Which Milk for

From a nutritional standpoint, the differences among whole, 2 percent reduced-fat, 1 percent low-fat, and fat-free milk are the fat and the calorie contents. Because milk solids make up at least 8.25 percent of each of these types of milks, their nutrient content is about the same. (Milk solids are the part of milk that's neither milk fat nor water.) Keep in mind that the percentages of milk fat used to distinguish different types of milk refer to the percent milk fat by weight and not by calories. See chapter 10 to compare the calorie, fat, and calcium differences.

In the refrigerator case...

  • Whole milk contains not less than 3.25 percent milk fat and may be fortified with vitamin D.
  • 2 percent reduced-fat milk has 2 percent milk fat. It's also fortified with vitamins A and perhaps D.
  • 1 percent low-fat milk, also called light milk, has just 1 percent milk fat. It must be fortified with vitamins A and D.
  • Fat-free, also referred to as nonfat or skim, milk, has less than 0.5 percent milk fat. Like low-fat milk, fat-free milk must be fortified with vitamins A and D. Most labels now list fat-free or nonfat terms first and may or may not include the word "skim."
  • Chocolate milk can be whole, 2 percent reduced-fat, 1 percent low-fat, or fat-free milk with added chocolate or cocoa, and sweetener. Fruit-flavored milk is available, too. Look for strawberry, orange, banana, and other flavors. These milks may not be vitamin D fortified.
  • Cultured buttermilk is made by adding "friendly" bacteria cultures to milk, usually fat-free or low-fat milk. The bacteria cultures produce its unique flavor, aroma, acidity, and thick texture. Salt is often added for more flavor. Despite its name, butter isn't added.
  • Eggnog, sold around certain holidays, is a blend of milk, pasteurized eggs, sugar, cream, and flavors. Because eggnog is higher in calories and fat, some people prefer eggnog-flavored milk, made with fat-free or 2 percent reduced-fat milk.
  • Acidophilus milk, a fermented dairy food that's usually made from 1 percent low-fat or fat-free milk, is processed with "friendly" bacteria, which gives it a distinctive flavor. Although research isn't conclusive, "friendly" bacteria in fermented dairy foods may help improve lactose digestion and promote healthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Lactose-free and lactose-reduced milks (whole, 2 percent reduced-fat, 1 percent low-fat, and fat-free) are treated with the lactase enzyme. Because lactose, the sugar in milk, converts to glucose and galactose, people with lactose intolerance can drink it. To be considered "lactose-reduced," the lactose level must be reduced by 70 percent. Lactose-free milk is 100 percent lactose-reduced.
  • Protein-fortified milk is milk that has nonfat milk solids added so the milk solids level reaches 10 percent. These solids are often added to fat-free or 1 percent low-fat milk for a fuller flavor and to improve the nutrient content. Often both protein and calcium are added.
  • Skim deluxe or skim supreme milk is fat-free, but has the mouthfeel (from some added fiber) of 2 percent reduced-fat milk.
  • Organic milk must comply with organic standards, as explained earlier in this chapter and in chapter 9.

On the grocery shelf...

  • Nonfat dry milk is milk with the fat and the water removed. It has the same nutrients as fat-free milk.
  • Shelf-stable milk has been processed quickly by very high heat to destroy bacteria. That allows it to be aseptically packaged and stored on a shelf until it's opened. Once opened, it needs refrigeration.
  • Sweetened condensed milk is concentrated whole milk, with 8 percent or less milk fat, and added sweetener. You also can buy sweetened condensed fat-free milk.
  • Evaporated milk has been concentrated with about 60 percent of the water removed. It's sold as both fat-free (skim) and whole evaporated milk and has no less than 20 percent milk solids. Evaporated milk is fortified with vitamins A and D. Once it's opened, it needs refrigeration.

Source: National Dairy Council.

on your morning bagel. Whipped cream cheese is often easier to spread, so you may be able to use less.

• As an alternative, look for cholesterol-lowering spreads with plant stanol and sterol esters. See chapter 3.

For fluid milk and other dairy foods, products that are properly refrigerated in the store won't spoil as quickly at home. Check the "sell by" date on the carton.


For an economical, convenient, and easy-to-prepare source of high-quality protein, try eggs. A single egg supplies about 10 percent of the protein you need in a day, along with good amounts of vitamins A, D, and B12 choline, as well as phytonutrients (lutein and xeaxanthin). Although eggs are high in cholesterol, 213 milligrams per large egg, they have 5 grams of fat—no more than an ounce of cheese. Shell color— brown or white—doesn't affect the nutritional quality of eggs; the color varies with the breed of hen. The color of the yolk depends on the feed and doesn't affect the quality, flavor, nutritive value, or cooking characteristics.

From jumbo to small eggs: What size to buy? The bigger the egg, the more it has of everything: nutrients, cholesterol, and calories. As a shopping and food preparation tip: Four jumbo eggs equal five large eggs or six small eggs. Most recipes are written for large eggs.

The size is different from the grade printed on the label. Eggs are graded AA, A, and B. Grading refers to the interior and exterior quality of eggs when they're packed. Most eggs sold in supermarkets are Grade A; they're almost the same as Grade AA eggs, which are considered slightly higher in quality.

  • To check the freshness of shell eggs, look for the date on the carton. If the egg carton comes from a USDA-inspected plant, it displays a number (called a Julian date) for the packing date. A Julian date will be between 1 (January 1) and 365 (December 31). You can refrigerate fresh shell eggs for four to five weeks beyond the Julian date, in their carton, without losing quality. The carton also may carry an expiration date; after that it can't be sold. When you use eggs, the yolks of fresher eggs hold their shape when they're cracked open. As eggs age, the white thins and the yolk flattens. However, the nutrition and functional qualities of eggs don't change.
  • Open egg cartons before you buy. Are the eggs clean and whole? Avoid cartons with cracked eggs. They may be contaminated with Salmonella.
  • Buy eggs that are refrigerated, not kept at room temperature in the aisle. Even though eggs are stored in their own natural package, they spoil quickly when they're not refrigerated.
  • Need to limit yolks to cut cholesterol? Try cholesterol-free or reduced-cholesterol egg substitutes. The yolk, which contains the cholesterol, is left out. Other ingredients, such as nonfat milk, tofu, and vegetable oils, take its place; for coloring, it may contain beta carotene. Find egg substitutes in the store's freezer or the refrigerated section.

Since cholesterol is in the yolk and not the white, you also can buy eggs and use just the whites to replace some or all of the whole eggs. For more on cutting cholesterol in egg cookery, refer to chapter 13.

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