Recently the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) did away with the iconic and somewhat complicated food pyramid and introduced the food plate to assist Americans in making healthier choices in their diets.
“My Plate” is a circle divided into four sections, with sections to highlight fruits, vegetables, protein and grains. A blue circle next to the plate represents dairy.
The dairy group includes milk, cheese, yogurt and fortified soy milk. Soy milk is included because it is nutritionally comparable to cow’s milk and fulfills the nutritional guidelines in a vegetarian or vegan diet. Soy milk is appropriate for those that suffer from lactose intolerance or the less common milk allergy.
Almond, coconut and hemp milk are also available. However, the USDA has yet to include them in their recommended nutritional guidelines.
The USDA recommends increasing the amount of low fat and fat free dairy products in the American diet. They provide protein, potassium, calcium and although not naturally occurring, Vitamin D is added to dairy products to increase their nutritional value.
According to the USDA, moderate evidence has shown that including milk and other dairy products in the diet leads to improved bone health in children and teenagers. Moderate evidence also suggests the consumption of milk and other dairy products is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type two diabetes and lower blood pressure in adults.
The USDA recommends adults and adolescents ages 9-18 years consume three cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products. Two and a half cups per day for children ages 4-8 years and two cups for children ages 2-3 years is recommended. It is suggested women need less milk than men and the need for both declines with age.
Most Americans drink whole or reduced fat (two percent) milk. The USDA recommends switching to low fat (one percent) or skim milk. Choosing skim milk, which contains no fat, or low-fat milk and milk products, provides the same nutrients as whole milk but with far fewer calories.
Nearly half of the milk and milk products consumed by Americans comes in the form of cheese. Too often high fat cheeses are chosen rather than low fat varieties. The USDA recommends choosing yogurt and low fat cheese to increase the intake of potassium, vitamins A and D while decreasing sodium, cholesterol and saturated fatty acids.
The USDA recommends establishing the habits of drinking milk and consuming dairy products in kids. Children who consume the recommended amounts of dairy products become adults who practice healthy eating habits that include the recommended amounts of dairy products in their diets.
Flavored milks like chocolate and strawberry were developed to get kids to drink more milk. Flavored milk typically contains large amounts of added sugar, artificial flavors and colors and lots of empty calories.
Consumers are becoming more concerned about where their milk comes from and what steroids, hormones and unnecessary antibiotics might be found in it. Dairy farmers began injecting cows with the rBST (recombinant bovine somatotrophin) hormone in 1994 to stimulate milk output. As awareness has grown, more consumers are demanding milk from cows that are not injected with steroids, hormones and unnecessary antibiotics.
In 2010, the state of Ohio tried to ban labeling milk as rBST-free but the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned it. The United States is the only nation in the world that allows consumers to drink milk from cows injected with rBST.
Fortunately consumers have choices and can decide for themselves what milk and dairy products to consume, many of which are produced in the region. “We believe that we are the healthy milk choice for Ohio because Hartzler’s provides superior nutrition from grass fed cows and non-homogenized milk, improved digestion through low temperature vat pasteurization which preserves enzymes and allows for your body to digest our milk better and all natural goodness in a glass bottle for a fresh clean taste,” said Tiffany Abend, marketing and customer care representative of Hartzler Family Dairy at Wooster.
Ohio is home to more than 276,000 dairy cows. Ohio ranks first in Swiss cheese production, eighth in overall cheese production and 11th in total milk production in the nation. Ohio has more than 3,300 dairy farms and is a vital part of the economy.
Published: June 17, 2011