Ditch Dairy and Still Get Your Calcium

February 13, 2019

It is a season of change even at the dinner table, where an 8-ounce glass of milk is no longer the must-have it was once considered to get your daily requirement of calcium. According to Saba Zahid, RD, LDN, Patient Experience Manager with Unidine Corporation, which provides dietary services at Shore Medical Center, the 2019 Canadian Nutrition Guidelines have changed what the daily recommended diet should include, and it does not include dairy.

Zahid provides outpatient nutritional counseling at Shore and uses the MyPlate model to help guide clients to healthier choices. The most recent update for Americans came in 2013 when the Obama administration released its MyPlate guidelines suggesting that a healthy diet consists of 30 percent grains, 40 percent vegetables, 10 percent fruits and 20 percent protein, the latter including some dairy. In unveiling the MyPlate guidelines, First Lady Michelle Obama suggested that Americans need not measure out exact proportions but instead simply make sure to exercise portion control and fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables and the other half with lean proteins, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.

Zahid said the new Canadian guidelines are advising that we can get the necessary daily requirements of calcium through food sources other than dairy, like grains and vegetables, including spinach. The rationale, she said, is because milk is another animal product and there are a lot of animal fats in the proteins many people have in their diets. For those who enjoy a glass of milk, they can leave the dairy behind and get an equivalent amount of calcium from almond or soy milk.

Fiber first, and then enjoy that spaghetti
Zahid pointed to the need for every diet to include fiber. “Fiber is so important for our gut function, but we do not get enough because we are not eating enough whole grains or vegetables.” Zahid said for optimum health women should include 25 grams of fiber daily, and for men it is recommended they have 38 grams per day.

What makes a balanced plate? Zahid said it needs to include half fruits and vegetables and include one quarter carbs and one quarter protein. “So if you eat those leafy green veggies first, then you can enjoy spaghetti and a meatball and know it is a healthy meal.”

Eat the rainbow
“We should aspire to eat the rainbow daily by having as many colors of fruits and vegetables as possible,” said Zahid, who added that each color offers the body another antioxidant. “Melons, strawberries and blackberries are all different and are all good, and that little blueberry is so much larger than its size for what it gives us.”

Although there is not yet an official change to the U.S. MyPlate dietary guidelines, Zahid suggests to her clients that they can take matters into their own hands and set their sights on ditching the daily dairy intake. Instead, they can get their calcium and other necessary nutrients by upping the proportion of plant based foods and vegetables.

Here to help navigate
Need help navigating a healthy eating plan or have other diet related questions? Why not try working with one of Shore Medical Center’s Outpatient Nutrition Counseling dietitians? Our team would love to help you improve your health through diet. To schedule an appointment, call 609-653-4600, option 5. To learn more, visit our website at www.shoremedicalcenter.org/nutrition-counseling.