Happy Friday Eve!
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and have been able to take some time off of work to slow down, relax and enjoy this special time with the people you love most. I had such an amazing Christmas and am feeling incredibly blessed for all of the family and friends (and puppies) in my life.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend an intimate holiday dinner at the insanely beautiful home of personal chef, Lauren Lane. (IG: @lauren_lane_culinarian) This meal was hosted by Midwest Dairy and Lauren herself, and every course featured dairy in a delicious and unique way. I was immediately intrigued when I received the invitation because 1) I love dairy, and 2) I figured I could get some new, creative recipe ideas! I recently mentioned that I have been in a bit of a rut with cooking, so I’m looking for inspiration everywhere these days!
As a Registered Dietitian, I get a lot of questions about dairy. Should I choose low-fat or full-fat? Should I avoid dairy completely? What are the pros and cons of including dairy in my diet? It’s no secret that there is a lot of controversy and confusion surrounding dairy, thanks to all of the misinformation in the media these days. I’m excited to have the opportunity to highlight all the wonderful benefits of dairy and share how and why I choose to include it in my diet on a daily basis.
Disclosure: I was compensated monetarily by Midwest Dairy in exchange for social promotion; however, all opinions expressed in this post and others regarding my experience & beliefs regarding dairy are my own. Some resources and facts in this post were provided by Midwest Dairy.
My Favorite Ways to Include Dairy In My Diet
One word: cheese. I swear, cheese is my husband’s love language. (Just kidding, but seriously). Approximately 90% of the recipes I cook at home involve cheese in some way because I like to keep my man happy. ; ) I truly think my love for cheese has grown significantly since we have been together, and I’m not mad about it.
I pack our lunches for work every day, and without fail, I always throw either sliced cheese or string cheese in. It’s the perfect mid-morning or afternoon snack to tide you over between meals, thanks to the perfect combination of protein and fat, and not to mention, it’s just delicious. It also pairs really well with my homemade trail mix, which you can also always find in my lunch box.
A few other dairy staples you can always find in our fridge include cream cheese, plain Greek yogurt and milk. We love spreading cream cheese on whole grain toast with jelly (if you haven’t tried this combo yet, do it and thank me later) and I use Greek yogurt in tons of recipes, like my Southwest Chicken Enchilada Bake, Whole Wheat Lasagna Roll-Ups, Healthy Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad and more!
We always keep a 1/2 gallon of milk on hand to throw into fruit smoothies, overnight oats or just to have a glass as a bedtime snack to wash down our favorite combo, dark chocolate dipped in almond butter. : )
Bringing Dairy Home For The Holidays
Now I have to tell you guys all about this dairy dinner – rather, feast – that I went to last week. It was unreal. All of the courses were so well thought out, plated beautifully and so, so tasty. I have included the menu in the photo below. We started off with a Gorgonzola Souffle served over Mixed Greens. Next up was Ricotta Gnocchi with Tomato Butter Sauce, followed by the most tender Milk Braised Pork with Herbs. Lastly, and possibly my favorite course, Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Berries for dessert! It was all so incredible. This was an occasion where I most definitely did not honor my fullness, because I just had to try everything, and couldn’t stop eating it! I have zero regrets. ; )
PS: the mood lighting was gorgeous, but it didn’t do my food photos any favors, so forgive me for the poorly lit pictures of this meal. I promise it all looked more delicious than it does here.
Aside from the food, I had so much fun chatting with fellow foodies at the dinner about everything from Kansas City breweries, writing books, funny stories about our dogs, our mutual love for food, and so much more. I love meeting new people and hearing their stories about where they’ve been and how they got to where they are now. I also love trying new and interesting foods and bonding other them with others.
As much as some people want to believe that “food is just fuel”, it is so much more than that. Food is social. Food is emotional. Food brings people together, and it is meant to be enjoyed. It doesn’t have to be micromanaged down to the gram, and it most certainly doesn’t have to add more stress than it does pleasure to our lives. When you give yourself permission to eat all kinds of foods, it allows you to have wonderful eating experiences like I had at this dinner.
I hope that you can find yourself at peace this season while you enjoy special, holiday meals with loved ones, and avoid the pressure of going on any “crash diets” when the new year rolls around. I urge you to continue to eat foods that fuel you, but also foods that you love. That can and most definitely should include things like cheese, or ice cream, or pasta, and anything else that provides you with both joy and nourishment.
At this dinner we also had the opportunity to hear a local farmer, Adriane, talk about her family-owned farm, her cows, her employees that are more like family, and how happy it makes her to see people buying and enjoying dairy. Adriane and her husband pour their heart and soul into providing dairy products to people in our community. They do so much to ensure that their products are safe and healthy for us to consume, and that their animals are treated with love and respect. By simply buying a gallon of locally produced milk, we are supporting their business and livelihood, and in return, they are providing us with easy access to nutrient-rich, affordable foods.
I hope to have the chance to visit their farm early next year, and if and when that happens, I will definitely share more behind the scenes information on how it runs! In the meantime, be sure to follow Adriane on Instagram at @TheLittleHouseOnTheDairy for more insight.
Why You Should Include Dairy In Your Diet in 2019
I think I’ve already mentioned that dairy is delicious, but let’s talk about some of the benefits of it.
It seems that around the new year, everyone is always seeking out the “next big thing” to help them eat better or improve their health. You don’t have to break the bank on expensive diet programs or specialty products that promise miraculous (and often unrealistic) results. Dairy is and always has been a cost-effective, nutrient-packed food that can improve the quality of your diet and overall health.
LET’S TALK ABOUT DAIRY NUTRITION
- Examine the Label.Milk’s nutrition label is simple with just three ingredients, unlike milk alternatives, which may contain up to ten ingredients, and in most cases, one of the first ingredients is water.
- Did you know that the nutrition of milk is the same across all levels? Only the fat & calorie amounts vary between skim milk all the way up to whole milk.
- Our bodies absorb fat-soluble vitamins (including vitamin A, D, E and K) much better when we consume them along with fat, so I actually recommend choosing dairy that contains some fat, rather than non-fat, or pairing it with a fat-containing food, such as nuts or avocado. *Note: dietary needs vary per person. Seek guidance from a Registered Dietitian for individualized advice.
- Look Beyond Bone Health.Most of us know that dairy foods provide calcium to support strong bones, but milk, cheese and yogurt provide an entire package of nine nutrients, which also includes high-quality protein to support muscle health.
- Some of the other nutrients include potassium, phosphorus, vitamins A, D and B12, riboflavin, and niacin (niacin equivalents).
- The addition of flavoring and sugar does not take away any of these nutrients. Although flavored milks have added sugars, they account for less than 50 calories per serving — a small amount compared to how many nutrients it can provide both children and adults. Almost one-half of the sugar is naturally occurring lactose which is found in all milk. I think this is an important fact for people to know. Milk contains naturally occurring sugars, just like fruit. It is still packed with nutrition, and should not be avoided due to these sugars.
- Explore The Versatility of Dairy.Dairy can easily be incorporated into meals and snacks. Getting the recommended three servings of dairy every day is easy once you discover the possibilities. Like I mentioned, we love snacking on all kinds of cheese, using Greek yogurt in smoothies and a variety of recipes, and drinking milk by the glass!
Of course, this does not apply to anyone who may be allergic to dairy products and/or lactose intolerant. Thankfully, there are more and more dairy-free alternatives available these days for those who need them due to dietary restrictions.
Please be sure to follow Adriane, the farmer I met at the Midwest Dairy holiday dinner, on social media at @thelittlehouseonthedairy, as well as @midwestdairy, to learn more and get some fresh ideas and inspiration for cooking with dairy! Lastly, check out @lauren_lane_culinarian to see some of the amazing dishes she whips up, plus lots of delicious recipes! You can also head to Midwest Dairy’s website for lots of great information.
I hope this post helped shed some light on dairy and inspired you to continue including these nutritious and affordable foods in your diet in the new year. Thank you so much for reading!
Until next time,
Shanna Hutcheson, RD, LD, CHC
#BringingDairyToLife #MidwestDairy #UndeniablyDairy #Sponsored