RAW MILK CHEESES: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

 

The prevailing trend toward buying and consuming locally produced and minimally processed foods has led to an increase in the popularity of a variety of artisan cheeses found in specialty shops, farmers’ markets, and grocery stores.  These niche cheeses are made from either pasteurized milk or raw (unpasteurized) cow’s milk. Some cheesemakers and consumers believe that raw milk cheeses have better flavor than their pasteurized counterparts, although this is a matter of personal preference.

A question of safety. A key question is whether cheese made from raw or unpasteurized milk is safe to eat. Most cheese in the U.S. is made using pasteurized milk. Pasteurization of raw cow’s milk, which commonly involves heating milk to at least 161º F for at least 15 seconds followed by rapid cooling to 40º F, is recognized worldwide as an essential public health measure to reduce the risk of illnesses from pathogenic bacteria. Further, pasteurization of milk does not affect the nutritional value of milk in any measurable way or compromise milk’s health benefits.

It’s the law. Since 1949, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed the sale of cheeses made from raw milk, whether domestic or imported, as long as the cheese is aged for at least 60 days at 35º F or more. This 60 day holding period is intended to protect consumers from potentially harmful bacteria that may be present in raw milk. After 60 days, the acids and salts in raw milk cheese are thought to naturally prevent the growth of potentially harmful microorganisms such as Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli.

A topic of debate. According to a recent joint FDA/Health Canada study, the risk of listeriosis (a serious foodborne disease) from consuming soft-ripened cheeses made from raw milk is higher than that from similar soft-ripened cheeses made from pasteurized milk. A recent policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics refers to outbreaks of other bacterial illnesses associated with raw milk cheeses. These findings are raising the question of whether the 60 day aging process for raw milk cheeses is enough to kill harmful bacteria. While the FDA is currently assessing the need for tougher regulations for raw milk cheeses, many American cheesemakers argue that they rely on raw milk to create their sought-after unique flavored cheeses.

This topic continues to be debated. Meanwhile, the FDA along with other health professional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that pregnant women, children, and individuals with weakened immune systems avoid certain raw milk cheeses (e.g., soft cheeses, soft-ripened cheeses, Mexican-style cheeses like Queso blanco or Queso Fresco) because of the risk of bacterial illnesses.

The bottom line. Dairy foods are among the safest foods in the U.S. in large part because of the pasteurization of milk. Choosing cheeses made from pasteurized cow’s milk is not only a safe option, but there are a wide variety of these cheeses available to meet consumers’ taste and nutritional needs.

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Hunger is Real.

 

When I told my parents during my freshman year of college that I was interested in learning more about nutrition and possibly making a career out of it, they were excited because “I would always have a job.”  It is true that most people, even the aspiring nutritionists themselves, believe that their jobs will always revolve around helping people lose weight. Oftentimes, this is the case with clinical dietitians and private practice dietitians – they are teaching people how to maintain or lose weight and even counseling clients on how to eat less.

However, something completely different has hit the registered dietitian newsstand. This is the reality of hunger. Hunger; as in people not having access to enough food, right here in our own country, states, and towns. This might be the single mom, with four kids, working three jobs who is just trying to get dinner on the table. However, that is not always the case. Hunger can be anywhere; even in the two parents, two children families just trying to make ends meet, because food costs have increased, clothing costs have increased, and work is cutting pay. It could also be the senior citizen living next to you that put in 40+ years of hard work, but now cannot pay for groceries. In fact, hunger is a very real issue for 1 in 6 people in the United States. 

So, what is happening to help this growing problem? Feeding America is the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief charity. Feeding America’s food bank network members supply food to more than 37 million Americans each year, including 14 million children and 3 million seniors. The mission of Feeding America is to feed America’s hungry through their nationwide network of 202 member food banks and engage the country in the fight to end hunger. The goal of helping the hungry should be on the radar of every American country and organization; which is why it is so remarkable to see a new initiative launched between Feeding America, the dairy industry, dairy farmers, and milk companies called The Great American Milk Drive.

Food banks from all over the country often hear from participants that milk is one of the most desired products; however, milk donations are often rare. Milk, with nine essential nutrients, is a nutritional bargain and should be readily available to anyone struggling with hunger. That is why the dairy industry has partnered with Feeding America to launch this national initiative to secure highly desirable gallons of nutrient-rich milk to millions of hungry families—made possible by the nation’s milk companies and dairy farmers.

It is easy to donate, just go to milklife.com/give. Please help fight the issue of hunger!

As a registered dietitian, fighting hunger in America is something that I never thought would become one of my job responsibilities.  But, hunger is real and we ALL need to be doing what we can to help those families, seniors, and children who struggle every day.

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Grand Ledge Gymnastics Flips for Chocolate Milk

For the seventh year in a row the Grand Ledge High School Women’s Gymnastics Team made a presence at the High School State Championship meet, because for seven years in a row the team won their regional competition, as well as their conference meet, and every other meet along the way. In fact, this team has done something that not many other teams in the history of Michigan High School sports have done – won over 100 consecutive competitions (106 to be exact)!

Before the team heads to their State Championship competition every year, they meet at a local restaurant in Grand Ledge to eat breakfast asa team and with community members who show up to wish the girls good luck.  Two employees and former Grand Ledge gymnasts from the United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM) were able to attend the team’s pre-competition breakfast on March 7th. It was a privilege to be involved in this tradition (once again) and to be able to see the girls off to the 2014 state competition.

UDIM was involved with the Grand Ledge Gymnastics Team because they won one of our high school Chocolate Milk: Nature’s Sports Drink Grant. This grant was awarded to 75 schools throughout the 2013-14 school year, with 25 schools being awarded during the winter sports season. The grant provides the sports teams with funding to purchase low-fat/fat-free chocolate milk for their athletes before, during, or after practices and competitions, rolling cooler bags to transport the chocolate milk, and other promotional items featuring chocolate milk as natures perfect sports drink. Each sports team is also provided with professionally printed posters that feature their athletes as “chocolate milk celebrities.”

I was able to attend Grand Ledge Gymnastics Team’s day on the dairy farm when they had their chocolate milk photos taken. It was a fun-filled day and many of the girls had never stepped foot on a dairy farm before. The dairy farmers were able to give a short tour of their farm and provided the girls with an awesome space to take their chocolate milk photos – the calf barn!

 

To end their season, Grand Ledge came in second place at the State Championship meet; which is the first time is 6 years that they have not taken home the state title. After speaking with head coach, Duane Haring, he was very excited about the runner-up position, because the team went into the meet as the “underdog” because of many serious injuries throughout the season. The team was also able to come back from being in fifth place after the 3rd rotation to take second place at the completion of the meet – now those are some tough ladies!

One of the team captains and seniors stated that the chocolate milk grant brought the team closer together because they were able to visit a dairy farm; which is something they would not typically do. She also stated that a cold glass of chocolate milk was awesome to have after a difficult meet and between rotations at the long weekend invitationals. Coach Haring stated that he was extremely excited to receive this grant because he understands that the gymnasts need the nutrition that comes from milk and dairy products. He also stated that the chocolate milk was perfect to help the girls recover and re-hydrate after meets and practices.

Let’s raise our glasses to a great season and many more to come!

 

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Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right

 

It’s about taste. Do you know what consumers consider to be the most important factor influencing their decision to buy one food over another? Taste is the answer, according to the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2013 Food and Health Survey of more than 1,000 American adults nationwide. While a variety of factors including price, healthfulness, convenience, and sustainability impact our decision to buy foods and beverages, taste is the top driver of food and beverage selections.

“Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right” is the theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month®, a nutrition education and information campaign created annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. While nutrition is important when it comes to choosing what to eat, taste or flavor is the key motivator to eating right, according to the Academy. This year’s theme focuses on combining taste and nutrition to create healthy meals that follow the recommendations of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The campaign encourages everyone to enjoy healthful foods.

Taking the taste test. As a Registered Dietitian, I do my best to get the nutrients I need by choosing a variety of foods in moderation that I like from the basic food groups. However, I realized that I’ve lately been in a food-rut, tending to choose the same, tasty foods. So, I decided to make a concerted effort to expand the range of nutritious foods I choose at the grocery store, at restaurants, and when cooking at home. This of course can be done by selecting nutrient-rich foods from any or all food groups  - fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy.

Consider dairy foods, for example. Dairy foods such as milk, cheese, and yogurt deliver a powerhouse of nutrients and unique health benefits in a tasty, affordable, and readily available way.  A stroll by the dairy case reveals an abundance of new dairy product innovations with diverse flavors to meet the preferences of any health-conscious individual, foodie, ethnic group, or older adults with aging taste buds. For information on new dairy food innovations, visit Daily Dose of Dairy™. Some dairy products such as cheese and yogurts can also be characterizing flavor ingredients for a variety of foods.

As the dairy industry develops new products to meet specific health needs – be it products lower in calories, total fat, added sugars, sodium, or lactose – taste is paramount. If consumers don’t like the taste of a food, they will not consume it. When the dairy industry developed flavored milk lower in added sugars and calories to comply with new nutrition standards for school meals, a key question was whether or not school children would like the taste of the new flavored milk. A recent study suggests that elementary and middle school children accept lower calorie flavored milk.

There’s certainly an abundance of dairy foods to choose from -milks differing in fat content, lactose-free milk, flavored milks, plain yogurts, flavored yogurts, Greek-style yogurts, kefir, and an endless variety of cheeses. Although I’m just beginning my quest to expand my dairy food repertoire, I’ve already found some new dairy products that taste great and will become part of my regular dietary fare. I encourage you to enjoy the taste of eating right by trying new nutritious foods from the dairy and other food groups.

Try new dairy recipes. Visit UDIM’s website for a library of milk, cheese, and yogurt recipes to meet your taste preferences and nutrition needs. This recipe for mango yogurt smoothie is just one of my new favorites!

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It Starts With School Breakfast

 

It’s National School Breakfast Week, and just like your mother always told you, breakfast IS the most important meal of the day.

Eating breakfast at school can help kids be more attentive, behave better and improve their performance in the classroom.

According to the No Kid Hungry Share Our Strength Teachers Report 2013:

  • 73% of TEACHERS say they teach students who regularly come to school hungry because there isn’t enough food at home
  • 87% of PRINCIPALS say they see hungry kids in their schools at least once a week
  • 90% of EDUCATORS say breakfast is critical to academic achievement

That’s why Fuel Up to Play 60, the in-school nutrition and physical activity program supported by dairy farmers across the country, wants to make sure all students get the fuel they need to succeed, both in and out of the classroom, and start their days the right way… with breakfast!

Research shows that students who eat breakfast have better attention and memory, reduced discipline and attendance problems, and improved morning alertness.

If you’re thinking of ways you can make a difference, visit www.StartWithSchoolBreakfast.com to learn how school breakfast can change lives and find out how to help make breakfast available to all students.

 

Resources:

American College of Sports Medicine, American School Health Association, GENYOUth Foundation, National Dairy Council, The Wellness Impact: Enhancing Academic Through Healthy School Environment, March 2013.

http://www.nokidhungry.org/pdfs/NKH_TeachersReport_2013.pdf

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Lactose Intolerance Doesn’t Mean Dairy Is Off The Menu

 

While a great number of us do our very best to consume the recommended three servings of dairy every day, including milk, cheese, and yogurt, there are some people who believe that they are lactose intolerant and that they must avoid contact with any and all dairy foods. Contrary to popular belief, those who are lactose intolerant or showing symptoms of lactose ​intolerance do not have to miss out on the great taste and health benefits of low-fat and fat-free dairy foods!

In addition to American Heart Month, February is National Lactose Intolerance Awareness month, which makes it a great time to uncover the truths about this often misunderstood condition. Lactose intolerance affects the body’s ability to digest lactose – a natural sugar mainly found in dairy foods. The good news is that lactose intolerance is not an all-or-nothing condition.

Lactose intolerance is best described as the gastrointestinal symptoms that may be experienced following intake of lactose (the natural sugar found in milk) in amounts greater than the body’s ability to digest and absorb lactose. Self-diagnosis of lactose intolerance is not recommended as it can lead to unnecessary dietary restrictions, added expenses, and a variety of nutritional shortcomings.

The goal for managing lactose intolerance is to remain symptom-free while meeting nutrient needs, especially for calcium, a nutrient often limited in many people’s diets. Management strategies should be individualized and periodically reevaluated. For those who are sensitive to lactose, here are a few tips that can help make dairy consumption a more enjoyable and regular part of your meal plans:

Drink milk with food.
A
ged cheese like Cheddar and Swiss are low in lactose.
I
ntroduce dairy slowly. Gradually increase the amount you consume every day.
R
educe it. Enjoy lactose-free milk and milk products.
Y
ogurt with live and active cultures helps digest lactose.

Dairy foods are not only delicious, they are loaded with key vitamins and minerals – including protein, calcium, potassium and vitamins A, D and B12 – which can help maintain a healthy diet. Do your body a favor and get the three recommended servings daily.

For a great collection of lactose intolerance friendly recipes, visit National Dairy Council’s Pinterest page here  or UDIM’s Pinterest page here.


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Celebrate American Heart Month by Taking Steps to Protect Your Heart

 

With February designated as American Heart Month, it’s the perfect time to focus on important steps to lower your risk of heart disease, the No. 1 killer of American men and women. A healthy lifestyle is the first line of defense in preventing the development of heart disease, according to new guidelines. These lifestyle guidelines, issued by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association encourage all adults to follow recommendations for healthy eating habits and regular physical activity to reduce the risk of heart disease.

The guidelines encourage a dietary pattern which emphasizes vegetables, fruits, and whole grains; includes fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, poultry, fish, legumes, non-tropical vegetable oils, and nuts; and limits intake of sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meats. Examples of heart-healthy dietary patterns include the DASH dietary pattern, USDA Food Patterns, or the American Heart Association Diet.

The DASH diet, which has been shown to help prevent high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease, is a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat milk products, whole grains, fish, poultry, seeds, and nuts. It contains less sodium, sweets, added sugar-containing beverages, fats, and red meats than the typical American diet. The DASH diet is rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, and protein, nutrients provided by milk.

Regular physical activity is an important lifestyle measure to lower the risk of heart disease. Engaging in moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, for an average of 40 minutes three to four times a week is encouraged. If this physical activity goal is difficult to achieve, it’s important to appreciate that some physical activity is better than none.

In addition to eating right and exercising regularly, health professionals recommend other steps leading to a healthier heart. These include knowing your cholesterol, blood pressure, and body mass numbers, not using tobacco, and knowing your family history.

A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that following diet and lifestyle recommendations to reduce the risk of heart disease is also associated with better bone health.

American Heart Association’s new national goal for 2020: Improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20%, while reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke by 20%.

 

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Is my milk safe?

 

With all the headlines about foodborne illness in recent years, it’s no wonder why food safety seems to be on the top of many people’s minds these days. The good news is that a recent study from the Center for Science in the Public Interest found that outbreaks of foodborne illness had decreased by more than 40 percent from 2001 to 2010. As a dietitian, the safety of our food is something that I am personally interested in and questioned about on a regular basis. For example, last month at a health and wellness expo, an inquisitive participant asked, “Is my milk safe? How can I really be sure that my milk doesn’t contain anything harmful?” dairy food safety

I love when teaching opportunities like this present themselves, and because this is such a common question, I want to share my answer with you.

Milk and milk products go through a thorough multi-step process in order to become some of the most highly tested and regulated foods in the United States. Every tanker of milk is tested both at the farm and at the processing plant, and human hands never touch milk until it arrives at your table. What’s more important to keep top of mind is that milk is pasteurized to eliminate the possibility of harmful bacteria.

And an added bonus, milk and other dairy products provide a huge bang for our buck, they taste great and they provide nine essential nutrients for good health. When you really think about it, milk is a nutritional bargain at just 25 cents a glass.

So not only is it delicious, nutritious and economical, you can rest assured that milk and dairy products are safe. So go ahead and pour your family and yourself a tall, cold glass of milk… better yet, in this cold weather, you may want to make it a hot cocoa!

To find one of my favorite winter treats, a tasty mint patty steamer, check out our recipes on UDIM: http://www.udim.org/recipes/2013/Mint_Patty_Steamer.pdf 

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Power your weight loss strategy with protein-rich foods


It’s that time of year again! The post-holiday dieting frenzy is in high gear in response to concerns about those extra pounds gained between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Do you know that 28% of Americans’ New Year’s resolutions revolve around losing weight? In their effort to cut calories, many dieters focus on foods to exclude, rather than foods to include in their diets. Calorie-reduced diets rich in high-quality protein are gaining scientific support as a strategy to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

Potential ways protein beneficially affects body weight include:

  • Inducing satiety or a feeling of fullness after or between meals.
  • Increasing the energy needed for digesting, absorbing, and metabolizing nutrients.
  • Improving body composition by increasing fat loss and maintaining or increasing lean muscle mass. While reducing calories alone can lead to weight loss, the weight lost often includes both fat and lean muscle mass. Maintaining lean muscle mass helps burn more calories, which is important for preventing weight regain.

More protein.  Individuals following calorie-reduced diets to manage their weight may need to moderately increase their consumption of dietary protein. To optimize the body’s use of protein, some experts recommend evenly spacing protein intake throughout the day, for example, 20 to 30 g of protein at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Americans typically eat a small amount of protein at breakfast, moderate amounts at lunch, and the largest amount at dinner.

Food sources of protein. People can choose from a variety of food sources of protein, including low-fat or fat-free milk and dairy products (yogurt, cheese), lean meats, poultry, eggs, beans and peas, processed soy products, and nuts and seeds. Foods differ in the amount and quality of protein they provide. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are naturally good to excellent sources of high-quality protein. High-quality proteins contain all the essential amino acids, or building blocks of protein, that cannot be made by the body, and are easily digested. Studies have shown that dairy protein and whey protein, a high-quality dairy protein, play a beneficial role in weight management. Dairy foods not only provide protein, but also several key nutrients that many consumers fail to get enough of, including more than half of their daily intake of calcium and vitamin D, for only 10 percent of daily calories.

Tips to boost your dairy protein intake.

  • Read food labels for protein content. One cup (8 ounces) of cow’s milk or yogurt contains 8 to 10 g of protein, the specific amount listed on the label. Be aware that not all “milks” are the same when it comes to providing protein. For example, almond “milk” has only 1 g of protein per 8 ounce serving compared to a similar size serving of cow’s milk which contains 8 to 10 g. The protein content is higher for a serving of Greek yogurt than regular yogurt and for cottage cheese than Cheddar cheese. Also check the label for the calorie content of protein foods to find those that best fit within with your calorie goals.
  • Try new recipes that include protein-rich dairy foods. To help boost high-quality protein intake at breakfast – a meal typically lower in protein than other meals –  try this quick and easy Morning Power Muffins recipe. Each muffin provides 12 g of protein, along with other essential nutrients, at only 237 calories. Add a cup of low-fat or fat-free milk (8 g protein) – some to your cereal and some to your coffee or tea – and you’re already at 20 g of protein for this breakfast meal.
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A healthy, happy new year to you and yours!

With the start of the New Year, about 45% of Americans make at least one resolution every year. According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, losing weight and staying fit & healthy were included in the top five resolutions made in 2014. On average about 75% of people maintain their resolution through the first week, 64% through the first month, and about 46% make it past the six month mark.

If you are one of the many Americans who have vowed to lose weight or become fit and healthy, focus on setting realistic goals and lean on family and friends to help hold you accountable. Here are some quick and easy tips and tricks that will ensure that you are part of the 46% still going strong in July and beyond!

Healthy Eating

Eat Breakfast. Your mom was right; breakfast still is the most important meal of the day. Not only does it provide your kids with the energy and nutrients that lead to increased concentration in the classroom, but it can be important in maintaining a healthy body weight.

Pour One More. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods every day. On average, Americans are currently consuming less than two dairy servings each day, so adding in one more glass of milk would help meet the recommended three servings.

Refuel After Exercise. Chocolate milk provides nutrients that help your muscles refuel and recover after intense exercise, and it is a good source of potassium, an electrolyte that is lost in sweat. Low-fat or fat-free milk — including lactose-free milk — delivers a number of benefits, but you can also refuel your body with a cup of yogurt or even a serving reduced-fat cheese after your workout!

Physical Activity

Move More. Making a New Year’s resolution doesn’t mean you have to resolve to run three miles every day, it means making small changes that will last a lifetime. Next time you’re grocery shopping, choose the farthest parking spot at the grocery store. At work, take the stairs as opposed to the elevator. Every evening, go for brisk walk after dinner.

Revisit An Old Hobby. You may have been the track king or queen in high school, but hung up your shoes when you entered the work force. Dust off those sneakers and get a move on!

Try Something New. Have you been itching to try out the Zumba class or yoga at your local health club, but not sure if it’s the ‘right fit?’ You’ll never know unless you try it out! Make a resolution to step outside your comfort zone and try some new moves; you just may surprise yourself.

Everyone has to start somewhere, so improve your health and wellness today by making lifestyle changes that will add years to your life. Your (future) grandchildren will thank you!

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