Science Backs Up My Mom (well, when it comes to dairy it does)

Last night I had a conversation about fats in milk … the other person and I were in agreement that full-fat milk, cream cheese, yogurt, etc. tastes so much better than the low-fat or fat-free versions.  I added that we were taught in my family that it’s okay to eat/drink full-fat dairy as long as it was in moderation.  They said they were as well– they were Greek. My family is from New Zealand and Germany. We were wondering if that was one reason, we stuck with the cultural norm.  When I was growing up (and for long after) everyone around us (here in the US) was saying you needed to eat/drink low-fat dairy.  My kids only have low-fat milks at school, where there is no choice. 

Today, while spreading organic butter onto one son’s bagel and full-fat cream cheese on another, I heard on the radio about the latest studies (in a string of recent studies with similar outcomes) that those who consume full-fat dairy are less obese and also do not have higher incidence of heart disease than those who eat/drink low-fat or no-fat dairy.  

“Whatever the mechanism, this association between higher dairy fat and lower body weight appears to hold up in children, too.

As we reported last year, a study of children published in the Archives Of Diseases in Childhood, a sister publication of the British Medical Journal, concluded that low-fat milk was associated with more weight gain over time.” 

It’s what I’ve been saying for years, with only anecdotal evidence, but now science is backing up the beliefs my parents and grandparents passed on to me.

One point made in our conversation last night was that if you look at the ingredient list on those low-fat dairy packages, you notice that there is often added sugar and complex artificial additives to try to make it taste like full-fat dairy.  I remember my mother once, by mistake, bought fat-free cream cheese.  I put it on my bagel and was horribly shocked when I took a bite!  It tasted like plastic! Ick!  I thought it was off/bad – but it was just fat-free.  Think about it, fat-free cream cheese is an oxymoron.  Cream=fat.  Fat-free cream?  Hmm.

A fairly new snack/dessert my eldest two kids are absolutely loving is Greek yogurt with local honey. It’s hard to find full-fat, but I’ll be making my own this week. I buy the Fage 2% plain yogurt. 

Greek yogurt drizzled with local honey.

2% Greek yogurt drizzled with local honey.

The probiotics in yogurt is great for the immune system as is honey!  And if you eat local honey there’s a side benefit– reduced seasonal allergies. (Science still has to prove this one.)

So, if your family does consume dairy– go ahead and buy your kids and yourself the full-fat dairy.  Don’t be afraid. Don’t feel guilty.  Be confident you’re making the right choice. 

Now, to get the schools up-to-date with the science!


This gallery contains 3 photos.

Chickpea salad I brought to friend’s party on Saturday.  3 cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans)1 cup plain Greek yogurt2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint1 Tbsp chopped fresh chives2 tsp cumin1/2 tsp cayennejuice of 1 lemondozen chopped grape tomatoessalt & pepper to taste … Continue reading


My kids and I love smoothies and I make them all the time.  They are so good— as in, for you and taste!  I use frozen fruit so there’s no need to add ice and the berries are always organic.  I often put in a fresh ripe (or even over-ripe) banana or two, yogurt and juice, but I make them all different ways/combinations (endless combinations, really).  Sometimes I use coconut water or milk, sometimes vanilla yogurt or a berry kafir milk but whatever combination I use they’re easy and delicious. 

  Today’s Smoothie

In a blender mix:

  • half pack (about 1 cup) frozen mango pieces
  • half a pack (about 1 cup) mixed frozen berries (blue, black, rasp) and cherries
  • 1-2 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup of vanilla drinkable organic yogurt
  • 3/4 cup of coconut water
  • 1 cup of all natural 100% pomegranate juice blend (pom, apple, grape, aronia berry)

Looking at the side of the blender you will want to have the liquids be about 1/2 way up the frozen fruit (anything less will be hard to blend and too frozen).  If you put the largest frozen pieces on the bottom and the banana on top, it helps the process. 

Blend on high until the top of the mixture is pulled underneath and all is smooth.   Serve.  Enjoy.


(Honey makes a nice additional ingredient and if local can help manage seasonal allergies.)

Some fruit/juice combinations:

Strawberries, blueberries and banana with orange juice and fruit punch

Mango, blueberries and banana with pineapple juice and coconut milk/water (Mango-Blueberry Colada)

Cherry and blackberry with cranberry juice


The dilemma these days is not the dearth of choices but glut.  From organic to all natural, from processed to ready-made, from junk to health foods, kid-friendly to just what your family always bought.  The book by Michael Pollan In Defense of Food really resonated with me and I have bought it for family and friends.  His latest Food Rules gives a guide of what to eat and how.  Part of the beauty of these books is that it brings food back to where it should be in our consciousness… something we need to think about but not obsess over.  His motto “Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants” is such a practical guideline.  I try to buy organic and local when possible, but sometimes it doesn’t happen.  I limit my processed food purchases but I’m not perfect and there are a few things in my cupboard that I know shouldn’t be there.  Again, it’s a matter of balancing the “good” over the “bad” or just “better” over “worse”. 

One area in which there are way too many choices is breakfast cereal. Some of my friends are more shocked when they see or hear that my kids eat Chocolate Cheerios than that they eat kale.   Ok, so I refuse to buy Fruit Loops, Lucky Charms or Fruity Pebbles cereals but I do allow an occasional processed cereal.  I base these decisions on sugar content, artificial colors and flavors, and preservatives.  The Chocolate Cheerios don’t have as much junk in them as other flavored cereals.  I would prefer them to eat oatmeal daily, but it’s not always possible in the morning rush. 

 A friend also noticed the high sugar content of the Brown Cow Whole Milk Cherry Vanilla yogurt I so enjoy.  So, I called Brown Cow and was told that the sugar content is derived from three major components- one half from the milk itself, one quarter from the flavorings (whole fruits) and one quarter from sweeteners (sugar cane, maple and honey).  They don’t use fillers or thickeners (modified corn starch, etc) or preservatives.  They use real whole milk (the cream is on the top), real whole fruits, maple syrup and honey. So the choice isn’t always about how much sugar, but which sugar is better as well as the other ingredients.  If you read the ingredient list of some other yogurts you’ll be amazed at the unrecognizable contents.  And why on Earth has yogurt been turned into another junk food with toppings like Oreos and M&Ms or the Trix and Shrek colored stuff?   

My kids also love the Maple and Vanilla (low-fat) Brown Cow yogurts.  Since it’s not always available where I regularly shop, I do buy Stoneyfield or Trader Joe’s yogurts. They also love when I “make” frozen yogurt.  I take  Stoneyfield Organic “Yokids Squeezers” (in the tubes) and freeze, then peel off the top part of the packaging, wrap in a paper towel and serve as nice cool treat.

Just try to choose wisely for their health and wallet and your sanity!  Put as many fresh, whole foods in their diet and limit the processed and overly sugared and salty foods.  Don’t beat yourself up over all the choices.