Dairy

Yogurt, Cream Cheese, Milk, Cheese and Other Dairy Products

Yes, dairy products are allowed as part of clean eating as long as you adhere to the guidelines below.  No need to live without cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, and ricotta cheese…

However, keep in mind that if you are trying to lose weight or avoid weight gain, its wise to limit (not eliminate) dairy because of the fat and calorie content. See clean eating for weight loss.  Just because its clean, doesn’t mean you won’t gain weight – you still need to control fat consumption if you want to shed pounds.(Never use reduced fat or reduced calorie or fat-free dairy – these are not “clean” foods due to the chemical processing involved).

But at its core, clean eating does not discourage dairy consumption when the products are:

  • Organic: If you can, its best to choose organic when it comes to any dairy products. Due to cost, not everyone can do this; that’s okay.
  • Full Fat: When you switch to eating “real food”, in other words, clean eating, you need to stay away from all low-fat and non-fat products because they contain unhealthy added ingredients that may be more damaging than the fat itself.
  • Plain: When it comes to dairy products like yogurt, it’s always best to buy the plain version and flavor it yourself simply by mixing in fresh fruit. The majority of factory-made flavored dairy products contain way too much added sugar, and sometimes salt and oil or artificial ingredients. Instead, mix your plain yogurt with fresh fruit, homemade berry sauce or add a little maple syrup and vanilla extract, maybe even a dash of cinnamon or orange zest for a real treat.
  • Least Number of Ingredients: No matter what type of food you are buying, remember the clean eating rule – ALWAYS read the ingredients before making a purchase. Keep in mind that typically the more processed the product is  the longer the ingredients list.
  • Grass-Fed: Ideally, all dairy products should come from grass-fed (as opposed to corn or grain-fed) cows.  But this can be hard to find apart from with cheese and milk, and it will be more pricey.  No need to fret if you can’t adhere to this guideline – you’ll still be way ahead of the game by abiding by the other guidelines.

Now, there are natural food advocates who will insist that pasteurization of dairy products is a form of processing, therefore most dairy is a “processed food” they will argue. Technically, that is correct.  However, a common sense approach needs to be applied. By that line of reasoning nothing but raw, organic dairy would be allowed, and that would be cost prohibitive for the vast majority of people. Nutritionists and health professionals agree that dairy is one of the main food groups and therefore it has a nutritional role to play and should be a part of maintaining a healthy diet.  It is never advisable to eliminate an entire food group from one’s diet.  All health experts will agree on this, and in fact, that’s where certain eating programs become un-healthy.  Clean eating in its truest form is about eating in the healthiest way possible, so that certainly can not involve eliminating one of the major food groups.  While pasteurization is technically a form of processing, we have to consider the net effect of this type of processing on the human body, which is negligible if any at all. Eliminating this food group from your diet all together would have more of a negative impact than consuming pasteurized dairy in moderation.

A Note About Greek Yogurt

There has been a lot of buzz in recent years about Greek yogurt, and a bit of a myth has been spread that the only yogurt one should consume is Greek yogurt because it is “healthiest”. That is not necessary true so as long as the yogurt meets the criteria outlined above; you can opt for either Greek yogurt or regular yogurt, which ever you prefer.

Greek yogurt is made by straining out the extra whey in regular yogurt, which makes the yogurt more concentrated and therefore thicker, creamier and tangier (some would say tastier) than regular yogurt. Plain Greek yogurt has less sugar, half the carbs, half the salt and more protein than regular plain yogurt. So for many it could be the preferred chpice. But regular yogurt delivers twice the bone-strengthening mineral calcium. So one is not that one is specifcally healthier than they other, each is healthy, but in different ways.  If you need more bone-strengthening calcium in your diet, regular yogurt is probably the better choice for you.  If you looking to consume more protein (as well as less sugar and less carbs) to meet your nutritional objectives, Greek yogurt would be best in your case.