Q: My doctor told me that I need to eat more dairy to help build my bones but I don't like milk. What are other ways to get the calcium I need?
A: You are not alone in wondering about this question. Children and adults need several servings of dairy a day and luckily there are many other ways to get your need. Calcium is crucial because it is responsible for building strong bones and preventing osteoporosis. Calcium is not the only nutrient you get from eating dairy, however; other benefits include vitamin D (to help with the absorption of calcium), potassium (to help maintain healthy blood pressure) and high-quality protein (to help maintain lean muscle mass and keep you going throughout your day).
Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy options to minimize unnecessary fat calories. Milk is an animal product so it contains saturated fat, which may raise your LDL cholesterol levels (the bad cholesterol). LDL cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease when blood levels are in excess. Try these foods to get the same benefits you would get from milk.
Yogurt can provide 15-30 percent of your daily intake of calcium (check the label) and is a great source of protein, especially Greek yogurt. It also contains probiotics, which are health-promoting bacteria that can help keep your digestive system regular. If you don’t like to eat yogurt plain, mix in fruit, make a smoothie or fruit dip, or top a baked potato.
Cheese can be used for topping casserole dishes or be added to a sandwich or eaten as a snack. Cottage cheese is a great, high-protein snack idea. Serving sizes for cheese vary, so be sure to check the label.
Milk-based desserts can be enjoyed, in moderation of course. Ideas include puddings, frozen yogurt and ice cream.
You could also sneak in milk by substituting it for water in oatmeal, soup bases and smoothies. Non-dairy calcium sources include non-dairy milks, cereals, bread, kale, cauliflower and almonds. There is no better time than Dairy Month to explore different foods that will provide you with the nutrients your body needs!