The Big Dairy Debate

Recently a popular internet “diet guru” posted an extensive “healthy grocery list.” I read through it and was sad to see that this list of “healthy” foods was anything but healthy. Sure, some of the things on the list were decent. But much of it was popular “diet” food that plays right into the “advice” we are bombarded with on the internet, tv, print media, etc. It was highly processed foods, many of which were manufactured to be lower in fat and/or higher in fiber. We have said it over and over on our blog – real food beats fake, processed crap one hundred percent of the time!

I often have friends ask me what is wrong with some of these foods. Some of the beliefs that Missy & I have when it comes to eating are not the norm among the “average” woman right now so people just don’t get it. I am not a dietician but wanted to take a few minutes to discuss some common items on this list and why I do not eat them. I hope that in doing this, you can see my reasons of why it’s sometimes good to not be “normal.” :)

I have quite a lot to say about this list, so today’s post will focus solely on the dairy section of the list.


Let’s start with eggs. This “healthy” grocery list was suggesting fat free egg substitute, liquid egg whites or “eggs (for hard-boiled whites).” When did the yolk become evil? I believe the answer to that would be that people deemed egg yolks to be high in saturated fat and cholesterol as well as the higher calorie part of an egg. The problem with this way of thinking is that often times highest nutrient content is found in the “higher fat” foods or part of a food. Did you know that the yolk of an egg contains 100 percent of the egg’s vitamin D, E, K and A? The yolk also accounts for about ninety percent of an egg’s calcium, iron, folate and many other important nutrients. In a nutshell, ditch the yolk, and you don’t have much left. The white is a valuable source of protein, but that’s about it. I will add that in my “everything in moderation” quest, if I am adding eggs simply for protein I will sometimes add 2-3 extra egg whites to my two whole eggs, but I never skip the yolks entirely. Moving on to the idea of egg substitute… WHY? Just why?? In addition to egg whites, many popular egg substitutes contain added color, “natural flavor,” xanthan gum, guar gum & malodextrin. They then add in many of the vitamins that the original egg would have already contained in their natural form, but since many of these vitamins need fat to be fully absorbed they are essentially useless to our body. Some sources I found suggested that companies can use “natural flavor” to sneak MSG into products. I could not confirm this, but even the thought of companies being able to “sneak” things into our food is enough to make me steer clear.


Next on the list was cheese. Every single option listed was low-fat. Because fat makes you fat, right? Nope. (Eating too much fat is a different story…) I will add here that since switching to full fat cheese I make sure to weigh my cheese servings. I realize this needs to be an “eaten in moderation” food and the best way for me to do this is to measure and track it. As for low fat cheese, it is lower in calories.

Milk was next. There were many “milk substitutes” mentioned, many of which may be okay choices if you cannot consume dairy. The only real milk option listed was “fat free milk.”


So why is it so bad if you want your milk fat free and your cheese low fat? Many experts believe that these were manufactured simply because as a society we want to be able to eat more. We do not want to limit ourselves to one portion of something, so if we cut the calories we can eat more and still lose weight, right? Not usually. The argument against non-fat and low fat products is two fold. Let’s first discuss how they reduce the fat in these items.

The most simple way to explain this is that since these foods are not naturally low in fat, they are chemically processed to get there. And we all know that processed is usually not a good thing, right? The best explanation I could find that simply explained the process was this site which explains it:

“The butterfat present in whole milk is a great source of vitamin A and complex D vitamins.  When the fat is removed from the milk, also removed are the fat soluble vitamins, minerals, and short chain fatty acids.  So, now milk producers have to add those back in, but in a synthetic form (which can be toxic).  These fat soluble vitamins need FAT to be properly assimilated in the body.  Without the fat, they pass right on through.”

In many cases after the fat is removed, manufacturers replace it with sugar and/or salt in order to make it still taste edible. While fat can have some great nutritional benefits, the same really can’t be said of sugar and salt.

Now that we have discussed the negatives to low-fat dairy, lets discuss the positives of the full fat variety.

Believe it or not, study after study are now showing that people are more lean if they eat full fat dairy products. Yes, you just read that correctly. There are several reasons theorized for this, but the most common one suggests that fat gives you satiety. It makes you feel full for longer, and less likely to overeat both at that meal, and later throughout the day.   This article outlines some great reasons to go full fat:

  • They help you lose weight – Because fat helps slow down digestion, you consume more calories but can go longer without eating again—and calories from hyper-frequent snacking that comes from eating extremely low-fat diets add up over time.
  • They encourage heart health - A 16-year study of Australian adults found that those who ate full-fat dairy were less likely to succumb to cardiovascular disease.
  • It may lower the risk of cancer - Subjects in a study who consumed at least four servings of high-fat dairy foods daily experienced a 41 percent lower risk of bowel cancer than those who ate less than one.
  • They may help with diabetes - Palmitic acid protects against inulin resistance and diabetes according to a study involving over 3,500 adults.
  • They aid in vitamin absorption - It doesn’t matter how many vitamins you pop in pill form if you’re not consuming the fat it needs to be absorbed into your body. Vitamins A and D (essential for dental health), E (skin health), and K (skeletal and heart health) in particular call for fat in the diet.

I will quickly skim over yogurt because it is basically the same information as milk and cheese. One thing that is more common in low fat yogurt than the other products is the addition of artificial sweeteners. I have yet to see a low-fat yogurt that isn’t also artificially sweetened. They seem to go hand in hand. (In case you missed it, you can read what I wrote about sweeteners recently here. )

If you have made it this far, I am going to share our version of a healthy grocery list for the dairy section. (Stay tuned for other grocery list sections!)

Eggs – organic, cage-free (farm fresh is best if you have access to them!)

Cheese – I stick to full-fat, organic varieties. Horizon has a big selection of great organic cheese, but there are a lot of other brands that are good as well.  Many healthier grocery stores even have a cheaper “store brand” of organic cheese.

Yogurt – My personal favorite is Chobani. Fage is another great choice out there. (If you want to avoid added sugar, try getting plain greek yogurt and mixing in fresh fruit.)  There are many other options out there for yogurt, some that are healthier than the ones I mentioned. Be a label reader and if the front says “low fat,” “reduced calorie” or anything similar, the label likely won’t have good news. I will be honest here and admit I sometimes buy the “sweet” Chobani yogurts – the chocolate mint is amazing, as is the salted caramel flips! One hundred percent clean it is not, but when you want something sweet I think it is a far better alternative to some other things out there.

Milk – I get organic regular fat milk. I tend to stock up at Costco to make it slightly more affordable. If you do not do dairy, Missy sent me a couple non-dairy milk alternatives. The cleanest option she has found is Califia Farms unsweetend almond milk. She said the taste takes a little getting used to though! She also suggests Silk brand almond milk. While it’s not quite as clean as the first option, it tastes good and is more easily accessible at most stores. Another friend of mine recently told me that the Silk brand cashew milk is awesome. Missy just picked this up to try as well.

Do you eat dairy? What would you add to my grocery list? I am always looking for new, healthy brands and items so I would love to hear your favorites!



One thought on “The Big Dairy Debate

  1. Great post! The low-fat/fat-free era is, thankfully, not as popular as it was in the 80′s and 90s, but I think people still have that misconception! I do regular cheese and yogurt, but milk I like 1 or 2%, purely for taste reasons :)

Leave a Reply