What food has only three ingredients, but has nine essential nutrients, including high-quality protein? It is locally produced in every state, is part of school breakfast and is important for children’s growth and development. It’s also associated with bone health and decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in adults.
It’s undeniably dairy — I’m talking about milk. Adding dairy to breakfast is a simple way to provide calcium, high-quality protein as well as other nutrients like B vitamins to help kick-start your day.
However, people may skip breakfast by choice or, unfortunately, because of food insecurity. About 42 million Americans face hunger, including nearly 13 million children according to Feeding America.
Milk in the morning
Breakfast, including school breakfast, is important — it helps children refuel with a variety of nutritious foods, including milk, yogurt and even cheese. Think about going to work on an empty stomach. Now imagine being a child who hasn’t eaten for 10 hours and is trying to focus on math. Breakfast is an important tool to help anyone fuel greatness and perform well during the day.
The morning meal is a big deal. Let’s take a closer look at how dairy plays a part.
People often connect dairy with calcium, vitamin D and bones, but it’s also connected to more healthy elements, like protein. And milk also has B vitamins — B12, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid — that help make energy.
Where dairy comes from
As a registered dietitian and a mom, I understand food is about more than nutrition and health. People want to know where their food comes from, how animals are treated and how farmers care for natural resources. Dairy farms are located in every state, and I encourage people to visit one to learn how milk is made and the care that goes into it.
The dairy community measures its use of natural resources, such as water, land and carbon, so it can continuously improve. Dairy production in the United States is responsible for only about 2 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, while providing a food group that nourishes Americans.
Dairy and vegetable group recommendations are not met by 80 percent of Americans and fruits are not far behind. Breakfast can help close the gap.
There are lots of ways to integrate dairy into your diet. Like oats? Make overnight oats with milk and mix in fruit, a little honey and nuts. A fan of eggs? Make scrambled eggs with milk, red peppers and mushrooms — and top it all off with tomato salsa. Love toast? Melt cheese on toasted whole grain bread with tomato, avocado or a veggie of your choice. Other options include topping yogurt with fruit and whole grain cereal, or making a smoothie with milk, yogurt and fruit.
Jean Ragalie-Carr, RDN, President, National Dairy Council, [email protected]