As a former intern for the American Dairy Association North East, I learned a lot about the important nutritional contributions of dairy. As I developed my own nutrition consulting business which is focused on helping people reach weigh loss goals, the experience I gained as an intern has proved to be very valuable so I can share dairy’s role in weight loss.

PROTEIN: Dairy is not only a great source of essential nutrients and healthy fat, it provides a high-quality source of protein. In my experience, protein is one of the most under-consumed nutrients my clients have before they start working with me. Protein is the single most important nutrient for weight loss as it boosts metabolism and reduces appetite. Dairy foods contain two major forms of protein – whey and casein. Eighty percent of milk’s protein content comes from casein and the remaining 20% is whey. Whey is rapidly digested, while casein is digested more slowly, increasing feelings of fullness.

PLANNING: Too often people stray from healthy eating simply because they are not stocking their refrigerator with versatile, nutritious foods. Dairy foods like milk, yogurt and cheese should be a staple on your weekly shopping list because of their nutritional contributions and versatility. Milk provides 13 essential nutrients! Whether you are drinking it with meals, eating it with cereal or blending it up with fruit for a smoothie, I recommend three servings a day as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Single serve dairy items like cheese sticks, yogurts and cottage cheese make great grab and go snacks that require no preparation and provide both carbs and protein to boost energy and help you feel full.

PAIRING: If you’re only eating vegetables at lunch and you wonder why you’re hungry two hours later, it’s probably because you didn’t get in a big enough variety of nutrients. Again, making protein a priority in snacks and meals will help you feel fuller longer. Dairy foods are great additions and pair well with many other nutrient rich ingredients so making sure you have plenty on hand will help you avoid straying from your diet. I love cheese and I recommend adding it to salads and grain bowls — the duo of plants and dairy deliver a powerhouse of nutrients. Snacks are a breeze when you have the right ingredients — pair cheese with whole wheat crackers and fruit, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese is a great dip for vegies and fruits.

For more information, please check out my website.