Dairy Time

— Written By Sherrie Peeler and last updated by Kerri Rayburn

On June 15-17, 2015 I had the pleasure of hosting a day camp that offered nutrition, field trips, and sewing to our 6-8 year olds. Our day began with the pledges to the American and 4-H flags followed by 4-H fitness. The main core of the program was a University of California program called “Go, Glow, Grow.”

Depending on your age, when you studied health you may remember the five basic food groups. Even then we began what we call today a food log when our teacher asked us to list the foods we had eaten the day before.

Well when my children were in school, USDA as the dietary guideline adopted the Food Pyramid for Americans. The base of the pyramid you may recall was 6 -11 servings of whole grain breads and cereals. As portion control got out of hand, and activity decreased and screen time increased so did our weight. Today North Carolina has an overweight and obesity rate of 66%.

My Plate was presented at our Day Camp with one half of the plate consisting of fruits and vegetables, one fourth of the plate consisting of a grain, one fourth of the plate consisting of a protein, and a dairy serving on the side. Go foods are grains and provide carbohydrates that help us have the energy to get through our day. Fruits and vegetables are glow foods and make our eye sparkle and skin and hair healthy.

Finally, proteins are grow foods that help children grow strong and adults maintain their strength.

Dairy has been listed consistently on all the USDA dietary guidelines meal plans including the current My Plate we featured in our day camp. Consuming dairy is more important than ever before because the average teen consumes 3 – 12 ounce soft drinks per day. Soft drinks contain phosphoric acid that depletes our bodies of calcium.

Today, many Americans are overweight and undernourished and are missing out on key essential nutrients because we are not choosing to eat nutrient-rich foods first. For example, many people fail to consume recommended amounts of calcium, mainly because of their low intake of dairy foods.

The rise of overweight and obese children and adults is of great concern, because excess body weight can significantly increase the risk of heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, and other diseases. Several scientific studies suggest that dairy foods (milk, yogurt, and cheese) play a beneficial role in maintaining a healthy weight. Solving the obesity crisis has become the number one public health issue for the U.S. population; therefore National Dairy Council® (NDC) has focused one area of its nutrition research on the role of dairy foods in a nutrient-rich diet to serve as part of the solution in addressing obesity and poor nutrition.

Alarmingly, one in three adults have high blood pressure, which is one of the leading causes of heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure or hypertension is a common disorder affecting many Americans, both children and adults. Because of its high prevalence, serious health consequences, and economic burden, lifestyle changes, including dietary modifications, are recommended to help prevent and manage hypertension and overall heart health.

Preventing high blood pressure and improving heart health are important throughout life. Accumulating scientific evidence suggests that small changes in lifestyle, including diet, can have a beneficial effect on blood pressure. Consuming a healthful diet consistent with My Plate (9 inch) including three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods a day is one approach that may help achieve and maintain a healthy blood pressure, which in turn lowers the risk of developing heart disease.

For 78 years we have been honoring the dairy farmers in the Southeast and celebrating the dairy foods they produce during the month of June. Across the United States various regions celebrate differently. Here in the Southeast dairy farm families open their gates to visitors for tour, festivals, or fairs. Many festivities offer taste testing and parades featuring delicious dairy products.

So thank a dairy farmer and consume at least three servings of dairy daily.

Stop by the Jackson County Extension office or call and request an email copy of some exciting dairy recipes you family is sure to enjoy.