Thursday, November 16, 2023

Here's to our dairy-areas!

I don't drink milk with dinner. Do people drink milk with dinner? I have never drunk milk with dinner.

This evening we pulled some leftover dal from the freezer, warmed it up, cooked some rice, roasted some green beans, toasted some naan, and sliced a cucumber. That was dinner. 

Also, because we were feeling fancy (and we have some lemons that needed to be used), we had lemon water. Technically lemon and basil water (because basil and mint are in the same family and it seemed like a good move; it wasn't half bad). 

We had protein in our beans and lentils, plenty of vegetables to go around, and some grains that probably could have been less processed than they were, but...all in all, not a bad meal.

In the middle of dinner, Alexander asked if we could please pass the pitcher so he could get his "dairy" in, and thus round out his nutritional needs for the day.

We passed the pitcher of water in stunned silence. 

"Hey, buddy," Rachel finally said. "Could you...could you define for me what dairy means to you?"

"Well, dairy is...dairy is...ummmm...*hic* dairy *hic* is *hic* ummmm..."

When he starts *hic*ing we know he's having trouble getting his thoughts out.

"Tell things that are dairy. Just name three things in the dairy food group."

"Well...*hic* there's *hic*..."

"Let's go a little easier on him," I suggested. "Name three things in the protein group. What are some meats that you know?"

"That's easy! Chicken...turkey...steak!"

"Great. Now do vegetables. Can you name three different vegetables?"

"Easy! Green beans, tomatoes (those are a fruit really, but they can count as a vegetable), and...cucumber!"

Cucumbers are also technically a fruit (botanically speaking, but everyone only ever gets all up in arms about tomatoes). 

"Wonderful. Now—think hard—what sort of things are dairy?"

"Milk!" he said. "For sure milk. I know that one!"

"Good. What else fits into this category?"



"Yogurt, maybe? Because sometimes Dad gets those drinkable yogurts that I like and..."

"So you think dairy is...something that you can drink?"


"Uh-huh. Buddy, did you learn about the food groups at co-op today, by chance?"

"We did!"

"Oh!" Rachel said. "My Plate! He's thinking about the My Plate diagram! Buddy—did your teacher show you a plate that said things like vegetables, grain and protein...and then there was a blue circle to the side of the plate labeled dairy?"

"Yes!" he said.

We explained to him about how, indeed, that blue circle represents a glass of milk because milk is dairy, but that milk can be found in other things as well—such as, yes, yogurt, but also cheese and anything else you can make out of milk, really. A dairy is a place that processes...milk.

Water is...water. It's essential for us to replenish our bodies with water so that our bodies can function properly. And it's important to eat good things so our body gets the vitamins and minerals and energy that it needs. But, like, water...isn't...dairy. It's just...water.

Milk isn't even as popular in the United States as it seems, so I'm not sure why it made it onto the food guide. The dairy lobby is a powerful thing, I guess.

It is in Canada, as well, but dairy was removed from the food guide in 2019 (dairy is instead lumped in with proteins). Where there is a cup of "dairy" (whatever that is) found in the My Plate map, Canada's food guide urges consumers to choose water.

That's the beverage of choice at our house (much to our pediatrician's dismay), and I feel pretty comfortable with it because my kids eat cheese literally all day long, so they're getting plenty of fat and calcium (and apparently mozzarella cheese has 379% more calcium than milk, with 575mg of calcium per 100 grams while milk has 120mg of calcium, so there's that). Also, I was pleased to see that Canada's food guide includes breastmilk as a good source of dairy nutrition for babies up to 24 months (My Plate only includes it through 12 months).

Anyway, we know what dairy is over here. We definitely know what dairy is...

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