Should I go dairy free?

At Fresh Start we believe that dairy need not be avoided (if you’re not intolerant). Not only are dairy products packed full of protein, calcium and vitamins; they’re also delicious and are great for adding flavour and creaminess to food. We recommend having about two servings of dairy per day when trying to lose weight.

When watching your calorie intake, it’s best to choose reduced fat dairy products. The main difference between regular and reduced fat dairy products is that the reduced fat versions have milk as the main component and regular dairy has cream. You can see this by reading the ingredient list, where the first listed ingredient is the main component of the product. The lower amount of fat in reduced fat dairy products will contribute less calories, while these products generally will still maintain similar levels of protein and calcium to their standard counterparts.

Natural, unsweetened yoghurt is a great, low calorie, high protein alternative to mayonnaise or sour cream with savoury food. Half a cup equals one portion — the perfect amount to go with a nutty muesli for breakfast or tossed through slaw for lunch. When choosing a yoghurt, go for one that simply lists milk products and live cultures (including Lactobaccillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidus and Lactobaccillus casei — the ABC cultures) on its ingredient list. Always check the labels, and compare grams per 100g sugars as some low-fat yoghurts (particularly fruit yoghurts) can have extra added sugar.

Cheese can also be a great choice when losing weight — lower fat cheeses like feta, Edam, ricotta and cottage cheese that is. Higher-fat cheese like Parmesan and Swiss can also be included, but watch your portion size — 20g is plenty (around 2 tablespoons of grated cheese). As for lower-fat cheese, one portion equals 40–50g — most blocks of feta are 200g so around one quarter of a block. We don’t want you to feel deprived — you can still enjoy the cheese platter when out at social events or when relaxing at home. In this case, the best choices are camembert or brie, just remember to keep the portion size in check as to not go over 2 portions per day.

As for milk, for healthy weight loss, we recommend reduced fat milk. One cup equals one portion, but if you prefer almond, soy, cow’s, oat or rice milk is fine by us. If you want a milky coffee in the morning you’re more than welcome to enjoy it! If you’d rather save your dairy portions for other meals, we recommend just having a small amount of milk in your tea or coffee — around one tablespoon. At a café, try having a long black or Americano with a dash of milk — it may take some getting used to, but it’s considerably lower in calories than a latte!

Reduced fat dairy has received some bad press in the past but this was mainly due to the replacement of fat with sugar in some dairy products to improve taste (mainly in fruit yoghurt). This generally doesn’t apply to plain dairy products such as cheese, cottage cheese, milk, sour cream, and some natural yoghurts, which are considered to be healthy options to include in your diet.

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