Thursday, February 11, 2016

Milk an important building block for all ages

Posted on May 19, 2013 at 1:00 a.m.

Mary Ann Lienhart Cross

Food & Nutrition

We are blessed to live in a country where our food is abundant, safe, convenient, nutritious and readily available. Dairy foods are such an important part of healthy eating throughout our lifetime. I enjoy dairy products of all kinds from milk, to yogurt, soft and hard cheese and, for sure, ice cream. We live in a county that is blessed to have many hard-working farm families that milk cows every day of the year two or three times a day. Elkhart County is right toward the top when it comes to milking cows. Most of us take going to the grocery store for milk as an automatic process that all the dairy products will always be there.

I am a little early in celebrating June as National Dairy Month, but the last couple of weeks I have been sharing information about each of the special contests at the fair. I wanted to continue with the “Dairy Delicious Contest.”

There is just nothing like a glass of cold milk, a piece of cheese or a bowl of ice cream. Dairy foods should be part of your family’s “MyPlate” and also planned for as snacks. Milk is nutrient-dense food and a bonus to milk is all the flavorful foods that are made from it and all of the foods that you can prepare from it.

Generations of people have grown up hearing the same advice: “Drink your milk for strong bones and teeth.” When you are young, you need to have calcium for bone growth and when you are maturing, you need it to keep bones strong. Your body needs dietary calcium also to help protect against high blood pressure and colon cancer. It’s the best food to help prevent osteoporosis. The trouble is that many are just not eating calcium-rich foods to reap the benefits.

Calcium-rich eating offers many benefits from the beginning of our lives through our senior years. Our calcium requirements change as we live through the different stages of life, but milk and other foods from the milk group are the best sources of calcium in your healthy eating plan.

Here’s what you need to know about what a serving is: One serving from the milk group equals 1 cup milk, or 1 cup yogurt or pudding. To get the same amount of calcium from other sources you have to eat 1 1/2 ounces of cheese, 1 3/4 cups of ice cream or 2 cups of cottage cheese.

For children ages 1-10, calcium is needed to make their bones stronger, harder, grow longer and wider, and it helps teeth develop properly. Give children at least three servings from the milk group. From age 2 and older, most should have low-fat dairy foods. People from 11 to 24 are the most lacking when it comes to calcium consumption, and calcium is probably the most important to them. If a strong skeleton is not built, it can spell tragedy by age 40 or so. Teenagers need at least four servings from the milk group and it should be low fat.

Adults 24-40 years need to know that in middle age bones start losing calcium slowly. If you have a strong, dense skeleton, you may never lose enough calcium to develop weak brittle bones. But if you enter your 40s with a weak skeleton, even a small amount of bone loss can have a terrible effect on your bone health, so we all need dairy foods for life. For adults the calcium requirement is at least two or more servings each day.

Pregnant and nursing women are eating for two, so if they don’t consume calcium-rich foods, their bodies will pull the calcium their babies need out of the mother’s bones. Women need to give their babies a good start by maintaining their own health and by eating calcium-rich foods. Pregnant and nursing women need at least four servings. Teenagers who are in this group need five or more servings. The calcium is needed to build the bones and teeth of the babies and maintain the mother’s supply of calcium.

For adults 40 and older, calcium is needed to slow down bone loss and repair bones. For this group two or more servings of calcium are recommended each day.

Mary Ann Lienhart Cross is the Elkhart County extension director and an extension educator in health and human sciences at Purdue Extension Elkhart County, 17746 C.R. 34, Goshen IN 46528-6898. She can be reached at 533-0554 or

‘Dairy Delicious’ contest rules

Ÿ Categories are party foods and main dishes.

Ÿ Bring your entry to the Home and Family Arts building between 11 and 11:45 a.m. Monday, July 22.

Ÿ Open judging is scheduled for noon.

Ÿ Recipes for either one of these categories must contain at least two dairy foods such as milk, cream, cream cheese, cheese, ice cream, etc.

Ÿ The contest is a short window between check-in and judging, so food safety will not be an issue.

Ÿ Entries could be something that’s created and stored in the refrigerator and then allowed to warm to room temperature like a cheese ball or spread or they could be a prepared food item that is cooked or baked and then brought for judging.

Ÿ Additional rules and regulations can be found in the 2013 Home and Family Arts Open Class booklet. To obtain a copy, visit the Purdue Extension Elkhart County Office located inside Gate 2 on the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds, or visit the website at