Milk and cereal. Milk and Oreos. And of course — what else are you supposed to drink with your peanut butter and jelly sandwich?
There’s nothing wrong with milk, and if you like it, there’s no reason you need to stop drinking it if it doesn’t bother your stomach. You should, however, be mindful when choosing which kind of milk to buy.
The same way you might glance at the nutrition facts on your favorite brand of cereal before you decide to buy, you should pay attention to what’s printed on the front and back of a milk carton before sliding it into your grocery cart. Why check the facts? We’re glad you asked.
You need to make sure you’re not consuming needless added sugar
Traditional milk, as you know, comes from cows, and goes through some processing before it’s ready for you to drink. One 8 oz. serving of nonfat milk still comes with 12 grams of sugar, which at first glance might throw you off. That seems like a lot of sugar, doesn’t it? It’s important to keep in mind that this sugar in particular is just part of the deal. It’s completely natural, which means our bodies are able to break it down and use it to benefit our health rather than hinder it. It’s good for us.
This isn’t the case with all milk on grocery store shelves, though. Other kinds of milk, like almond milk, contain added sugars, which our bodies don’t break down and utilize quite as readily. You should consume milk with naturally occurring, rather than added, sugars: check the ingredients list and beware of added sugars’ aliases (usually ending in –ose).
You don’t want to drink your calories if you don’t have to
Have you ever been advised not to drink your calories? You probably think of soda or energy drinks when this piece of dietary wisdom crosses your mind, but milk falls under the same figurative warning as other drinks. You could be consuming more calories by drinking milk than you realize. That 8 oz. glass of milk you can’t get through breakfast without alone contains 80 calories, but let’s be honest: more than likely, you prefer 2% with your cereal, which brings your calorie count up to 120, not counting the rest of your meal.
If you don’t want to remove milk from your diet completely—and we’re not saying you have to—stick with skim milk, which will give you fewer calories per glass. You’ll get plenty of calcium and other nutrients in that glass, so you probably don’t need much more than that in one sitting.
You can get plenty of protein from solid food instead of milk
Your go-to argument in favor of milk might be its protein content: 8 grams is a decent amount of protein in one serving of a drink, which is one reason milk is more beneficial than harmful.
If you’re doing it for the protein, though, you should know that there are plenty of foods you can eat that contain just as much protein per serving as, if not more protein per serving than, milk. You should always aim to consume the majority of your nutrients from solid foods, so while there’s nothing wrong with drinking milk, it shouldn’t be your main source of protein throughout your day.
It’s important to pay attention to what you’re putting into your body, both what you’re eating and what you’re drinking. If you want milk to remain part of your balanced diet, choose milk types and brands that are easiest for your body to digest and provide the fewest number of calories per serving. Balance your milk consumption with other protein-rich foods, like lean meat, nuts and eggs. Choose your milk wisely, and enjoy.
Featured photo credit: Mike Mozart via flickr.com