Pour more milk

By Katie Wilhelmi RD, LD

What we drink is just as important to our health as what we eat. Now is a great time to take a closer look at your beverage intake because June is National Dairy Month, and milk is one of the most nutritious drinks you can find. Milk is an all-natural food that delivers a combination of nutrients unlike any other food. It provides nine essential nutrients nutrients we need from food because our bodies cannot make them on its own. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines list several nutrients (potassium, calcium, fiber and vitamin D) as nutrients of concern because intakes of these are so low, for both children and adults. Milk provides three of these four nutrients of concern.

The recommendation of “3-a-day” still stands for anyone over the age of nine or older. Children between the ages of four and eight should consume at least 2.5 servings of dairy foods, and two- to three-year-olds need two servings each day. Unfortunately, recent studies have shown that consumption of milk and milk products in the U.S. declines with age and falls below the recommended levels by the age of four years old. By getting one more cup of milk a day children – and adults – can meet the guidelines and get many of the nutrients missing in their diets.

I often get questions regarding the nutrition in flavored milk. Here are a few facts about flavored milk. According to the Dairy Research Institute, fifteen percent of milk consumed is flavored and contributes just 3% of added sugar and 2% of calories in children’s diet on average. In the overall picture of added sugar in our diets, flavored milk’s contribution is very small. An eight-ounce serving of milk, whether it is flavored or not, will provide as much calcium as 10 cups of spinach, potassium as one small banana, vitamin A as two hard-boiled eggs, phosphorus as one cup kidney beans, riboflavin as 1/3 cup whole almonds and vitamin D as ounce salmon. The way I see it, drinking flavored milk is better than drinking no milk.

Getting one more serving of dairy can be easy. A few simple ideas to sneak more milk into your diet include serving milk at all meals, using milk rather than water when making oatmeal, and adding milk to coffee instead of creamer. Making pudding with milk is another way to incorporate more milk and will provide more nutrition than prepackaged pudding cups. Smoothies made with fruit, yogurt, ice and milk are a great way to increase your dairy intake and cool off on hot summer days.

Katie Wilhelmi is a registered dietitian at the New Ulm Hy-Vee.

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