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How Do They Affect Your Weight Loss Program?

Dairy products are important staples of a healthy diet. However, whole dairy products (not reduced in fat), may deliver more saturated fats than we'd like to ingest during a weight loss program. This is especially true if such products are consumed on a regular basis and/or in larger amounts. In this case, dairy becomes questionable (if not downright detrimental) for weight control. This page discusses the available option for incorporating dairy in a successful weight loss diet.

Milk and Cheese consumption is one of the best ways of supplying calcium and high quality proteins to our organism. Along with this, as mentioned above, it is essential that we don't ingest high amounts of fat.

Dairy Products

Milk comes in several varieties, including whole or full fat (4% fat), reduced fat (2% fat), low fat or light (1% fat), and fat-free. In my opinion, there is absolutely no reason for consuming anything else than fat-free milk. (The fats we need are sure to be delivered by other items in our diet.)
Consuming fat-free milk saves almost half the calories: 1 cup (8 oz) of fat-free milk brings in 90 calories, as compared to 150 calories for 1 cup of whole milk.
One serving of milk contains about 12 grams of sugars, a large part of which is represented by lactose. (Note: The glycemic index of lactose is less than half that of glucose, so milk is an acceptable product for weight control from this point of view.)
Chocolate milk is higher in calories (160 calories for 1 cup low fat chocolate milk), mainly due to the sizable amount of added sugars.
Note: If lactose intolerance is hindering you from using dairy products, be aware that lactose-free milk is available. Or, you can use an over-the-counter digestive supplement such as 'Lactaid'.

Dairy Products

Soymilk is a good substitute for milk, and especially useful for lactose-intolerant individuals:
  • One cup (8 oz) of regular soymilk ('Silk' brand) brings in 100 calories, and about half the sugars as compared to milk.
  • One cup of light soymilk ('Silk' brand) brings in 70 calories.

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Soymilk is an equally good source of calcium as regular milk. As far as proteins are concerned, soy is considered a source of complete protein, containing all essential amino-acids in significant amounts. The digestibility and nutritional value of soy protein is equivalent to that of meat and eggs. Additionally, soy products contain omega3 fatty acids, which are believed to be highly beneficial for cardiovascular health and helpful in lowering cholesterol.

Please note: Soy products contain isoflavones, and this is the source of some controversy. While some scientists believe isoflavones are beneficial for health and active in cancer protection, others believe them to have a pro-cancer and endocrine disruptive effect. To my knowledge, there is no firm evidence to substantiate these claims, and I am not aware of any controlled studies being conducted to date. As such, I believe that soy products, consumed in moderation, are a reasonable choice in a weight control program.

Dairy Products

Cheese products are covered in detail in our section on Deli Foods. For the purposes of this chapter, here are a few pointers for choosing the right cheeses for a weight loss diet:
  • If at all possible, choose reduced-fat products. Certain brands of Swiss Cheese and American Cheese offer reduced-fat versions, and the advantage is significant as far as saturated fat content and total calorie count. (Sometimes, the calorie count per serving is reduced to roughly half that of the full-fat version). Feta Cheese also offers a reduced-fat version, with similar calorie advantages.
  • Choose moist cheeses, such as Cottage Cheese, over dry cheeses (such Swiss, American, or Cheddar Cheese). The calorie count of moist cheeses is lower for a similar portion size, since part of the volume is taken up by water. Cottage Cheese also offers several reduced fat versions (including 2% fat, 1% fat, and fat-free).
  • Be cautious about cream cheeses (such as Philadelphia Cream Cheese): The 'regular' products are bound to have higher saturated fat content and calorie count as compared to similar portion sizes of other cheeses. On the other hand, reduced-fat and fat-free products are more reasonable from this point of view, and can be used as part of a weight loss diet.
  • In conclusion: Make sure to read the nutrition label of the product you consider buying, and shoot for the following numbers: Up to 70 calories per serving, and up to 3 gram saturated fat.

Dairy Products
Yogurt, Cream & al:

  • Yogurt is a great food for weight control, typically bringing in 60-110 calories per 4 oz serving. Fat-free yogurts with no added sugar (e.g., Dannon, Yoplait, etc) are a particularly good choice, and moreover taste surprisingly good. They contain 60-70 calories, zero fats, and a reasonable amount of sugars (up to 7 grams). They come in many fruit flavors and also plain vanilla flavor, to satisfy all tastes.
    Note: Yogurts may be well tolerated even by lactose-intolerant individuals.
  • Fat-free sweet cream from Dannon (60 calories per serving) is another one of my favorites. (It goes particularly well with fruit, such as fresh or canned strawberries.)
  • Sour Cream, similar to milk, comes in several varieties: Regular or full fat, light, and fat-free. Regular sour cream and even light sour cream bring in a relatively high amount of fat, so the smart thing in my opinion would be to go with fat-free sour cream. The taste is not much different, and the calorie advantage is significant.
  • Low-fat cultured butter milk is another good choice for weight control, bringing in plenty of proteins and calcium for a reasonable calorie amount (120 calories per 8 oz cup). Due to its semi-solid consistency, it's also more filling than milk and curbs hunger quite nicely. So, if you like the taste of buttermilk, feel free to make it a staple of your daily diet.
  • Pudding is a questionable item: While the calorie amount is reasonable (about 100 calories per 4 oz serving of fat-free pudding), the sugars in pudding are on the high side at 17 gram. Sugar-free versions are available, bringing in about 60 calories per serving.

Dairy Products
Butter, Margarines & al:

  1. Regular butter is a precarious item for a weight control diet. It brings in about 100 calories per tablespoon, and more than 7 gram of saturated fats. These are simply unnecessary calories. As such, I would classify regular butter as 'unacceptable' in a weight control diet.

  2. Various butter substitutes and margarines are available, containing on average 50-100 calories per table spoon, and a reasonably low amount of fats (for instance, Olivio Butter Spray - 50 calories per tablespoon, 1 gram saturated fats, and zero trans fats).
    And if you want to cut back drastically on the calories and fats, try the following products:
    • 'Promise' Fat-Free Margarine - 5 calories per tablespoon, zero grams saturated fat
    • 'Fleishman's' Light Margarine - 40 calories per tablespoon, zero grams saturated fat

    Caution is recommended when choosing a butter substitute or margarine: Some of these products may contain trans fats, which are believed to be highly harmful to one's health. So make sure to check the nutrition label: It should read "trans fats 0 grams".

  3. Peanut Butter (as opposed to regular butter) brings in about 94 calories per tablespoon, but only 1.6 gram of saturated fat. Peanut butter contains high amounts of unsaturated fats, which are actually beneficial for health and acceptable in a weight control diet.

Dairy Products & al

Eggs are oftentimes found close to the dairy aisle, so we will discuss them on this page.

  • A hard boiled egg brings in 60-80 calories, depending on the size of the egg. Egg whites are a good source of protein, however egg yolks contain a sizable amount of cholesterol and should therefore be consumed in moderation. All in all, hard boiled eggs are an acceptable choice for a weight control diet.
  • Other methods of preparing eggs may bring in additional calories (due to the shortenings used for frying, etc.)
  • Egg Beaters (eggs from which the yolk has been removed) contain about 1/3 the calories in regular eggs, and are a reasonable choice for omelets, scrambled eggs, and overall when cooking any recipes where eggs are required.

Note: All calorie counts are approximate.

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