Top 5 Questions About Milk & Dairy Foods

by Karen Bakies RD LD FAND

You asked, and we listened! Here are answers to the top five most commonly asked questions about dairy foods.

Which type of milk is the healthiest to drink – fat free, low fat, reduced fat or whole milk? milk types
The primary difference between these milks is the amount of fat they contain, which is reflected in the calorie amounts you see on the label.  What doesn’t change  — from whole to fat-free, organic or lactose-free — is the package of nine essential nutrients they all provide.

While the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) continues to recommend lowfat and fat-free dairy foods, they also allow for up to 10% of calories coming from saturated fat. So, whole milk dairy foods can be a part of a healthy eating pattern, you will want to be mindful of other food choices to balance saturated fat and calorie intake.

Why does milk have sugar?
No sugar is added to regular white milk, regardless of fat content. The approximately 12g of sugar in an 8 oz. serving of milk comes from a naturally occurring carbohydrate called lactose. Milk has just 3 simple ingredients:  milk, vitamin A and vitamin D, making it one of the most naturally nutrient-dense beverages you can drink.

How is cow’s milk different from milk alternatives?whats-in-your-glass
Although cow’s milk and plant-based alternatives sit side-by-side in the dairy case, non-dairy alternatives often do not provide the same nutrient profile as cow’s milk. For example, an 8 oz. glass of cow’s milk provides eight times more naturally occurring protein (8g) than a glass of almond beverage (1g).

The DGA does not include alternative beverages (other than soy beverages fortified with calcium, vitamin A and D) in the dairy group because “their overall nutritional content is not similar to dairy milk and fortified soy beverages.” The DGA recommends three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods per day for people nine years and older.

Read labels, non-dairy alternatives may contain added ingredients such as salt, syrups, thickeners and sugars while cow’s milk has just three ingredients – milk, vitamin A and vitamin D.

How many servings of dairy do adults and kids need each day?
Dairy foods can play an important role in every stage of life. The DGA recommends 3 servings of lowfat or fat-free milk, cheese or yogurt daily for those 9 years or older, 2 1/2 servings for those 4-8 years old, and 2 servings for those 2-3 years old. The DGA does not include alternative beverages (other than soy beverages fortified with calcium, vitamin A and D) in the dairy group because “their overall nutritional content is not similar to dairy milk and fortified soy beverages.”

Is Greek yogurt healthier than regular yogurt?
Just like traditional yogurt, Greek yogurt contains a powerful nutrient package that includes essential nutrients like calcium and protein, as well as live and active cultures.

Some people choose Greek yogurt because of the thicker and more tart taste. Greek yogurt also contains about twice the protein and 14% less lactose (naturally occurring sugar) than regular yogurt, although this can vary depending on the brand. While regular yogurt has about 15% more calcium than Greek yogurt. So, choose whichever yogurt you prefer – they’re both healthy options!

Do you have more questions about dairy foods? Comment below!

Karen Bakies RD LD FAND

Karen is a registered dietitian and is the Nutrition Affairs Director for the American Dairy Association Mideast. A scientist at heart, she seeks out quality nutrition research to share with others in a profession she is passionate about. Karen is a mother of three and enjoys cooking, gardening, running and traveling.

1 Comment

  1. Ollie Diggin | | Reply

    What are the benefits of unhomogenised milk versus homogenized?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *