February 26, 2024

Add dairy to meals in the new year

Vegetable casserole is the perfect way to add nutrients into your diet.

It’s a new year, and the “new me” mindset for health usually comes along with this new start. For a long time, society has defined “health” by subtraction, such as losing weight through rigorous exercise or by removing certain foods or entire food groups from meals. This method has proven to be ineffective, as it contributes to yo-yo dieting, increased weight gain, heightened body-image distress and disordered eating.

Maintaining overall health is an important part of nurturing a sense of well-being. To meet this goal, it is time to flip the script. Instead of subtracting from your life, choose to add foods and movement that nourish and enrich health and daily routines. This mindset is more likely to lead to better health and life enjoyment.

Add Nutrient-Dense Foods For Health

Taking an additive approach to health has many benefits. Rather than making a list of foods to eliminate from your diet, consider the alternative. Choose to eat foods you like, but add more nutrients to fuel your body. For example, enjoy delicious, creamy macaroni and cheese, but make it with milk and real cheese. Milk contains 13 essential nutrients, including calcium, protein and vitamin D. Follow up by adding vegetables, like broccoli or carrots, to make a balanced, nutrient-dense meal that satisfies.

Enhancing meals with nutrient dense foods, like dairy, is a great way to fuel your body and add nutrients for optimal health. Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds, and also make you feel good. Remember, you don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy.

Add Joyful Movement

The additive perspective on health highlights the importance of engaging in enjoyable forms of movement that can add strength, flexibility, endurance and joy.

There is a common perception that physical activity should be rigorous and that it does not count unless you are sore the next day. This concept simply is not accurate. All movement counts. Engage in activity that suits your lifestyle, such as hiking, playing football with your kids, or taking a walk to get the mail. For those who enjoy and participate in intense physical activity, chocolate milk makes an excellent recovery beverage to replenish lost nutrients.

Add Joy

Focusing on how to add value to your life is an important way to make lasting changes for health. Consider the following questions when determining how to make additive choices. What can I do to help myself feel good? What activities or types of movement do I enjoy? What way of eating meets my needs and tastes good? Is my mental health boosting my overall health?

Going against the ingrained diet culture may be challenging, but keep in mind, trendy definitions of “health” do not always serve individuals well. Diet culture may lead to quick-fix fad diets that restrict food and critical nutrients needed for overall health. Focusing on small changes that enhance health instead of restrictions is key.

So, add a glass of milk to your favorite meal and work in a daily walk if that’s what you enjoy. Rest assured, this new year is different, and you will be adding value to your lifestyle instead of taking away from it!”

For more information on dairy’s benefits, visit www.stldairycouncil.org. Follow St. Louis District Dairy Council on Facebook and Instagram at STLDairyCouncil.

Creamy Vegetable Casserole

This delicious vegetable casserole recipe is the perfect way to add nutrients into your diet, all while enjoying a delightful dish that warms the soul!

Servings: 12


1 can (10.5 ounces) cream of mushroom soup

1 cup sour cream

1 yellow onion, diced

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon salt

Dash of pepper

1 package (16 ounces) frozen cauliflower, thawed

1 package (16 ounces) frozen broccoli, thawed

1 can (8 ounces) sliced water chestnuts, drained

1 can (8 ounces) bean sprouts, drained

8 ounces cheddar cheese, grated

8 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, combine the soup, sour cream, eggs, onions, salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a greased 9-by-13-inch glass pan, add half of the broccoli, cauliflower, bean sprouts and water chestnuts. Pour half the combined soup mixture over the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle half the cheese on top of the soup layer. Repeat layers.

Bake casserole for 60-75 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown on top, and the vegetables are cooked through.

Monica Nyman

Monica Nyman

Monica Nyman is a senior educator and registered dietitian with the St Louis District Dairy Council. For more information on the health benefits of dairy, visit www.stldairycouncil.org.