A Dash of Dairy: Easy Ways to Add Nutrition and Flavor

Dairy is a key piece of MyPlate, giving you essential nutrients to keep you healthy now and in the future. Adding dairy to your plate not only adds great health benefits but also adds tons of flavor to almost any dish! From drinks and desserts to snacks and entrees, let’s explore some of the nutritious and delicious perks of adding a dash of dairy.

Butter

As a natural product of churning pasteurized cream, butter adds body, depth and a silky smooth finish to the foods we love. Butter even adds great flavor to foods children may be hesitant to try – think Brussels sprouts. Although there are many uses for butter in the kitchen, here are my top picks:

  • Adding a teaspoon of butter to freshly cooked vegetables, stirred through hot rice or placed on top of a grilled chicken breast couldn’t be easier and adds a little extra flavor.
  • In cookies and cakes, butter prevents gluten formation, keeping sweet treats tender and soft.
  • Pie crust is different. In addition to gluten prevention, the water in butter will evaporate as the crust cooks. This creates steam, leaving tiny sheets of flaky, buttery goodness.

Milk

Milk has many different roles in the kitchen and on your plate; it’s a nutrient-rich food that can be added to your cereal, favorite beverage or smoothie, and even casseroles. For me, my day usually starts with a hot cappuccino. But what makes a good cappuccino? See why milk is the star of this foamy favorite:

  • Milk proteins and milk fats add texture and form the foam. Milk proteins stabilize the air bubbles while milk fats cause destabilization, adding great flavor and a light and airy mouth feel.
  • Skim milk is fat-free and will give you the best foam, but with little flavor. Whole milk has the best flavor, but with the least foam.

Cheese

For a food made with just few simple ingredients, there are over a thousand of varieties of cheeses from all over the world. Cheese is an excellent source of bone-building nutrients and the perfect addition to dips, salads, baked foods, soups and more. Here are my cheesy tidbits: 

  • Shredded cheese from the block always melts better than sliced cheese, due to increased surface area and contact with heat.
  • Processed cheese is made from high-quality natural cheese containing important nutrients, such as calcium, phosphorus and protein. It can also contain higher amounts of calcium than natural cheese.

Yogurt

This fermented food is a key ingredient in both savory and sweet dishes. It’s also a great source of both prebiotics and probiotics, which help with digestion and gut health. Here are some of yogurt’s superpowers:

  • Yogurt’s mild acidity and calcium content act as natural tenderizers and don’t toughen meat as strongly as acidic marinades do.
  • In dips, salad dressings or sauces, yogurt acts a substitute for higher-fat ingredients, such as oil or mayonnaise.
  • Greek yogurt offers a protein-packed punch.
  • When baking, yogurt adds moisture and tang. Because yogurt is thick, you will need less flour in baked goods, producing less gluten and a softer texture.

I hope these tips inspire you to make the most of the dairy case. With great taste and needed nutrients, dairy foods can be your secret ingredient to a MyPlate meal.

Learn more about the health benefits of dairy. Explore new recipes.

By Katie McKee, MCN, RDN, LD

Katie has always loved teaching others about the power of nutrition. She has a background in journalism as a reporter, writer and editor and has been part of the Dairy MAX team since 2015. When she's not working, Katie enjoys cooking and spending time with her young son and family. Learn more about Katie