Why You Need to Avoid Dairy ‘Junk Food’

Dairy Food

Do you consider a milkshake to be junk food? Maybe it’s time you did.

Dairy is in thousands of food products and fast foods. It is highly processed, so it’s a far cry from a whole, nutritious food. And yet the government tells us that three to four servings a day is necessary for strong bones.

I always loved my dairy snacks in my lunchbox growing up. Everyone would envy the kid with cheese strings, cheese and cracker dippers, or a bag of Cheezies. I also thought eating strawberry yogurt, or extra cheese on my Big Mac, would give me adequate dairy for the day.

Well, I’ve since learned about limitations of these dairy foods.

Michele Simon, a public health lawyer and food politics writer, has released a report, “Whitewashed: How Industry and Government Promote Dairy Junk Food,” which highlights the dairy shift in the United States. Essentially, Americans are consuming less plain milk and more dairy products. The problem is the added salt, fat and sugar within these dairy products, like flavored yogurts, yogurt drinks and store-bought smoothies.

As milk consumption has reduced, cheese is on the rise, according to the report. There are definitely strong reasons to avoid dairy products.

Why should you avoid these dairy junk foods? Here are three myths about the dairy industry that will have you cheesed off.

3 Reasons to go Dairy Free

1. Chocolate Milk Does a Body Good?

Flavored milks are popular with children. Dairy organizations claim chocolate milk contains a nutrient combination that cannot be found in other beverages. It is also heavily promoted as an after-workout drink to help build muscle; however, the beverage has an unhealthy side.

One cup of chocolate milk contains 29g of sugar and 180 calories, which doesn’t scream out weight loss, now does it? Yes, chocolate milk contains several nutrients such as vitamins A and D, phosphorus and calcium, but the ingredients don’t stop there. Salt, artificial flavors and carrageenan (a possible carcinogen) may be included in some brands of chocolate milk. You would benefit post-workout by eating the fermented milk product kefir, which has similar nutrients with less sugar.

2. Processed Cheese is Made From Natural Cheese

There are claims that processed cheese is made from natural cheese. The problem is there are processed cheese products with over a dozen ingredients, such as modified milk ingredients, sodium citrate, tricalcium phosphate and other nutrient additives.

Processed cheese may contain several other suspect ingredients, such as carrageenan, maltodextrin and sodium alginate. And it may have cornstarch, which could be from genetically modified corn. What is natural about all that?

3. Dairy is Essential for the Diet

Dairy products are touted for the nutrient content, including calcium, protein, vitamin A and probiotics; however, cheese and milk are two of the most consumed sources of saturated fat available today.

One slice of processed cheese contains 740mg of sodium, which is nearly half of the recommended daily requirement. Dairy also is one of the most common food allergens and many people can’t eat it. And let’s be honest, there are many ingredients in dairy that you won’t find on the food label. Conventional dairy cows are treated with antibiotics, steroids and growth hormones. The pasteurization process of milk will also decrease vitamin B6 and destroy the probiotic—good bacteria—benefits.

Common Dairy Junk Foods

What are some other common dairy junk foods you should avoid? Popular old favorites like Cheez Whiz, Velveeta and Kraft Dinner (or Kraft Macaroni and Cheese). Many flavored yogurts, sour creams and other cheese-flavored snacks should also be avoided.

How to Stop Dairy Consumption

How do you avoid dairy junk? Order tea instead of any shake in the drive-thru. Use ghee (clarified butter) instead of butter. Try some of the non-dairy milks such as almond, rice or hemp milk. You can use these milks to make a healthy version of ice cream to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Wait, are you concerned about your calcium and protein? Spinach, broccoli, and cremini mushrooms are good sources of both nutrients.

Simon, M., “Whitewashed: How Industry and Government Promote Dairy Junk Foods,” EatDrinkPolitics website, June 2014; http://www.eatdrinkpolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/SimonWhitewashedDairyReport.pdf.