Eat smart: Try low-fat or fat-free dairy products

Sandra R. Cain For Better Living

Milk and milk products are good sources of protein, calcium and vitamins. With such an excellent nutrient profile, it’s not surprising that dairy foods promote strong bones, help to lower blood pressure and help with weight maintenance. Choosing the right kind of milk, however, is key to getting the greatest benefits from dairy. Choosing low-fat (1%) or fat-free (skim) milk and milk products can help keep healthy people over the age of two from becoming overweight or obese.

Keeping our weight in check means a healthier future.

How much is enough? recommends that adults and children over 8 years old have 3 cups of milk, or the equivalent, every day. Children between two and eight years of age should go for 2 cups of milk, or the equivalent, every day. One cup of milk is equal to:

• ½ cup evaporated milk

• 1 cup yogurt

• 1½ ounces hard cheese

• ⅓ cup shredded cheese

• 2 ounces processed cheese

• ½ cup ricotta cheese

• 2 cups cottage cheese

• 1 cup pudding made with milk

• 1 cup frozen yogurt

• 1½ cups ice cream

If you are lactose intolerant, try lactose-free options or add lactase enzymes to dairy foods. Yogurt and hard cheeses are often easier to tolerate.

Here are some tips to make the most of low-fat or fat- free dairy:

Build a Better Breakfast

• Fix hot cereal with low-fat or fat-free milk instead of water.

• Top pancakes with 1 cup of low-fat or fat-free yogurt and fruit instead of syrup.

• Add dry cereal to low-fat or fat-free yogurt.

Light Lunches

• Add low-fat cheese to vegetable salads.

• Stir low-fat or fat-free yogurt into fruit salads.

• Serve low-fat or fat-free yogurt as a dip for fruit or veggies. Try mixing in taco seasoning, ranch

dressing mix or mustard to spice up your dip!

Delightful Dinners

• Top spaghetti with shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese.

• Make soups with 1 cup of low-fat or fat-free milk instead of water.

• Serve ice-cold low-fat or fat-free milk with dinner instead of soda or other sweetened beverages.

Super Snacks

• Fill ice trays with low-fat chocolate or strawberry milk and serve the ice

cubes in glasses of milk.

• Toss 2 tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan cheese with fat-free microwave popcorn.

• Make a smoothie by combining 1 cup of low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt, fruit and ice in a blender.

Source: N.C. Department of Health and Human Services


Pumpkin Mousse

1 ½ cups skim milk

1 package (1 ounce) sugar-free instant butterscotch pudding mix

½ cup canned pumpkin

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

1 cup fat-free whipped topping, divided

In a large bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes. Combine the pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger and allspice, fold into pudding. Fold in ½ cup whipped topping. Transfer to individual serving dishes. Refrigerate until serving. Garnish with the remaining whipped topping.

National Nutrition Month® – March 2007

Sandra R. Cain is the Bladen County Extension director. She can be reached at or 910-862-4591.

Sandra R. Cain For Better Living R. Cain For Better Living