We Need to Have a Heart to Heart about Dairy

By Lauren Scott, Arizona Farm Bureau Intern

Something has happened in the last 20 years, and fast-fading fad diets have become a societal norm. To get healthy or lose weight no one seems to think that eating healthy and exercising will do the trick. There’s a supplement for this, a nutritional shake for that, and a whole lot of people who don’t get results. The few who do get results are the most disciplined among us, and I commend them for that.


Supplements and shakes can’t, however, help your health if you are still eating unhealthy foods when no one is looking. Exercise plays a huge role in health too, and you can’t expect supplements to do all the work if you aren’t moving your body at least a little bit. The Mayo Clinic suggests that a well-rounded diet should eliminate the need for supplements except in special cases. These special cases are, but not limited to, people who are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, pregnant women, and people over the age of 50.

Let me tell you a secret: Yes, these fad diets and programs may work for some, but you are paying a pretty penny for something you could do yourself. The experts tell us that discipline, a diet change, and weekly exercise are all you need to get healthy and get in shape. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Like I was saying, nutrition is key to getting healthy. Do you remember learning about the food pyramid back in grade school? It’s now known as ‘My Plate’, and I still live by that to this day. Lots of people have replaced significant parts of it with expensive and unnecessary products, but you don’t have to.

Dairy Works

Guess what one of the healthiest parts of My Plate is? Dairy.

“Milk, cheese, and yogurt are more than calcium, they contain high-quality protein along with eight other essential nutrients that your body needs every day. This unique nutrient combination can help you meet your nutritional needs in a deliciously easy way!” Said Terri Verason, Director of Nutrition Education for the Dairy Council of Arizona.

Although it’s true that dairy is not the only place to get calcium, protein, and certain vitamins, it is one of the better (and tastier) places you can obtain them. Don’t believe the hype when you hear that dairy ‘doesn’t even contain that many nutrients’ because all dairy products DO in fact contain many nutrients that the human body needs.

The Arizona Milk Producers website states: “Dairy foods are an excellent source of several essential nutrients that work together to help protect bones, including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, protein and vitamin D.”

So let’s talk calcium for a minute. Do humans need calcium? Yes. Does dairy milk have calcium? Yes! It seems like a no-brainer, then, that we should drink a glass of milk, or eat yogurt and cheese on a regular basis. Still, people are substituting other ‘milks’ in place of dairy milk and dairy products. There’s just one little thing… These other ‘milks’ don’t always match up to the nutritional quality of cow’s milk.

See where I’m going here? People argue that there are other foods out there that are high in calcium too, and they are not wrong. Dairy is just the easiest way to absorb calcium into your system. Also, the fruits and veggies out there that contain calcium don’t contain as much as dairy. Eight ounces of fresh, cooked broccoli only contain 60 milligrams of calcium. Compare that to eight ounces of skim, low-fat milk, which contain 300 milligrams of calcium. Eight ounces of kale contain 180 milligrams, and eight ounces of boiled soybeans contain 175 milligrams of calcium, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

Why do People say ‘No’?

Some people choose not to consume dairy products because they believe dairy will hinder their ability to lose weight. This study says that weight loss is not only something that has to be worked hard for but genetics, too, play a large role in how our body weight fluctuates. A glass of milk was not what made us gain two pounds, but the pizza, French fries, and alcohol many of us eat regularly may have contributed to our weight increase. There are many low-fat or fat-free dairy options for those who are trying to shed weight or keep their weight down. Exercise and keeping a healthy diet free of fast food and unnecessary sugars will help with weight maintenance, as well.

According to the National Dairy Council, along with not being the cause of your weight gain, consuming dairy products can possibly reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, and is associated with lowering blood pressure.

There are some people who don’t consume dairy products, not because they don’t want to, but because they are lactose intolerant. WebMD says when someone’s body isn’t tolerant of lactose, (natural sugar found in dairy) their body can’t digest it properly. Symptoms of this issue include gas, bloating, and stomach aches. Your small intestine makes an enzyme called ‘lactase’. Lactase is what breaks down lactose as it moves through your intestines. In people with lactose intolerance, their bodies don’t produce enough lactase, which in turn means that the lactose their body is trying to process cannot be broken down. People with an intolerance for lactose most often substitute dairy products with products like almond or soy milk, and lactose-free yogurt and cheese.

Whether or not you choose to eat dairy products is up to you. Just keep in mind that everything can be good in moderation, and dairy goods aren’t evil, as people make them out to be. Now go enjoy a tall glass of milk, a serving of yogurt, and some cheese on your sandwich. If you want to know more about how dairy affects your health, take a look at some of these great resources:

Fill Your Plate

Arizona Milk Producers

National Dairy Council

Choose My Plate by the USDA

Posted in Arizona, Cooking, Dairy, Diet Tips, Fill Your Plate, Focus on Agriculture, Food, Food Facts, Health Tips, Healthy Eating | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Serving up the Super Bowl

By Lauren Scott, Arizona Farm Bureau Intern

What is better than family and friends all gathered together in a living room or backyard to watch the Super Bowl? Some might argue that the commercials are the best part, and some will say the food is the reason they frequent Super Bowl parties.

I, for one, can’t get enough of the sweet, savory, spicy, and delicious delicacies that people cook up for this occasion. I’ve even been known to whip up tasty treats for my neighbor’s annual party. I wanted to help you out this year by sharing some of my favorite things to make or eat at Super Bowl parties. So whether you’re hosting or just attending, here are some dishes that are sure to be gone before the game is even halfway over!



Main Dishes:


Side Dishes:



For more delicious game day recipes visit Fill Your Plate!


If you liked this article:


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Give Your Gut what it Needs: Fiber

By Nathan Chambers,  Recent ASU Communication Nutrition Student


We all know that we should eat more fiber because it aids in digestion. But you may not have known the other important functions of dietary fiber… and they are much more influential than just helping you go. A high fiber diet promotes healthy gut bacteria, too!

Inside the human intestine, there are hundreds of different bacterial species with billions of individual bacteria. In a healthy gut, there are more bacterial cells than there are human cells in the entire body!


Functions of gut bacteria

  • Immunity
    Beneficial bacteria are integral to intestinal mucosa, which provides for intestinal immunity. One of the most common intestinal infections results in ischemic colitis– an infection which, left untreated, results in necrosis of the intestine and possibly death. Gut bacteria, by keeping the intestinal walls and mucus intact and by providing a direct infection-fighting response, keep invasive bacteria from latching onto the intestinal walls and causing infection.
  • Nutrition
    Intestinal bacteria aid in the absorption of key nutrients (Vitamin K) and the production of some B vitamins. When Vitamin B production within the gut slows, immunity is hampered and inflammation can result.
  • Inflammation
    Leaky gut is a condition in which the interior wall of the intestine is damaged and/or inflamed. This allows substances to ‘leak’ into the bloodstream. Leaky gut may have a negative influence on diabetes and, of course, on inflammatory bowel disease, as well as other disorders. Keeping your gut bacteria happy and healthy is vital in preventing leaky gut: when gut bacteria digest fiber, they produce fatty acids which are important to the structure and function of the intestinal wall, keeping inflammation down and the wall sealed.


Feeding your gut microbiome


It is obviously of extreme importance to keep your gut bacteria healthy– and the food you feed your gut should be rich in fiber. Bacteria are living organisms, and without their preferred food, they will resort to eating other things to stay alive. Some studies have shown that, in the absence of fiber, your gut bacteria can resort to eating the mucosal layer of the intestine, thereby eliminating their benefit and actually causing harm. Which means that if you do not feed your gut, your gut will eat you!



Get more fiber into your diet


  • Black beans 12 grams of fiber per cup
  • Peas 8 grams of fiber per cup
  • Blackberries 7 grams of fiber per cup
  • Whole almonds 5 grams of fiber per ounce


Cooking/baking with whole grains is also a great way to get more fiber into your diet without changing the way you eat. Just buy/make bread with whole grain.

Other great places to get fiber from are raspberries, flax seeds, broccoli, avocados, pears, oatmeal, figs, artichokes, Brussel sprouts, chickpeas, and quinoa, among many other foods.

Here is a tasty recipe by Fill Your Plate that can add a little more fiber to your diet:


  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 4 small golden beets
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 shallot
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 1 broccoli sprouts
  • 1 olive oil
  • 1 salt and pepper


Roast beets in an oven (leaves removed) for an hour at 400 degrees — until tender throughout. Finely dice the shallot and soak in lemon juice and vinegar for about 30 minutes. This will help the shallots mellow. Thinly shave fennel and then add to the shallot and liquids. Thinly slice avocado and sprinkle with lemon juice to keep from browning. Once beets are tender, let cool down and then slice thin. To plate, make a small base of golden beets on each dish, pile fennel on top of the beets, then crumble goat cheese on top of the fennel, arrange the avocado and garnish with broccoli sprouts, and add salt and pepper to taste. Finally, drizzle with a little olive oil.


If you liked this article:

– Convince your Kiddos to Eat More Fiber 

– Everything you Ever Wanted to Know about Fiber 




Weisenberger, J. (2012). Feed your “good” bacteria: Eat a high-fiber, plant-based diet and include fermented foods to boost levels of “good” bacteria in your gut. Environmental Nutrition, 35(6), 3.


Kamada, N., Sakamoto, K., Seo, S., Zeng, M., Kim, Y., Cascalho, M., . . . Núñez, G. (2015). Humoral immunity in the gut selectively targets phenotypically virulent attaching-and-effacing bacteria for intraluminal elimination. Cell Host & Microbe, 17(5), 617-627. doi:10.1016/j.chom.2015.04.001


Quigley, E. M. M. (2013). Gut bacteria in health and disease. Gastroenterology & Hepatology,9(9), 560.


Gominak, S. C. (2016). Vitamin D deficiency changes the intestinal microbiome reducing B vitamin production in the gut. the resulting lack of pantothenic acid adversely affects the immune system, producing a “pro-inflammatory” state associated with atherosclerosis and autoimmunity. Medical Hypotheses, 94, 103-107. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2016.07.007





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Smuggling Veggies into your Kid’s Favorite Foods

By Lori Meszaros, Recent ASU Nutrition Communication student

As a parent, I want to make sure my kids are getting their 5 a day but with picky eaters in the house, that’s not always the easiest thing to do. I’ve tried all of the tricks, and while they sometimes work, some days my kids just want to eat pizza and chocolate.

I’m not alone in this fight to get our kids to eat healthier. Kids absolute refusal to eat fruits and vegetables has inspired many moms and chefs around the world to create deceptively delicious meals by becoming veggie smugglers, hiding that good stuff in their favorite food.


Whether it’s adding butternut squash to mac and cheese, cauliflower to mashed potatoes or using avocado to make chocolate mousse, some parents feel they have no other option but to sneak these good foods into their kid’s favorite culinary dishes. But is sneaking healthy food into our kid’s favorite dishes really teaching them healthy eating habits?

The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommends kids eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables a day. Adding pureed fruits or vegetables to meals is one way parents have found to help get their kids the recommended five a day, but health professionals are skeptical if it actually teaches healthy eating habits.

One study published in Social Science & Medicine found that hiding vegetables in meal can be confusing for a child. By adding pureed butternut squash or cauliflower to mac and cheese, children cannot easily distinguish between the homemade version with the hidden vegetable and foods served outside the home without the vegetable. While adding pureed vegetables can help increase the amount of vegetables eaten by children at home, it should not be the only way vegetables are presented to children if you want to encourage healthy eating habits away from home.

Another study published by Barbra Rolls at Penn State found that adding pureed vegetables to favorite foods almost doubled the amount of vegetables eaten by kids and had no effect on the amount of vegetables eaten as a side dish. While the researchers noted adding pureed vegetables can be beneficial to increasing the amount of vegetables eaten by kids, they also agreed it shouldn’t be the only way vegetables are served to children.

Research supports adding pureed vegetables to our child’s favorite dishes is a great way to help our children get their 5 a day, but caution it doesn’t support encouraging healthy eating habits outside of home unless the child is involved in the preparation of the food. Getting your children in the kitchen to help prepare their favorite dishes with these hidden veggies is the best way to encourage healthy eating in and away from home. I found this to be true with my own kids.

I began by sneaking in pureed vegetables into mashed potatoes, pizza sauces and yummy desserts to develop their tastes for these healthier options. I even made meat balls out of lentils, cauliflower and chicken, and after a few successful attempts at eating these veggie smuggled meals, I brought them into the kitchen to help me make them. My oldest, who wouldn’t give an avocado a second look, was shocked that her favorite chocolate mousse was made with this green fruit she despised (don’t worry, I share the recipe below), and my youngest who wouldn’t eat anything on her plate if the cauliflower touched it now cleans her plate that is filled with those little white trees.

Getting your kids in the kitchen will not only help encourage healthy eating habits but will also give them the skills to cook healthy meals once they leave home and start their own families. Cooking is a lost art and every child deserves to be taught how to cook. Start your kids young, even the smallest of hands can mix flour or pour in measured ingredients.


Avocado Chocolate Mousse

2 avocados

1 ripe banana

1 tbsp ground flaxseed

½ cup cacao powder, or unsweetened cocoa powder

½ cup creamy peanut butter

½ cup maple syrup or honey

¼ cup coconut milk or almond milk


Add all ingredients into a food processor and blend until creamy and smooth. Put mousse into a plastic zip bag and press to remove as much air as possible. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.


I served mine in little chocolate bowls, but this can be served in small dessert dishes too. To serve, cut the corner tip of the plastic zip bag and squeeze mousse into serving dish. Garnish with a shaving of dark chocolate and enjoy.


The mousse will keep for about 3 days in the refrigerator, but is best right away.




Connell PM, Finkelstein SR, Scott ML & Vallen B. Helping lower income parents reduce the risk of food waste resulting from children’s aversion to healthier food options: Commnet on Daniel. Soc Sci Med. 2016;150:286-289.


Rolls B. Hiding vegetables in kids’ foods can increase vegetable intake. Penn State, The College of Health and Human Development. Published July 20, 2011. Viewed November 7, 2016. http://hhd.psu.edu/news/2011/Vegetable-Intake.html



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Getting Kids to Take Control of Their Nutrition

By Kevin Dietmeyer, Recent ASU Nutrition Student 

Are you in control of your nutrition or does the endless pursuit of making healthy choices seem to control your life?  Are you in control?  When you have ownership over something like your own nutrition it doesn’t feel like such a burden.  It doesn’t feel like such restrictive work because it’s easy to do something when you feel a sense of ownership.  It’s easer when you can say, “This is mine.”  Now, that’s wisdom we can learn from any child.  This is mine.  


Building long-term habits like eating for overall health is no easy task and you should know that if you’ve ever tried to introduce your five-year-old to a spread of tomatoes and green leafy vegetables.  The secret to change that lasts is obvious if you experience frequent, small victories on the road to the improved and healthier you.  The same is true for your child and the important part is that they have an active role or ownership in each one of those victories.  Ownership is empowering and it’s a powerful momentum builder for habit change when it comes to getting healthy.  Ownership means being in control and when you have ownership it’s easy to say, “This is mine.”   


The best way you can build excitement about being healthy is to give your child some ownership in the healthy decision-making process.  Let them get in there hands-on from start to finish and all it takes is a little preparation on your part.


Start by prepping some ingredients for healthy trail mix ahead of time and make a “super food-shopping list.”  A great idea is to stock the kitchen with some ingredients already portioned according to size to make the assembly process easier later.  Now it’s time for them to go “shopping,” in the kitchen, armed and ready with a list of super-ingredients.  Have your child put together the prepared portions of trail mix ingredients into plastic baggies or plastic-ware for the week.  This will make a week of school lunch preparation quick and easy for you and your child will be excited to eat the super-food they’ve shopped for and made themselves.  They’re likely to go to school and brag to all their friends about the foods they helped create.  Who knows, they may get all of their friends excited about eating super-foods as well.


Ingredients to create a healthy trail mix need to have a variety of textures, flavors, and colors.  Try to add some interesting foods they don’t usually encounter like sunflower seeds and dried fruits, which can be a great way to get kids to eat fruits they might not like normally.


Here is a great super-food starter list for healthy trail mix (Mix and match these ingredients and more according to your own taste):


Sunflower seeds


Dried mangos

Dried banana chips

Pretzel chips

Peanut butter chips

Dried apple chips


Pistachios (Opened)

Dried cranberries




For more information on kid’s nutrition, and other recipes your children will love, visit Fill Your Plate!



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