By Sarah Smith from Bayside Dietetics
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A study has just been released by Dutch scientists that tells us that the type of food we eat may influence where our body weight is stored. A healthy diet is associated with less storage of fat around our middle than an unhealthy diet. To determine this, the Dutch scientists had to determine what a healthy diet involved. They decided that a healthy diet would be defined as following the Dutch Healthy Diet Guidelines. These guidelines bear a strong similarity to our dietary guidelines in Australia (check them out at https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines/australian-dietary-guidelines-1-5).
The most interesting part of the study was that the “healthy” food that had the greatest effect on reducing weight around our middle, was dairy. This information comes closely after the National Heart Foundation in Australia released an update to their dairy advice: “We believe there is not enough evidence to support a restriction on full-fat milk, yogurt and cheese for a healthy person, as they also provide healthy nutrients like calcium.”
All of this information is nothing radical. I would never change my advice to clients based on a single study. I would investigate how the study was done and whether it aligns with other similar studies and whether it adds some new information. This study is one of many possible studies that remind us that dairy is good for our health…as part of a balanced diet.
The most well known reason for dairy being so good for us is that it provides us with a great source of calcium that our body uses to keep our bones strong. It is more than that however. The way the calcium is formed in dairy food is particularly easy for human bodies to access and use. Dairy also provides important proteins and fats that our body uses to function at its best. Many expensive protein powders and supplements are based on the proteins found naturally in dairy foods. Finally, dairy food has been shown to reduce storage of fat around our middle, reduce risk of many lifestyle diseases, assist in sporting performance and keep our gut healthy. So it’s a natural (and cheap) way to get our body working well.
If you’ve been scared from eating dairy or think dairy has fallen off the menu at your place, here are some ideas to get it back.
Dairy snack ideas:
- Cheese slices on crackers
- Cubed cheese or cheese stick with fruit
- Tapas plate with vegetable sticks, hommus and your favourite cheese
- Try an experimental cheese platter after school with the kids. Get everyone trying different cheeses and exploring where they are from.
- Natural yoghurt sprinkled with walnuts (over 5s) and drizzled with honey
- Ricotta Sundae – layer smooth ricotta with fruit in a clear glass. Try to make it look something like this from the chunkychef.com…
- Container or tub of yoghurt
- Glass of milk
- Fruit smoothie or milkshake
For the lunchbox try freezing milk or yoghurt overnight. By the time you get to snacktime it will be thawed and ready to eat.
Dairy in meals:
- Dollop yoghurt onto morning muesli or cereal
- Add feta cheese to a salad. I’m thinking any simple salad with a few cubes of feta on top, but if you are after inspiration this one gave me a laugh https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/cubed-watermelon-cucumber-and-feta-salad-3821717
- Sprinkle cheese onto pasta dishes
- Add a side of Natural or Greek yoghurt to your next lamb or bean meal. Even better mix in some diced cucumber and a squeeze of lemon to create a basic “raita”. A more time-intense but delicious raita is https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/traditional-indian-raita-242185
- Use Greek yoghurt to replace mayonnaise when making your next salad.
- Use ricotta cheese as the base for your next pasta sauce. In reality, you can just stir smooth ricotta through cooked pasta and add whatever vegetables you like. For a more formal recipe this one remains simple: https://www.budgetbytes.com/easy-spinach-ricotta-pasta/
- Cannelloni for dinner
In the healthy guidelines, just above the advice to include dairy, is the advice to eat the amount of food that meets your energy needs. This isn’t a portion set by a factory, nor the latest fad diet prescription. When it comes to “how much” dairy, try and include it 2-3 times every day or at least one big serve (e.g. breakfast with both milk and yoghurt on muesli or a milkshake).
There are a few diets out there are promote exclusion of dairy. There are also quite a few people out there who have naturally excluded dairy due to poor tolerance. This makes is hard to get nutrients like calcium in the diet, so it’s best to speak to a dietitian about the best options for you.
While all of us come in different shapes and sizes, and that should be embraced, advice like including dairy as part of a varied diet has always made sense.
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