Tag Archives: milk

A Simple Switch: Choosing Low-Fat Dairy

Two women shopping for milk

These women recently found out that choosing healthier low-fat dairy products, such as 1% milk or fat free yogurt, costs the same as full fat!

Hi! Meredith, Kim, Dimple, Kathryn and Anna here! We’re students at Virginia Tech who study Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise and we want to share what we’ve learned about choosing healthier dairy options. With the help of the Family Nutrition Program and what we have learned in class, we all switched to low-fat and fat-free dairy. And we didn’t even taste the difference!

This why you TOO should make the switch… Dairy foods are important because they improve bone health. This is important for both adults and kids. Dairy foods that are full fat are high in saturated fats and cholesterol, which can have negative effects on heart health. So choosing low-fat dairy is a great way to keep your body healthy. Here are some of our tips:

Kathryn: I choose 1% chocolate milk instead of whole milk at the grocery store!

Anna: My favorite breakfast is non-fat Greek yogurt topped with seasonal berries.

Kim: Since I’m lactose intolerant, I choose lactose-free skim milk at the grocery store. I think it even tastes better than regular milk and I still get the calcium I need.

Dimple: Instead of ice cream for dessert, I have frozen Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts!

Meredith: I like snacking on reduced-fat mozzarella cheese sticks. They’re convenient for when I have busy days and are healthier than full fat cheese sticks!

Click here to learn more about small changes you can make to improve you and your family’s heart health. Interested in trying new, healthy recipes that use low-fat or fat-free dairy? Visit our recipe collection here. Be sure to try the Berry Purple Smoothie. Meredith makes it for breakfast before school and it’s healthy, filling and easy to make! There are many other healthy, easy to make recipes on the VCE FNP’s website your family will love.

Water is Better. Why Drinking Your Calories is Not Eating Smart.

Eat Smart. Drink More Water.

Eat Smart. Drink More Water.

A few months ago, I shared this picture from MyPlate on our Facebook page. It really surprised me because 400 calories is how much most people need for an entire meal. Much of those calories are coming from added sugar in soda or fruit-flavored drinks (not 100% juice).

Why does it matter?

  1. We are getting way too much added sugar in our diets. Regular soda is the leading source of added sugar in our diets.
  2. Drinking calories doesn’t make you feel full in the same way that eating the same amount of calories would. So you end up eating more later on.
  3. Buying soda and fruit drinks takes away from money that could be spent on nutritious foods. This is a major issue for those of us with limited food budgets.
  4. Many children in America don’t drink enough water. (Read more about how much water kids need every day from Kids Eat Right.)
Everyone can enjoy the taste and health benefits of water.

Everyone can enjoy the taste and health benefits of water.

Water is Better.

  • Water is one of 6 essential nutrients your body needs to function. In fact, our bodies are about 60% water.
  • Water is sugar and calorie free. You can drink it without worrying about your weight.
  • There is some evidence that drinking water before meals can actually help you eat less calories, aiding in weight management.
  • Tap water is available and free, at home and in most restaurants. There’s no need to spend extra on bottled water, when a lot of times, it’s also just tap water, too.
  • Water doesn’t have to be boring or flavorless. You can jazz up plain water with sliced fruit, veggies, or herbs.

Got Milk and Juice?

Milk and 100% juice have calories. But they also have essential nutrients, like vitamins and minerals, that soda doesn’t. We need 3 cups of dairy a day, but this also includes low-fat cheese and yogurt. Most days, you won’t need to drink 3 cups of milk to get all your dairy.

Likewise, 100% juice is an easy way to get fruit. But whole fruit (fresh, frozen or canned in 100% juice) has more nutrients, especially fiber, than juice. For that reason, we should limit 100% juice to just 1 cup (8 ounces) a day. For young kids, who need less fruit, ½ cup (4 ounces) a day is all they should drink.

Some beverages that contain calories (milk and 100% juice) are fine to drink, but most of our hydration should come from plain old water. Cutting out sugary drinks is better for our waistlines and wallets. Here are 10 Tips for Making Better Beverage Choices from MyPlate to help you drink smarter.

Half and Half vs. Non-dairy Creamer- What’s the best for coffee?

We got a great question from Facebook about which is better to use in coffee, half and half or non-dairy creamer. I think this is a great topic to discuss because by itself, coffee is pretty healthy (see benefits explained here) and very low in calories (only 2 calories per cup). But what we add to it can get us in dietary trouble. For many people, what passes for coffee is really just a fancy milkshake with lots of added sugar and fat.

Lets compare the ingredients and nutrition facts to see what is the best coffee “mate.” (See what I did there!)

Coffee with cream, but what kind?

Coffee with cream, but what kind?

First up, it’s the battle of the non-dairy creamers. I wanted to look at both powdered and liquid since everyone reading may have different preferences. And there is one sneaky ingredient difference you should be aware of between the two.

Nutrition Facts Label for Liquid vs. Powdered Coffee Creamer (Information retrieved from Supertracker)

Nutrition Facts Label for Liquid vs. Powdered Coffee Creamer
(Information retrieved from Supertracker)

Generic Non-Dairy Creamer (liquid)

Ingredients: Water, Corn Syrup, Soybean & Cottonseed Oil, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sodium Caseinate (A Milk Derivative), Dipotassium Phosphate, Mon-& Diglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate. Not A Source Of Lactose

Pros- low calorie, low fat, no trans fat, low sodium, no artificial colors or flavors

Cons- 2 different added sugars, highly processed

Generic Non-Dairy Creamer (powder)

Ingredients: Corn Syrup Solids, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Sodium Caseinate (A Milk Derivative), Dipotassium Phosphate, Mono- And Diglycerides, Silicon Dioxide, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Soy Lecithin, Artificial Flavor, Artificial Color. Allergy Warning: Contains Milk And Soy.

Pros- Low calorie, low-fat, low sodium

Cons- TRANS FAT from partially hydrogenated oil, highly processed

In the battle of the non-dairy creamers, the liquid version is the clear winner. Trans fats are the worst kind of fat because they increase the risk of heart disease the most. We should avoid all trans fat as much as possible. Notice how we had to look at the ingredient list, and not the nutrition facts, to find the trans fat? That’s because if a product has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, it doesn’t have to be listed in the nutrition facts label (and apparently Supertracker doesn’t list trans fat, but you will find it on nutrition facts labels in the store).


Next up, we have the dairy options. The original question was about half and half, but I also added another choice to the mix to keep things interesting.

Nutrition Facts Label for Half and Half vs. 1% Milk (Information retrieved from Supertracker)

Nutrition Facts Label for Half and Half vs. 1% Milk
(Information retrieved from Supertracker)

Half and Half

Ingredients: Pasteurized Grade A Milk, Cream.

Pros- minimally processed, provides some Vitamin A and calcium, low sodium

Cons- higher in calories, fat and saturated fat than powdered creamer (similar to liquid), not fortified with Vitamin D

1% milk

Ingredients: Low Fat Milk, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D3.

Pros- minimally processed, provides some Vitamins A, D and calcium, low sodium, lower in fat, saturated fat and calories

Cons- not as creamy flavor

Both half and half and 1% milk are better choices than the non-dairy creamers. They are less processed and have more vitamins and minerals. But between these two dairy options, 1% milk is a better choice because it has less saturated fat and cholesterol than half and half. This should be familiar since FNP, MyPlate and the Dietary Guidelines all like to remind us to choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products.

If you prefer the other options, try gradually switching to 1% milk. You will get used to the difference in flavor and in no time will enjoy your healthier coffee just as much as your current choice. (Just remember to look at the amount of sweetener in your coffee, too. But that is a whole other post for another day!)

Share how you take your coffee in the comments and if this post made you rethink your drink.