Calcium is an important nutrient, but dairy products can be difficult to include in a diet for individuals looking to lose or maintain their weight. This is due to dairy foods' typically high fat content. In this guide I will give meal-by-meal suggestions on how to include low fat dairy products into your diet while still limiting fat consumption.
The most important thing to do when it comes to eating healthy, is to shop healthy. Put low fat dairy products on your shopping list so you have them always on hand. Check the fat content of products when you shop. Here are some guidelines to help you locate low fat alternatives to commonly used dairy products:
*Reduced fat milk: (1% milk, or better yet skim milk, or Over the Moon milk)
*Yogurt: This has nutrients you need, making it not only one of the best dairy products you can snack on, but also a good source of protein, and enzymes to aid digestion. Just read the labels to be sure it's one of the varieties with low fat and less sugar, such as Stonyfield Farms.
*Cheese: Mozzarella is one of the lower fat cheeses. Before you buy any cheese or cheese spreads, compare its fat content against mozzarella to help you make your choice. The differences DO add up.
Eat breakfast including dairy.
Use reduced fat milk in your cereal. Ween yourself on a lower fat milk than you're used to (use 1% if you are used to 2% or skim milk if you are used to 1%). There are also great (if more expensive) products from Hood and Garelick Farms that advertise no fat and improved taste, such as Over the Moon milk, which really do taste as good as they claim.
For variety, instead of cereal, have yogurt. This has nutrients you need, making it not only one of the best dairy products you can snack on, but also a good source of protein. Just read the labels to be sure it's one of the varieties with low fat and less sugar, such as Stonyfield Farms. Sprinkle some Go Lean crunch cereal on top for protein (and sweet crunchy texture) or drizzle it over a fruit salad.
Put milk in your coffee or tea instead of cream. This seems like a small amount of cream to be bothered with, but when you think about the fact that it's mostly masked by the flavor of the coffee or tea, it's not a big sacrifice to make.
Drink milk with lunch.
Have low fat milk with your meals instead of juice or soda. Since fruit juices contain sugar and less of the fiber that a piece of whole fruit with skin, such as an apple, low fat milk is an alternative in order to balance out your lunch and dinner with vitamins and minerals you need.
If milk is not a practical choice for your lunch, have a yogurt for dessert.
Drink milk with dinner.
This was mandatory for me growing up, and it's a good habit that I kept up because it means I never forget to have dairy, and I get calcium regularly.
You can also use low fat cheese when cooking dinner. Mozzarella cheese sprinkled over chicken in tomato sauce, soups, or over salads are all ways to include diary in your diet. Leftovers from dinner can be brought to work tomorrow for lunch.
Eat dairy with your after-dinner munchies.
Balance out your snack with low fat dairy. Try these ideas for a healthy snack that includes dairy products:
- Have some mozzarella cheese with vegetables. Or, make a dip healthier by substituting sour cream with low fat plain yogurt with your ranch or onion powder mix.
- Drizzle low fat over fruit. Or sprinkle some Go Lean Crunch cereal over yogurt for added sweetness, crunch, and protein.
- Have a piece of low fat cheese with fruit, such as a sliced apple.
- Drink a glass of low fat milk with your snack.
Keep up these healthy habits by shopping for low fat dairy products next week. Remember, eating healthy and managing your weight can be difficult. A lot of times our instinct is to eat LESS. Some weight loss fad diets call for "no dairy." And yet, some studies link calcium intake with a reduced waistline. So while portion control is certainly important, the SUBSTITUTION of healthy foods, i.e. low fat dairy products for higher fat ones, is also important. You can and in fact should eat low fat dairy products in order to get all the nutrients you need. So happy munching!
- You may notice I refer low fat products, not fat free products. I feel fat free products lack substance to the point that they just make me feel hungry, and then I end up consuming more calories. For most people, a small amount of fat is usually okay. I would rather have half the amount of low fat cheese than a large serving of fat free cheese, so just remember to limit your portions.
- The only exception to this rule is Greek yogurt. Some people say this is an acquired taste, although I don’t notice any sort of bitterness or strange flavor. All I notice is that Greek yogurt is a lot thicker than typical yogurt. If you buy low fat Greek yogurt in the plain variety, there’s no fat or added sugar. It makes a fantastic base for a vegetable dip.
- Cream and butter are made from milk, but are not only high in fat, they are also stripped of their nutrients in the process. Milk and olive (or canola) oil (respectively) are usually good substitutes when cooking.