Americans don’t eat nutrients—we eat food. And we usually don’t pick it based on food groups; we choose a variety of foods that fit into our lifestyle, culture and taste preferences. Many Americans, however, are not currently eating the most nutritious diets, so the recently released, 8th edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 provides guidance for the best foods to include in a variety of eating patterns to maximize health.
In order to meet Americans where they are and help them make small changes, the Dietary Guidelines offer suggestions for shifts in current eating styles to progress to healthier ones. Whether your eating style looks more like the Healthy U.S.-style Pattern, Healthy Vegetarian-Style Pattern or Healthy Mediterranean-style Pattern, the Dietary Guidelines recommend including more dairy foods. In fact, Americans are currently consuming far below the recommended three servings of dairy foods each day and would benefit by increasing their intake of low-fat and fat-free dairy foods. Enjoying milk, cheese and yogurt are delicious ways to meet that recommendation and research shows doing so is associated with a reduced risk of certain diseases like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The nutrients provided by the dairy group include calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin D (found in products fortified with vitamin D), riboflavin, vitamin B12, protein, potassium, zinc, choline, magnesium and selenium.
As you look at your diet and the gradual changes you can make this year, consider increasing the amount of milk, yogurt and cheese you consume. It’s affordable (only about 25 cents per 8-ounce glass of milk) and fits into any lifestyle with a variety of options available from low-fat and lactose-free milk to flavored yogurt and low-sodium cheese.
Serve milk at mealtime, grab a cheese stick for a healthy snack on the go or enjoy a yogurt parfait at breakfast time. How do you plan on making the shift to more dairy? Share with me at @TheDairyRD.
Lanier Dabruzzi, MS, RD, LD