Although dairy is a tricky category to navigate when it comes to losing weight, it is possible to enjoy your favorites and still slim down. As with any food, you want to look for dairy products that are minimally processed, low in saturated fat, and ideally pre-portioned.
If you're not sure where to begin, these healthy staples are a good place to start. For more expert tips on how to deal with dairy, don't miss these 22 Expert Tips for Cutting Back on Dairy!
Greek yogurt leads the pack in terms of health and weight loss benefits. As long as you're sticking to plain and low sugar varieties, these cups offer your body a hearty dose of protein and a good dosage of belly-friendly probiotics. "Probiotics help with digestion, promote a healthy immune system, and may help you to feel less bloated as well," says Jessica Crandall, a Denver-based RD, Certified Diabetes Educator, and National Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "I would recommend consuming one or two yogurts per day. Just watch the sugar content because a lot of flavored yogurts tend to have added sugars in them, so I encourage my clients to do nonfat Greek yogurt with no added sugars." Eat This, Not That! did the legwork for you and figured out The 20 Best & Worst Greek Yogurts For Weight Loss.
Just a modest four ounces of humble cottage cheese serves up an impressive 14 grams of protein, which will not only fuel muscle growth but also increase feelings of satiety and prevent unnecessary snacking. "Cottage cheese is a good option, but it's usually pretty high in salt so be mindful of that," says Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian and founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition. "It can make you thirstier and hungrier if you're not aware." Look for low-sodium options and be mindful of the saltiness factor to combat potential, less healthy food cravings.
Yes, you officially have permission to enjoy that Parmesan! It's higher in protein, calcium, and lower in fat than softer cheeses like cheddar or Swiss. Bonus: There's less lactose in those sprinkles or chunks or Parmesan than many other cheeses—meaning that your belly is less likely to balloon. But if bloat is a constant battle for you, then look and see if any of these 35 Things That Make You Bloat are part of your routine.
Whether you peel it string by string or gobble it down in a few swift bites, these cheese sticks are one of the better dairy options to have on hand. Since they are pre-portioned, there's no need to worry about overeating and one stick counts as a single serving. P.S. – According to research from the University of Tennessee, obese study participants who consumed three servings of dairy per day while restricting calories experienced a significant reduction in body fat.
Yes, your childhood favorite is on the menu—and for good reason. According to findings published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, chocolate milk is a dynamite recovery drink post exercise. It contains twice as much protein and carbohydrates when compared to regular milk or popular sports drinks, which work to replenish exhausted muscles and as a result encourage muscle growth and enhance weight loss. Speaking of post-workout fuel, make sure you don't reach for any of these 20 Things You Should Never Eat After a Workout!
By now, you know to ditch the added sugars and go for Greek, but it's also worth looking for fortified yogurt options. Not all yogurts are created equal when it comes to calcium and vitamin D content, so choosing fortified containers can help boost your intake of necessary nutrients. "A lot of times when deficiencies are present—like vitamin D deficiency—it can cause a weight plateau," says Crandall. Even better, vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, so you'll get more nutritional bang for your buck.
Unfortunately, when choosing low-fat milk options, you also lose out on some nutrients that get stripped from whole milk in the fat reduction process. Fortifying helps bring back many of the nutrients lost, like vitamins A and D, boosting the nutritional profile of your glass. Vitamin D, in particular, is rarely found naturally in food sources, and the majority of our intake comes from sunlight exposure. Researchers from the University of Milan found that increasing vitamin D intake in deficient, overweight or obese people resulted in greater weight loss.
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"Dairy can be very salty which can make people want more and also get very thirsty from it. Choosing organic, fresher varieties can be helpful because they don't have as much salt," says Smith. According to the Organic Consumers Association, organic dairy options also tend to contain more nutrients like vitamin E, beta-carotene, omega-3 fatty acids and lutein than conventional milk.
Pre-Portioned Cheese Spreads
The key to having your cheese and eating it, too, is all in the portion size. Dairy is difficult for most people to moderate because often we're left up to eyeballing portions or just mindlessly munching away at the party cheese plate. Pre-portioned cheese snacks like spreadable wedges take the guessing out of portion control and offer low-fat, portable snack options that will easily fit into your diet at an average of 50 calories a pop. Just be careful not to overdo it on the crackers! For more smart ways to avoid overeating, try these 18 Easy Ways to Control Your Portion Sizes!