Make Sure Nothing is Missing from MyPlate
Make Sure Nothing is Missing from MyPlate


 “Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies, choose lean proteins to fill a fourth of your plate, and make the other fourth of your plate whole grains at least half the time.” As registered dietitians, we hope these messages resonate and help make healthy eating easier. While all of these messages are important, it’s crucial to remember that the USDA My Plate icon is more than just those three sections on the plate. 

The glass on the side representing low-fat dairy products is important for making My Plate a true representation of a balanced diet. As a Registered Dietitian and a personal fan of milk, cheese and yogurt, it’s so important that we remember to help our clients understand the true value of consuming three servings of low-fat dairy each day. Below, I’ve listed three reasons why I believe low-fat dairy is always an important food group.

  • It’s a nutritional powerhouse. Low-fat dairy products such as milk cheese and yogurt are naturally nutrient-rich, with nine essential nutrients including calcium, potassium, and magnesium. That’s why the Dietary Guidelines identifies low-fat dairy foods as a “food group to encourage.” Not only that, but low-fat dairy is also a great source of protein, for example, an 8 ounce glass of fat-free milk provides 8 grams of protein, so I like to reach for milk after I work out.  
  • It’s inexpensive. Even as food costs increase, milk is one of the most economical sources of high-quality protein. At just around 25 cents per glass, it’s one of the most accessible sources of nutrition. I’m a big believer that eating healthy doesn’t mean going broke, and low-fat dairy products are one of the first things I encourage people to put in their carts because it provides such a big nutritional bang for their buck.
  • It’s convenient. Low-fat dairy is one of the easiest, healthy foods for busy people to add to their diet because it requires such little preparation. A serving of low-fat yogurt is one of my favorite grab-and-go options!  When combined with a piece of fruit and whole grain granola bar, you get a balanced breakfast filled with needed calcium and protein. A slice of low-fat cheese paired with some fresh veggies makes a great snack no cooking required. And a glass of fat-free milk elevates a typical dinner by adding nutrients like vitamin D that are rarely found in other foods.

You can see from these three reasons alone how important low-fat dairy products are to a healthy diet, yet they are some of the most under-consumed healthy foods in America today. 

Sarah-Jane Bedwell, R.D., L.D.N., is Nashville’s Nutrition Expert. A national speaker and media personality, Sarah-Jane has educated and entertained hundreds of different corporate and community groups as well as professional associations.

Follow Sarah-Jane at @sarahjaneRD



1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Website. Washington, DC. Dairy. Accessed March 31, 2015.

2. Moshfegh A, Goldman J, Ahuja J, Rhodes D, LaComb R. What we eat in America, NHANES 2005-2006: Usual intakes from food and water compared to 1997 Dietary Reference Intakes for vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 

Positive Approach

Do you know what foods you should be eating? Start with the Healthy Eating Planner to make a plan for eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods.