Say Cheese: The Right Dairy Foods Support Good Health

greek yogurt dairy

It is no surprise that in New England, Vermont is the largest dairy-producing state. There are more than 800 dairy farms in Vermont. Although the number of dairy cows has been steadily declining, the average amount of milk produced per cow has increased.

Health Benefits of Dairy

Cow’s milk is one of the most consumed beverages in the United States and contains a variety of nutrients to support good health. An 8-ounce serving of low-fat milk contains 110 calories and 9 essential nutrients our bodies need, including:

  • Calcium to help build and maintain strong bones and teeth;
  • 8 grams of high quality protein from casein and why to build and repair muscle;
  • Vitamin A and D; and
  • Riboflavin, pantothenic acid and niacin.

A glass of milk is a great addition to any meal. You may also use it in place of water when making oatmeal, in a smoothie blended with fruit and yogurt, or as a post-workout recovery snack. Keep milk on a shelf in your refrigerator. Avoid putting it on the inside of the fridge door as it experiences the most temperature fluctuations there.

Greek Yogurt: A Dairy Star

Greek yogurt has recently gained popularity as it boasts a high nutritional profile and contains probiotics to help support good gut health.

Greek yogurt goes through a straining process that removes the whey protein. This results in a thicker, creamier yogurt with a slightly tart taste. It also has less sugar! One cup of fat-free, plain Greek yogurt contains around 120 calories and 22 grams of protein. This supports bone health to help prevent osteoporosis. The probiotics found in yogurt increase the amount of good bacteria found in your gut to support good digestion.

Use Greek Yogurt as a Substitute

Greek yogurt can be used in place of sour cream as a topping for chili or in a dip, as a spread for crackers or bread or as an addition to sauces for an added creaminess.  Be sure to watch out for the sugar content found in flavored yogurts as it may surprise you!

Cheddar Cheese…Yum!

As Vermonters, we know good quality cheese and are fortunate to have access to a variety of local cheese factories.

Cheddar cheese is made from pasteurized cow’s milk and is the most commonly purchased and consumed cheese in the world. It first originated in England and quickly spread around the world. The longer the cheese matures, the sharper the taste becomes. It ranges in color from white to pale yellow—the darker yellow orange color has been manually added and is not natural.

A 1-ounce serving of cheddar cheese contains 7 grams of protein along with calcium for strong bones. Be mindful of the serving size—1 ounce is smaller than you think!

This Month’s Recipe: Parnip-Parmesan Fries

This month’s recipe includes parmesan cheese as its featured dairy product. Instead of your typical potato French fries, mix it up by roasting seasoned parsnips instead! You will gain added nutrition from this slightly sweet root vegetable and it couldn’t be easier to make. Parmesan cheese is a hard cheese that has a nutty flavor that pairs well with the sweetness of the roasted parsnips. Pair this alongside any protein for a delicious vegetable side dish!


  • large parsnips, peeled, sliced into sticks
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • cup final shredded Parmesan cheese, divided


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking pans with aluminum foil and grease lightly, or just use parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, toss parsnips, oil, salt, and pepper.
  3. Add 3/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, toss to coat.
  4. Arrange parsnips in single layers on baking pans. Bake for 15 minutes or until browned on bottom.
  5. Turn parsnips over and sprinkle with the rest of the Parmesan cheese. Bake for 8 more minutes or until browned. Serve while hot!

Sarah Yandow, CHWC, is a wellness health coach with Employee Wellness and Employer Health Management at the University of Vermont Medical Center. 

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