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Chapter 7. Breaking It Down (continued)

Eat calcium-rich foods.

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What if I’m lactose intolerant?

If you want to use milk alternatives because of lactose intolerance, one way to still get the health benefits associated with milk and milk product consumption is to choose alternatives within the milk food group. Try yogurt or lactose-free milk, or take the enzyme lactase before consuming milk products.

What if I avoid milk products?

Choose non-dairy sources of the nutrients provided by milk, including potassium, vitamin A, and magnesium, in addition to calcium and vitamin D. Appendix B can help you make these choices.

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Another source of important nutrients is milk and milk products like fat-free or low-fat yogurt and cheese. Consuming milk products is especially important to bone health during childhood and adolescence—but it is also important at anytime in our lives. Diets rich in milk and milk products may reduce the risk of weakened bones throughout your lifetime. Adults and children should not avoid milk and milk products because of concerns that these foods lead to weight gain. Many fat-free and low-fat choices without added sugars are available and consistent with an overall healthy eating plan. Milk and milk products provide nutrients that include calcium and vitamin D6 (if this vitamin is added by the food manufacturer), vitamin A, potassium, and magnesium. Most people should aim to consume 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products that provide the equivalent amount of calcium each day.

If you don’t or can’t consume milk, consider ways to supplement your diet with calcium from lactose-free milk products and calcium-fortified foods and beverages. For examples, see appendix B-4.

Look for the % DV for calcium on the Nutrition Facts label so you know how much 1 serving contributes to the total amount of daily calcium you need. Remember, a food or beverage with 20% DV or more contributes a lot of calcium to your daily total, while one with 5% DV or less contributes a little.

Health experts provide advice about calcium in milligrams (mg), but the Nutrition Facts label lists only a % DV for calcium. Most adults should get approximately 1,000 mg or 100% DV daily. However, adolescents and teenagers should consume 1,300 mg (130% DV), and post-menopausal women need 1,200 mg (120% DV).

How much milk or milk products do I need?

Look at "My Healthy Eating Plan." How much milk or milk products do you need each day? How does this number sound to you? Does it seem like a lot? Or do you usually eat and drink that much each day?

Let’s look at Jennifer’s plan:

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Jennifer should be eating and drinking 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products each day based on her calorie needs. She needs to figure out how to spread this out throughout the day. First, she asked herself what milk and milk products and calcium-fortified products she likes. Jennifer wrote down the following:

Favorite milk and milk products: fat-free milk, ice cream, cheese, and yogurt

Favorite calcium-fortified products: orange juice and soy drink

Next, Jennifer thought about which fat-free and low-fat versions of these foods she can eat and how she could plan to eat those foods throughout the day. As we reviewed before, she usually eats lunch with her co-workers and fat-free milk isn’t available at the places where they eat. She often drinks a glass of fat-free milk with dinner and has a fat-free yogurt for breakfast. Therefore, she usually needs to get 1 more serving of fat-free or low-fat calcium food in the day. Knowing that, she will add 1 more serving by including a calcium-fortified soy drink as an afternoon snack. She now is set for the day for her calcium-rich foods:

Breakfast: medium banana, fat-free peach yogurt, and coffee with fat-free milk
Lunch: turkey, with whole wheat roll; romaine lettuce, tomato, and cucumber, with light Italian dressing; medium orange; and unsweetened iced tea
Snack: calcium-fortified soy drink
Dinner: pasta and bean salad (1 cup whole wheat pasta, 1/2 cup chickpeas, 1 cup chopped vegetables [carrots, green peppers, and onions], with olive oil) and 1 cup of fat-free milk
Dessert: raspberries (1 cup)

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Now, it’s your turn. Write down the milk and milk products you like to drink and eat, in the space below. You should also write sources of non-dairy calcium if this fits your eating style. If you need any ideas, look at the dairy and non-dairy sources of calcium in appendix B.

Calcium-rich sources I like (milk and milk products or non-dairy sources of calcium):

Now, write down fat-free and low-fat versions of these foods you like or could try and how you could eat and drink those foods and drinks throughout the day.






small Nutritional Label What to watch for. Unhealthy fats such as saturated and trans fats and cholesterol are found in many kinds of milk and milk products. So, look for choices that are fat-free or low-fat when selecting those products. Additionally, some milk products and non-diary desserts and creamers may be processed or made with certain oils (for example, palm oil, palm fruit oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil or hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils) that increase the amount of saturated and/or trans fats in the food.

The Nutrition Facts label can help you choose fats wisely. Use the % DV on the Nutrition Facts label to identify which nutrients (total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol) are high or low: 5% DV or less is low and 20% DV or more is high...remember? There is no % DV for trans fat, but you should aim to keep trans fat as low as possible.

Additionally, the labels on some food packages have information about the specific amount or type of fat in a food. Some examples of claims to look for are "fat-free," "low saturated fat," or "light."

There are many ways to reduce the saturated fat from milk and milk products in your diet. This table shows a few examples of the saturated fat content of different forms of milk and milk products you may eat. Compare foods in the same food category (for example, regular cheddar cheese and low-fat cheddar cheese)—if you choose a lower-saturated fat choice, you can still enjoy many of your favorite foods as you take steps toward a Healthier You.

Food Categorya Amount Saturated Fat
Content (grams)
Saturated Fat
% Daily Valuea
Regular cheddar cheese
Low-fat cheddar cheese
1 oz
1 oz
Whole milk (3.25%)
Low-fat (1%) milk
1 cup
1 cup
Frozen Desserts
Regular ice cream
Frozen yogurt, low-fat
½ cup
½ cup

a % DVs listed in this column are based on the food amounts listed in the table and on a 2,000-calorie reference diet. The DV for total fat is 65 grams and for saturated fat is 20 grams.

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  • At the beginning of a meal, ask yourself how much fat-free or low-fat milk and equivalent milk products or other good sources of calcium you’ve eaten or drunk that day. Then, try to add 1 or 2 servings of these foods if you still haven’t met your goals for the day.
  • When eating or drinking milk and milk products, look on their Nutrition Facts label to check the calorie and nutrient content and look for those lower in fat, saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium.
  • Put milk and milk products on your shopping list for the store. Some milk products vary in their calcium content; therefore, use the % DV to compare products.
  • When eating at a restaurant, ask the server whether they serve fat-free or low-fat milk.

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6. Older adults, people with dark skin, and people who don’t get enough sunlight need more vitamin D. For more information, see chapter 11, "Healthier Older Adults".


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