What Milk and Dairy Can Do For You

It’s not just for babies and cookie breaks.
Milk drinker

When was the last time you had a tall, cool glass of milk? If you can't remember, you might be doing your body – and your weight-loss efforts – a disservice.

Eating a breakfast rich in dairy protein might help you consume 50 fewer calories per day when compared to eating a breakfast rich in sugar, according to a 2009 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Both groups who took part in the study had 250 calories from their breakfast beverage, either from juice or skim milk, but the milk drinkers reported greater feelings of satisfaction during the following four hours than the juice drinkers, and ate less at their next meal.

“The study is an example of the potential that might be there." says Keith Ayoob, EdD, RD, Associate Professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. "Getting more dairy of any amount is a plus.”

The breakfast breakdown
One of the biggest fears people have when planning to embark on a weight-loss plan is that they’re going to feel hungry. “That doesn’t have to be true when you incorporate low-fat or fat-free milk [or milk products] in your diet,” says Ayoob. As the findings of the study appear to favor drinking milk over fruit juice, he suggests, “take a look at the milk protein content of your breakfast and see how that will affect your satiety… then make little changes that can up your ante.”

Ayoob offers some tasty, dairy-rich breakfast ideas:

1. Make hot chocolate with milk, cocoa powder, sweetener and cayenne powder, cinnamon or almond extract.

2. Mix cottage cheese into fat–free yogurt.

3. Heat a tea bag in milk with your favorite spices in the microwave for home made chai.

4. Pair fresh fruit with virtually any dairy product.

5. Stir a few ounces of milk into your coffee or tea each time you have a cup.

6. Eat whole grain cereal with low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt.

7. Sweeten cold milk with almond extract and a packet of sweetener.

The calcium bonus
Consuming dairy products does more than give you a satisfying feeling of fullness. It offers a huge boost of calcium, a crucial nutrient in osteoporosis prevention.

A great deal of research is looking into other benefits of calcium intake too, including weight-loss maintenance and a boost in metabolism. While the results of these studies are preliminary, their findings might certainly encourage milk consumption — which would be a good thing because we’re positive, after all, that milk is good for your bones.

Breakfast bashers: Not a morning eater? Ayoob has an answer for every excuse you could think of.
I don’t have time to make myself something in the morning so I grab it on the go. “If you’re standing in line for a doughnut and coffee, that takes time,” says Ayoob. Dairy protein is easy since it doesn’t take a lot of prep work. “You can’t get faster than opening your fridge,” he says.
I don’t like milk. Then don’t drink it. Cottage cheese and non-fat yogurt are loaded with dairy protein. Canned evaporated fat-free milk and milk powder can be stirred into coffee and tea, and mixed into many of your favorite breakfast foods. Add them to omelets and pancake batter for a protein and calcium boost.
I prefer to drink juice in the morning. Ayoob points out that, while juice is OK and gives you a quick energy burst, it quickly peters out. Milk is a better thirst quencher than juice and research shows that milk’s calcium might help prevent swings in blood sugar.
What Weight Watchers has always known
Weight Watchers has always stressed the importance of dairy consumption. “Milk products are included as one of the Good Health Guidelines within the Weight Watchers plan, not only for the calcium, but also the other key nutrients they contain: protein, potassium, phosphorus, riboflavin, magnesium and vitamin D,” says Stephanie Rost, MS, RD, manager of corporate program development for Weight Watchers International

This group of nutrients is pivotal for many reasons, including strengthening bones, lowering blood pressure and preventing colon cancer. Most people need two servings of dairy a day which equals, for example, 1 cup of milk or yogurt, a 12 ounce latte, 2 cups of cottage cheese or 1 1/2 ounces of hard cheese per serving. Rost suggests other ways to hit your daily dairy quota:

Sprinkle it on. A small amount of shredded low-fat cheese goes a long way. Sprinkle some into an omelet or scrambled eggs, over hot popcorn, on a salad, over a casserole or in tacos, fajitas and pasta dishes.

Stir it in. Plain non-fat Greek yogurt can add creaminess and texture to many recipes. Stir some into your favorite dairy-based dip, low-fat cream soup or spicy Indian or Moroccan dishes.

Wrap it up. Sliced low-fat cheese makes great wrappers. Wrap some around asparagus spears, turkey breast, roast-beef or string beans.

Top it off. Low-fat fruit-flavor yogurt makes a tasty topping. Spoon some onto angel food cake, a bowl of berries or low-fat granola.

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