New labeling finds milk and milk products offering more of less


June 15, 1993|By Colleen Pierre, R.D. | Colleen Pierre, R.D.,Contributing Writer

There is a widespread misconception that milk and milk products, like yogurt and cheese, are high in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol.

B6 But take a look at the nutrition facts about milk.

Product .. ..Calories .. ..Fat .. ..Sat. .. fat Chol.

Whole milk ..157 .. .. .. .8.9 mg. .5.6g .. 35

2% milk .. ..121 .. .. .. .4.7 .. ..2.9 .. .18

1% milk .. ..102 .. .. .. .2.6 .. ..1.6 .. .10

Skim milk .. 86 .. ... ... 0.4 ... .0.3 .. ..4

As you can see, there are graduated differences in products. This holds true for yogurt and cheese, too.

Under the new labeling laws, both 1 percent and skim milk products will qualify for several label terms that place them in the "highly recommended" category, even for people on cholesterol-lowering diets.

Skim milk can be labeled:

* "Fat free" or "100 percent fat free" because it contains less than 0.5 grams of fat per 1 cup serving.

* "Saturated fat free" because it contains less than 0.5 grams of saturated fat per 1 cup serving.

* "Low cholesterol" because it contains both less than 20 milligrams of cholesterol and less than 2 grams of saturated fat per serving.

* "Light" because it contains 1/3 fewer calories and 50 percent less fat than whole milk per serving.

1 percent milk can be labeled:

* "Low fat" because it contains less than 3 grams of fat per serving.

* "Reduced saturated fat" because it contains at least 25 percent less saturated fat than whole milk.

* "Low cholesterol."

* "Light."

A wide variety of brands and styles of cheese and yogurt will also qualify for those label terms. You can use the guidelines above to evaluate products until the label laws become reality.

Dairy foods are often promoted solely because of their calcium content. But don't sell them short.

Low-fat dairy foods are "nutrient dense." Besides calcium, they also offer significant amounts of protein, minerals (magnesium, zinc, potassium, phosphorus) and B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, B-6, B-12, folacin and pantothenic acid) in a very low-calorie, low-fat package.

Skim and low-fat milk are also fortified with vitamin D, which helps your body absorb and use the calcium there.

Nutrient density is a bonus for older adults, whose calorie needs are declining while nutrient needs are rising.

Midlife and older women trying to meet increased calcium needs to prevent osteoporosis should not skimp on dairy foods. Each serving of milk, cheese or yogurt offers 300 to 400 mg of calcium.

It is unlikely that most women will get all of their 1,200 to 1,500 milligrams of calcium daily from dairy foods.

But it makes sense to meet the Food Guide Pyramid recommendation for at least two servings of dairy foods a day. That way, you can get all that bonus nutrition, then make up your additional calcium needs with supplements.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore.

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