June is an exciting month filled with picnics, cookouts and outdoor activities, said Easter H. Tucker of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Along with the outdoor festivities, June is also National Dairy Month.

“Dairy foods provide a unique package of essential nutrients that are vital for the health and maintenance of your body, including calcium, potassium, vitamin D and protein,” said Tucker, interim family and consumer sciences program leader at UAPB. “The amount of dairy foods you need depends on your age.”

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 edition recommends 3 cups of lowfat or fat-free milk and dairy foods daily for those 9 years or older, 2 1/2 servings for those 4 to 8 years old, and two servings for those 2 to 3 years old.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that one serving of dairy is equal to an 8-ounce glass of milk, a 6- or 8-ounce container of yogurt or 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese or 2 ounces of processed cheese.

“Enjoying three daily servings of lowfat or fat-free milk, cheese or yogurt is a delicious way to improve your overall diet, get more nutrients and improve bone health,” Tucker said. “In fact, studies show nutrient-rich dairy foods, when consumed as part of a healthy diet, may help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as osteoporosis, hypertension, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.”

Yogurt advantages

Tucker said Arkansans can help meet the recommendations for the dairy food group by consuming more yogurt. As part of the dairy group, yogurt is a popular, portable and versatile food that can be consumed in many ways at any time of day.

“When selecting yogurt at the grocery store, be mindful of added sugars that may be found in some flavored or sweetened products,” Tucker said.

Arkansans can test out the versatility of yogurt by trying out a few of the recipes recommended on the USDA Mixing Bowl blog, Tucker said.

Cucumber Yogurt Dip

Lemon and dill combined with low-fat yogurt make this a flavorful and healthy dip. Serve it with your favorite vegetables.

Ingredients — 2 cups yogurt (plain, lowfat), 2 cucumbers (medium, peeled, seeded and grated), 1/2 cup sour cream (nonfat), 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon dill (fresh), 1 garlic clove (chopped), 1 cup cherry tomatoes, 1 cup broccoli florets and 1 cup carrot (baby).

Directions — 1. Peel, seed and grate one cucumber. Slice the other cucumber and set aside. 2. Mix yogurt, grated cucumber, sour cream, lemon juice, dill and garlic in a serving bowl. Chill for 1 hour. 3. Arrange tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli and carrots on a colorful platter. Serve with cucumber dip.

Greek Salad with Chicken

The USDA Mixing Bowl’s recipe for Greek salad is loaded with lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and olives and topped with chicken and a creamy yogurt dressing.

Ingredients — For the dressing: 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, fat-free; 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1 clove garlic, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

For the salad: 1 head romaine lettuce, 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half; 1 cucumber, diced; 1/4 cup red onion, sliced; 1/4 cup black olives, cut in half; 1 cup cooked chicken breast, cubed and 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled.

Directions — 1. To make the dressing, add Greek yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper to a small bowl. Mix well to combine. 2. Cover dressing and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. 3. Wash lettuce and tear into bite-sized pieces. Place in large salad bowl and add tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, olives and chicken. 4. Sprinkle with feta cheese. 5. Top with yogurt dressing and enjoy.

Source: www.whatscooking.fns.usda.gov .

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