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Try tasty simple swaps to lighten up your menu

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Posted: Saturday, April 12, 2014 10:00 pm | Updated: 1:35 am, Wed Jul 23, 2014.

(BPT) - When it comes to diet and health, small changes can lead to big rewards. Replacing less healthy ingredients in your favorite recipes with ingredients that are lower in calories and packed with nutrients (and flavor) make it easy for you to stay on track. The trick is to identify ingredients that make for easy trades, like milk, yogurt and cheese.

The United States Department of Agriculture recommends eating three servings of milk and milk products - like yogurt and cheese - each day, because these foods contain three of the four nutrients that are often deficient in Americans’ diets: calcium, vitamin D and potassium.

A one-cup serving of milk is an excellent source of high-quality protein, and it’s no secret that milk can help to build healthy bones. In addition, according to research available on the HealthyEating.org website from Dairy Council of California, the nutrients found in milk, yogurt and cheese can boost immunity, lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of diabetes, reduce the risk of some cancers, and help with weight maintenance.

“It’s easy to enjoy eating right, because healthy foods from all five food groups taste great too,” says Ashley Rosales, registered dietitian nutritionist with Dairy Council of California. “Maximize flavors and reduce calories while getting more of the dairy foods that are essential to a healthy diet with simple ingredient swaps recommended by the California Milk Advisory Board below.”

Low-fat plain or Greek yogurt:

* Swap California low-fat plain yogurt for oil when baking. You’ll not only cut calories but your muffins will be noticeably more tender.

* Substitute low-fat plain or Greek-style yogurt for mayonnaise in chicken and tuna salad. Many people prefer the creamy tang yogurt adds.

* Decrease the cream in a blended soups and stir in low-fat Greek-style yogurt instead.

* Lighten up dessert by mixing chocolate-hazelnut spread with plain yogurt to cut the sugar and calories in a dip for fruit. Try the Magic Dairy Dressing found at realcaliforniamilk.com/recipes/magic-dairy-dressing for another healthy fruit dip.

Low-fat or fat free milk:

* Use low-fat or fat free milk instead of cream to make pudding, polenta and bechamel sauce.

* Try low-fat or fat free milk as the base for sweet or savory bread pudding.

* Lighten up your morning routine with a berry packed smoothie blended with low-fat or fat free milk. You’ll be adding protein and vitamins. The Simple Strawberry Smoothie recipe found at realcaliforniamilk.com/recipes/simple-strawberry-smoothie is a delicious and healthy start to the day.

Cheese and cottage cheese:

* Infuse flavor into favorite dishes with strong cheeses, such as California Blue or Dry Jack cheeses. A little bit goes a long way, which means you get all the flavor of cheese without adding too many extra calories.

* Add low-fat cottage cheese to pancakes for a protein punch.

For more recipe ideas, visit realcaliforniamilk.com/recipes. For more information on dairy nutrition, visit HealthyEating.org.

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