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Dietitians Dish: National dairy month

By By Stephanie Markman, RD, LD
June 18, 2013 at 1:18 a.m.


June is national candy month, fresh fruits and vegetables month, iced tea month, papaya month, seafood month, steakhouse month, turkey lover's month and many other silly and serious months.

One I left out was national dairy month, which is what I would like to tell you more about. Best known for being a good source of calcium and protein, dairy products are part of a healthy diet. The hope is this information helps you navigate the dairy aisle more smoothly during your next shopping trip.

Butter is a favorite of most and an idolized ingredient in baking and cooking. While butter adds a unique flavor, beware of its cholesterol and saturated fat content, which can be harmful to your cardiovascular health if consumed in excess. Consider using a tub margarine that is cholesterol-free and usually does not contain trans saturated fats.

Traditional buttermilk is the liquid leftover from churning butter. There is also cultured buttermilk that has been pasteurized, which is usually 1 percent or 2 percent milk fat. This is what we typically buy from the grocery store.

Most people find the strong and sour flavor too overwhelming to drink alone, but buttermilk is a common ingredient in baking and a low-fat beverage. If you ever find yourself short on buttermilk, you can simply combine one cup of milk with one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice and let it sit for about 10 minutes or until is curdles.

Cottage cheese is made from rinsed curds and is not aged, therefore has a very mild flavor. While cottage cheese is a great protein-rich food, it can also be high in sodium.

One may choose a fat-free cottage cheese to avoid cholesterol and saturated fat; however, you will be gaining sodium. I recommend choosing a reduced-fat cottage cheese to limit some of your cholesterol and fat and to avoid excessive sodium.

Evaporated milk is milk that has 60 percent of the water content removed, making it shelf stable and a great pantry staple. Sweetened condensed milk is evaporated milk with added sugar.

Yogurt is produced by fermenting milk. Many different flavors are available. Most yogurts at the grocery store are sweetened. If you have a history of diabetes or are trying to lose weight, an artificially sweetened yogurt is recommended.

Choose a low-fat or fat-free yogurt if you have a history of cardiovascular disease or are trying to lose weight. Greek yogurt differs from regular yogurt in that it has been strained more to reduce the amount of whey, which makes a thicker yogurt product. Make sure and look for a low-fat, sugar-free Greek yogurt as well.

Ice cream is always a crowd pleaser. An appropriate serving size is one half of a cup and should only be indulged in on occasion because of its high fat, cholesterol, sugar and calorie content.

Sour cream is made by fermenting regular milk cream, giving the signature tangy flavor and contains 18-20 percent butterfat. Reduced or low-fat versions are recommended. Even though most people use a small amount of sour cream at a meal, every little bit of fat and cholesterol adds up.

Creme fraiche is also fermented from milk but contains a whopping 30-45 percent butterfat. It is less sour than sour cream but significantly higher in fat, making it a common cooking and baking ingredient for decedent desserts.

Cheese is a crowd favorite but a triple whammy for your heart and arteries. Rich in flavor, cheese is also rich in sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol. For these reasons, cheese is not recommended to be consumed every day and an appropriate serving size is considered one ounce.

This is equal to one pre-packaged slice of cheese, one-fourth of a cup shredded or a cube the size of a domino. Please, don't shoot the messenger.

Most grocery stores carry cheeses made with two percent milk, but beware as these are usually higher in sodium. Stick to cheeses naturally lower in fat such as part-skim mozzarella, goat cheese, string cheese, farmer cheese and Neufchatel.

You can also use more aged cheeses, which have a more intense flavor, and therefore, you will need less in your recipe. Examples of these are sharp cheddar, gorgonzola, asiago, Parmesan and goat cheese.

Stephanie Markman is a registered and licensed dietitian DeTar Healthcare Systems. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.

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