All Things Dairy (and non dairy) - Milk Cheese and Yoghurt

All Things Dairy (and non dairy) - Milk Cheese and Yoghurt

There has been a lot of interest in the types of yogurt, cheese and milk to use as part of the Transform nutrition program. This article will provide more details around these foods to assist with your meal planning and shopping.

Should I be using low fat milk and cheese throughout the challenge?
Low fat milk and cheese is going to be slightly lower in calories but ultimately, it's a personal choice. Both low-fat and whole fat dairy can be part of a healthy diet. It’s the portion size that’s important (refer to the meal builder for the recommended serve sizes of dairy foods). Full fat options are the closest to wholefoods and this forms an important part of the nutrition philosophy instilled at Transform.

If you are only including a small amount, like some crumbled feta over salad, then the overall calorie difference will not be significant. If you add a dash of milk to your tea, then the energy difference between low fat vs whole milk will again be small. For larger serve sizes like 1 cup of milk in a smoothie, or to make porridge you may like to choose a lower fat or skim option, especially seeing the texture will be similar regardless of which option you include.

Which cheeses should I be using?
Cheese is a versatile ingredient that can add texture and flavour to meals. These are some naturally lower fat cheeses:

  • Feta (is for flavour!)
  • Cottage Cheese (also high protein)
  • Ricotta (creamy but lower saturated fat)
  • Mozzarella or Bocconcini (perfect for pizza or melting)

A small serve of hard cheese like Parmesan or Pecorino can boost the flavour of your meal.
Creamy, high fat cheese like brie, camembert, blue cheese or even a traditional cheddar are best as special occasion choices.

What about non-dairy milk alternatives?
There is a wide selection of non-dairy, plant based milks available today. Almond, rice, oat, soy and coconut are among the most popular. If you are including these options in your diet always select the unsweetened options and those that are fortified with calcium. Keep in mind that most plant based milk have a very low protein content so they won’t have the same filling effect (except for soy milk which is equivalent to cow’s milk). Light coconut milk is best used sparingly as an ingredient in your meals due to its high naturally occurring fat content.

What yoghurts should I be choosing?
Take a walk down the yoghurt section of the supermarket and you will see it’s a whole mini market of itself. New products are popping up weekly and it can be unclear if what you are selecting is good for your health. 

How to choose a nutritious yoghurt

  • Ideally it’s plain or natural in flavour.
  • Greek yoghurt or fermented with live cultures to contain the beneficial probiotic strains that are ideal for promoting good gut health.
  • It doesn’t have to be low fat – the latest research around fermented dairy fat in products like yoghurt show that it can have heart protective benefits.
  • Ingredients list is short and concise without added gums and emulsifiers. Live cultures are present on the ingredient list.
  • When looking at the nutrition panel the protein content per 100g is at least 8-10 grams. It’s the protein that keeps you feeling fuller for longer and great as a post workout or meal component.
  • When looking at the sugar content – remember than around 4g of sugar per 100g is actually from the naturally occurring lactose sugar found in milk. It’s the added sugar that’s important to consider. As a guide, flavoured yoghurts with 8g of sugar or less per 100g are a good choice.

What about lactose free milk?                                                                      

There is much more choice these days for people with lactose intolerance. Lactose free milk, cheese and yoghurt is readily available in both low fat and full fat options. Use the guidelines above when choosing lactose free dairy milk/cheese and yoghurt. 

Plain high protein options

  • Chobani Low Fat Greek Yoghurt
  • Chobani Whole Milk Plain Yoghurt
  • Coles High Protein Greek Yoghurt Plain
  • Woolworths High Protein Plain Yoghurt
  • Yopro Plain Yoghurt Large Tub
  • Famers Union Greek Style Low Fat Yoghurt Plain

What if I find plain yoghurt too sour?
You can try adding berries or passionfruit to naturally sweeten the yoghurt, or, a maximum of one teaspoon of honey. Every 2-3 weeks we regenerate a new set of tastebuds – it can take about that long to get used to lower sugar and salt tastes.

I need something flavoured!
Consider the following options if you are after something flavoured. These have a high protein content. Most are using stevia to provide the sweetness.

  • Chobani Fit - flavoured varieties
  • Yopro - flavoured varieties
  • Two Good - flavoured
  • Siggis - flavoured (sugar sweetened)

Plant based yoghurt
There are a growing range of dairy free, plant based yoghurts now available. These are largely low in protein and only contain calcium if specifically fortified with it. They can still be used as part of a nutritious diet but here are some things to consider.

Coconut Yoghurt

  • Choose plain/natural coconut yoghurt with no added sugar.
  • The protein content of coconut yoghurt is very low with the calories coming from the high fat content of coconut milk.
  • Think of using coconut yoghurt as a carrier for some berries and a sprinkle of nuts/seed rather than as the main event.
  • Brands to try include - Cocobella Natural, Coyo Natural and Nakula Coconut Yoghurt Natural.

Nut based yoghurts

  • There are a range of yoghurts made with almond and cashew milk.
  • Similar to coconut yoghurt these are generally low in protein and but have been more processed with added ingredients to reach a yoghurt like consistency.
  • Choose options with 8g or less sugar per 100g.
  • Some brands to try include Alpro Vanilla or Blueberry Acai, Activia Oat and Coconut.

*Product recommendations are based on information available as of July 2021

Liz Borgo
Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist

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