of nutrients, yet only 12 percent of Americans think canned produce is healthy. Canned and frozen produce fit in a healthy lifestyle and provide the following benefits:

  • Accessible
  • Wallet-friendly
  • Longer shelf life
  • Convenient
  • Less kitchen preparation compared to fresh produce

Dairy + Produce = Affordable, Delicious Meals

Dairy and produce make an affordable meal combination for people who live with tight food budgets. Below are some of my favorite recipes that include dairy and produce. You can swap out any fresh or frozen produce for the canned variety. Visit The Dairy Alliance for more delicious recipes and discover a favorite of your own.

Cheese and Spinach Strata

asy Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas with Yogurt Sauce

Cheesy Broccoli Potato Soup

Strawberry Yogurt Smoothie

Creamy Brown Rice and Vegetable Pilaf

As a registered dietitian, TEDx speaker and a Food Dignity Warrior, Clancy Cash Harrison challenges the way hunger—or, more to the point, food insecurity—is approached in the U.S. Harrison is also president of the West Side Food Pantry and the founder of multiple grass-root anti-hunger programs in her community. She has also served as a food service director for Aramark and taught at Pennsylvania State University. Harrison is also an ambassador for the National Dairy Council.

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