Once upon a time the dairy aisle was simple, but stand in front of the shelves at the supermarket now and you’ll find an abundance of options. With so many varieties on the market, choosing the product that’s right for you can be confusing and not to mention time consuming. Here’s what you should know before your next venture to the dairy section.
What’s in your milk?
Before you reach for a carton of milk it’s important to know if you’re allergic or intolerant to lactose. Most of us don’t have an intolerance, but if you’re worried, you can check by having a simple hydrogen breath test or blood test by your doctor.
When buying milk, the main thing to look at is the difference in fat content between full cream, low fat and skim. All the other labels usually have more of an effect on your wallet than your health.
• Regular Milk
Contains less than or equal to 4% fat content, and is pasteurised and homogenised. It is also known as full cream or whole milk, and is rich and creamy in texture.
• Reduced Fat
Contains less than or equal to 2% fat and often has extra protein and calcium added.
• Low Fat
Has less than or equal to 1.5% fat and almost the same nutritional benefits as regular milk, with a boosted calcium content.
• Skim Milk
Has less than or equal to 0.15% fat and sometimes milk solids are added to optimise the taste.
• Modified Milk
This type of milk may be protein enriched, high in calcium, iron fortified or low in lactose to cater for a range of dietary requirements.
• Ultra Filtration (UF) Milk
This milk is also enriched with protein and calcium.
• Lactose-reduced Milk
Lactose is the sugar found naturally in milk. Lactose-reduced milk has an enzyme added to it that breaks down the lactose making it more digestible for those who are lactose intolerant.
• Buttermilk or Cultured Milk
This has a tangy flavour and is ideal for baking. A special starter culture is added to the pasteurised milk to develop the flavour and acidity.
Other types of milk are long-life milk, concentrated milk and powdered milk.
Milk with added calcium and vitamins
A study conducted by consumer group Choice showed that the added nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, (A2 proteins), or omega-3 fatty acids are unlikely to make any difference to your health, just your wallet. You’d need to drink an extra 2-litres of milk with added omega-3’s to get the same benefit of a 50g portion of salmon.
How much milk do we need?
• Under 12 months old:
Cows milk is not recommended (although adding to food is fine, just not on its own). Breast milk is the best option, then formula.
• 1-3 year old infants:
Whole milk is recommended as opposed to low fat milk, but low fat is fine for larger infants from 2 years old.
• 2 years onwards:
Reduced fat or low fat milk is fine. Be careful not to replace normal diet as can create other deficiencies, e.g. low in iron.
• Pregnant women:
If you have a normal BMI then it is fine to go with full fat, as you need an extra 500cal per day. Overweight women should stick with low fat milk.
The recommended daily calcium intake for children 1-3 years old is 500mg per day, which is just under 2 cups. The recommended daily intake for adults is 1000-1300mg per day, which is the equivalent of 3.5 cups daily.
The low down on cream
Have a good look at cream and see the difference between low fat and regular fat.
• Regular cream 100ml = 337calories, 35g fat.
• Low fat cream 100ml = 221 calories, 20g fat (116 less cal, 15g less fat).
What’s on your cheese plate?
There’s nothing better than a nice, soft gooey Brie. But we all know too much cheese will go straight to our hips. So what are the best and worst cheeses?
Low fat makes a difference if you’re looking to manage your weight, but cottage cheese wins by a landslide – it’s lower in fat and calories. And that goes for low fat ricotta too. A good rule to remember is that generally the more pungent cheeses are best as you will use less, e.g. Parmesan.
Here’s your cheese in order, from lowest to highest in fat:
• Low fat cottage cheese (90cal/2g fat)
• Feta and soft goats cheese (255cal/20g fat)
• Camembert (300cal/23g fat)
• Brie (320cal/25.5g fat)
• Cheddar (415cal/33.5g fat)
When it comes to yoghurt, there are a lot of different low and fat-free flavours available. But are manufacturers adding unhealthy ingredients to compensate for the lack of fat? And if so, does that make full fat a better option?
A low fat yoghurt is definitely a better option, but the very best variety is unsweetened Greek style yoghurt. It’s low in fat and you can add sweetness to it using fresh fruit. Always choose yoghurt that contains the live cultures Lactobacillus acidophilus to help restore a healthy balance of bacteria in the body.